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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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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.

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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.

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You know you’re a parent when you drive an hour up the highway, in the opposite direction from where you want to be, to get a stuffed dragon. Or is your child just the luckiest child on earth?

Miss Q fell in love with a dragon at Tickleberrys, an ice cream shop located in Okanagan Falls (OK Falls to the locals in the crowd). The day we went to Penticton to play on the WIBIT we stopped for ice cream and fudge at 11am and toured the store.

Miss Q and her grandma share a love for all things stuffed. I don’t think they’ve ever met a stuffie they don’t like, and going into novelty stores is always a dangerous endeavor when they’re together.

On the day of the WIBIT Miss Q’s grandma asked her which dragon she liked. Miss Q shrugged and said she didn’t know. Thinking she didn’t want it, we left for the lake.

The problem was Miss Q did want that dragon. She just didn’t realize it until we were driving away. The dragon haunted her until the next morning, but she didn’t say anything until she and I were alone.

There were multiple ways for that dragon to find itself into our home. But since we didn’t have to be at our next destination, Squamish, until after six, it was an easy decision to drive up Highway 97 so our oldest princess could rescue the dragon from its prison.

Of course on our way up the valley, my husband and I had to stop in on a few wineries to rescue the grapes from their prisons.

DG

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The takeaway from our weeklong road trip was the kindness of family. Seeing a minivan with five to seven people (depending on what day it was) pile out is an intimidating sight, more so when you didn’t know the guests were coming.

Yet time and time again, we were greeted with warmth and an ease that can only come from people who were just as happy to see us, as we were them.

Now if you’re reading this and you weren’t happy to see us, your acting deserves an Oscar.

This warmth was felt from Langley, where we stopped to snoop on a friend’s new house. To Osoyoos, where we were treated to an impromptu swim in a backyard pool at one house, and then, at another, relatives took us through an orchard to the border marker separating Canada from the United States. No wall, just a wire fence, for now…  In Penticton we were greeted on the beach by relatives who heard we were in town, and in Squamish, our last leg of the trip, my brother and his fiancée (who knew we were coming) didn’t bat an eye at the Victoria invasion.

We spent three more nights and two days in Squamish.

On our first full day we went to Whistler where my brother had scored us day passes for exploring Blackcomb and Whistler Mountains.

Neither Miss C nor Miss S was thrilled about the chairlift, so we split up: Miss S, myself and Miss Q on one; my husband, Miss C and my brother on the other. This split felt suspiciously like the airline trip of May 2016, but thankfully Miss S was 100 times better in a chairlift.

All nervous nellying was forgotten when we spotted a medium sized black bear eating in the tall grass below. We wished there was an emergency stop button to push so we could watch him or her longer. B1

Of course it was raining at the top of Blackcomb. Rain gear was the only thing we’d neglected to pack.

Feeling hearty, we said, “No thank you,” to the clear plastic tanktop-esq ponchos guest services was handing out, and continued our trek.

Miss C said she liked the gondola ride down Whistler Mountain the best. We didn’t see any bears, but the girls enjoyed watching the mountain bikers. Next time bikes will have to be packed.

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How could we not stop by the bakery in Whistler?  The brown bag doesn’t do it justice, but shown here: Miss Q’s head-sized meringue

On our second day, we toured Squamish. We went to a market that had a climbing fair where I signed the girls’ lives away so they could test out the seven climbing challenges. Gratefully, Uncle and soon to be Aunt A-Team, gave them tips and helped them navigate the course.

We left downtown Squamish and hiked to a beach across railway tracks, went to Shannon Falls and waded in the Squamish and Mamquam Rivers.

Sadly on Sunday, July 23, we had to say farewell to this beautiful slice of Canada and return to reality, read: Ikea.

Ikea is where everyone who owns a house on the island stops before taking the ferry.  We don’t have one, so it’s a quirky pit-stop that satisfies all our allen key needs.

I’m not sure what ferry we would have caught if we hadn’t stopped for a bookcase, but by the time we had sampled the lingonberry juice, found the boxes, and drove to the ferry terminal, it was 3:50pm, there was a two-sailing wait.  We were possibly on the six o’clock boat.

Say what you will about the vessels, but I love them. Sitting in the sunshine, breathing salt air is the perfect way to return home.

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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.

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View of Osoyoos from Anarchist Mountain (looking west).

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danI’m hard pressed to say who was the perfect age for our trip. Everyone found moments of inspiration and places of great content.

Our girls were pushed out of their rather sanitized existence, and urged, guided and, er, forced to try everything.

They rose to the challenge; falling in love with rides they never thought they’d like, and finding inner strength for ones they couldn’t wait to get off of.

One such ride was Splash Mountain.

Miss S declared Splash Mountain her favourite, before riding it. Annnnd the minute the log moved, she crumbled.

This is how, in yet another priceless mothering moment, I found myself reaching forward, hugging my shrieking six-year-old with all my might, as our log teetered on the edge of the 50ft drop.

You do not want to be leaning forward as your log nose-dives into the brambles. You do not want to choose between somersaulting out of said log, or letting go of your petrified child.

Fortunately, the photographic evidence taken 1/3 of the way down our plunge reveals I chose both: one arm around Miss S, one arm bracing the plastic log. Fewf.

Miss Q and Miss C, on the other hand, loved Splash Mountain.

It is interesting to note that Splash Mountain, with all the warnings of the 50ft drop, has no seatbelts; but The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, a 60 second, one-level meander, and I do mean meander, through Pooh’s daydream has a safety bar.

Thankfully, Miss C had either an uncle or father to act as her seatbelt on her multiple voyages with Briar Rabbit, but still.

Incidentally, Pooh’s ride was one of Miss C and Miss S’ favourites. Mad props to Grandma, who took one for the team, agreeing over, and over, and over again to ride with them.

Mini cheer for Uncle G who also indulged my daughters’ multiple requests for him to be their responsible plus one.

Team building continued at It’s A Small World. Let’s be honest: once through is great, cheerful, joyous and, yes, I’ll say it: pleasant. Two, three, four times?Its

I lost count of how many times Miss S and Miss C rode the 20-minute ride, but Grandma was definitely a good sport.

Historical side note: my mum and her family went on the ride when it debut in the New York World’s Fair in 1964 at the UNICEF pavilion under the name: Children of the World.

In the no rhyme or reason category, a ride Miss S enjoyed, but her sisters did not, was the Haunted Mansion. She ain’t afraid of no ghosts… unless they’re in our basement.

aAutopia was our pint-sized Danica Patricks’ absolute favourite. Even though she was a hair too short to work both the gas and the wheel, it was the only ride Miss S wanted to do on our last day.

We tried twice, once in the early morning, and once at dusk, and both times after waiting 20 and 40 minutes, the ride was closed because a “wild animal was on the tracks.”

Ironically, Disney’s “wild animal” was – wait for it – a Canada goose.

Apparently it’s not Disney’s policy to run them over.

However, because we’d been goosed twice, we were able to walk straight to the front of the line at 10pm.

Watching Miss Q drive off, alone, into the full-moon Saturday night gave me pause, or rather, a reason to step on the gas. This move reignited Miss S’s cackles of glee as she held the wheel and expertly steered after her sister.

Nine more years, Mr. Toad, nine more years.

A side note about Autopia: it stinks. The fumes from the “gas powered by Honda” cars are plentiful, and possibly the reason Disney has tucked a smoking pit next door. Hopefully Honda will soon take a cue from the fact the ride is in Tomorrowland, and splurge for those new-fangled electric cars everyone is talking about.

In four-year-old land, Miss C started her vacation by telling me she did not like Disneyland. “I’m not going to like any of the rides you know.” She punctuated this by crossing her arms and frowning.

Her displeasure with Disney melted like Olaf in summer on the Dumbo ride. She loved that big-eared elephant so much she bought herself a stuffed baby Dumbo and now thinks I’m crazy for thinking she said she didn’t like Disneyland.

Seeing Disney through the eyes of a nine, six and four year old was enough for this mum. In my dreams, the trip was never as grand as what it became.

We couldn’t have created this reality without a massive boost from my mum-in-law, and for that we are eternally grateful.

The chorus of the diamond celebration parade is When can we do this again?

And, my friends, I’m not sure we ever could.

lin

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