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One Day In December

We went swimming on Sunday. This in itself isn’t news worthy. With two parents who work in aquatics, it could be considered one of our favourite pastimes… or obligations.

What is news worthy was the feeling of being found without knowing I was lost that washed over me as I drove out to the pool.

This is what we used to do. We used to be adventurers. We used to do things on Sunday mornings. Yes, we used to.

This fall has been a whirlwind. New teachers. New grades. New routines. Our children are the same, but they’ve leveled up in life once again.

In grade five, Miss Q has had assignment after assignment. Suddenly she needs our computers. She’s making slides. She’s doing research without a safety net, under the watchful eyes of a parent, on the Internet.

Why were whales hunted? Why is the government ending the grizzly hunt? The new BC curriculum is all about making connections and suddenly my opinions are under the microscope: My mum used to watch Whale Wars and says the Japanese still hunt whales for food under the guise of science, she wrote without my knowledge on one project. Yet, she refused to write: my mum says the NDP gave the complete ban on grizzly bear hunting to the Greens to make them happy about Site C. Pffft… fickle ten-year-olds.

Meanwhile, over in grade three and one, Miss S and Miss C always have spelling/sight words and reading, sometimes math.

With soccer on Saturdays, Sundays have become our catch up day, a day for baking cookies and homework.

Each week, I give myself a solid ‘meeting expectations’ as the school agendas are signed and returned to the backpacks, the next week’s school lunch snack cools on the wire racks and the girls return to romping through our house, the weight of homework momentarily off their shoulders.

I’ll give myself a solid ‘L’ for lazy when the thought of doing anything Sunday afternoon comes up. And truth be told, adventuring hasn’t crossed my mind in ages.

To homework or not to homework is the eternal question. Some years we’ve had teachers refuse to send anything home, other years it’s been only what our girls didn’t do in class time.

It goes without saying, the girls are much happier when they play school with each other, or spontaneously challenge each other to spelling tests, than when it’s prescribed.

It also goes without saying, reading every night is important. It’s something we’ve built into our lives since the girls were babies. Our home library is large and ever expanding. Reading shouldn’t feel like homework, but it does when you have kids who are just starting out, so what can you do? They need to learn.

Which brings us back to swimming. The freedom of the water. The girls laughing with each other as they swirled around the river pool. The awakening of this mama one rainy day in December.

There will always be homework. Sometimes you just have to dive in to life and live.

beach

After school December beach adventure. 

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Sunday Drive

Miss Q called 9-1-1 on Sunday. No, I wasn’t watching her while lying prone on the cement, or having an out of body experience. We were driving behind a driver who needed help.

The trio and I were on a Sunday morning jaunt to the grocery store. Apparently someone bought the wrong secret ingredient for her Christmas baking the day before…

Minutes into our ride, a four-door sedan started having trouble staying in its lane.

At first, I was willing to give the driver the benefit of the doubt, and lots of space. But as we sat behind the car at the light, I noticed the driver was shaking.

Again, thinking of multiple reasons for this, I let the driver pull ahead … and watched the car dive diagonally through the left lane towards the sidewalk.  Thankfully the driver recovered milliseconds before coming in actual contact with the curb, and was able to drive relatively straight the few short metres to the next set of lights.

Stopped diagonally behind them, I dug out my phone (yes, I have one now, le sigh) and passed it back to Miss Q. “You might need to call 9-1-1,” I said. “I’m not sure the driver in front of us is okay.”

The driver was trying to turn left without a signal light, but changed their mind and was trying to merge back into our lane.

“What’s your design?” she asked.

Of course, our Rescue 9-1-1 moment would be halted by my phone’s air-tight security. “Uhhh…” How on earth could I describe my cleaver design without physically touching the keypad? Ack.

“I can just hit the ‘emergency call’ button,” she stated.

“Sure.” Would that really work? “Have you done it?”

“No.”

“Okay. Just wait,” I replied, breathing easier.  The driver was back in our lane and seemed to have recovered from the lane swoop in the last block.

However, seconds after that thought, the driver swerved into the right lane and then over-corrected. Thankfully. a third set of lights stopped the madness.

Side note Victoria: In this case, I’m grateful for them, but can we re-visit the ratio of metres to stop lights in this town?

From the back seat, Miss Q calmly and, more importantly, clearly, started talking to the woman at the 9-1-1 call centre.

We were suddenly Hunter and McCall, Ponch and John, Cagney and Lacy.  I drove and Miss Q gave the location of the car, description, and in a moment I hope no one was paying close attention to, was able to read the last three numbers of the license plate that her dear ol’ mum couldn’t quite make out.

In my defense, I was concentrating on giving the car lots of space, and the driver had decided to increase their speed up the hill.

With the grocery store in sight and Christmas ingredients sitting half-mixed on our counter, we watched the car turn left and then drive into (thankfully no one was coming) the wrong lane.

Miss Q gave the woman my information and agreed to call back if we saw the driver again in our travels.

As she hung up, all I could think was: check this life skill off the list. Miss Q’s going to be just fine.

At ten-years-old, with limited phone experience, our girl was able to carry a conversation with a stranger, explain concrete facts under pressure, and come out of it completely unfazed.

While Miss Q shrugged off my pride, and said she didn’t have any questions, from her booster seat in the wayback, Miss C asked indignantly, “Why does the oldest child get to call 9-1-1?”

Cookies

My husband used the ingredient I messed up on for his whipped shortbread cookies tonight. #cookiesfordays

This Is Six

Part One.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Part Two.

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

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

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

Ahhhh children’s concerts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Unicorn

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

Future Day

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Really?” Miss S squealed as she inhaled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why would I wear a beret?”

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

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

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

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

“A mum?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sun, Surf and Miss S

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.

Starting September

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grades five, three, and one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She gives me a massive hug on the playground.

She joins her line.

She walks inside her school.

She doesn’t look back.

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

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

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

“Of course I am,” I replied.

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

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

Any Given Thursday

JarThe jar of sprinkles used to be full.

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

 

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

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

The song running through my head was Hard Knock Life.

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

Today is Thursday.

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

And I am ever aware of time.

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