Sun, Surf and Miss S


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.

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 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.

In Like A Lion

20170729_204654_resizedIt’s August. Ack. This feels like the shortest summer on record. What began as a slow, relieved climb out of school on June 29th has me now teetering on the tippy top of a summer mountain that’s threatening to slide me straight through the next four weeks to September without so much as a ‘watch your step’.

What have we done this summer? If you ask me: lots. If you ask the kids: Daddy still owes them Dairy Queen.

In July, I gathered the girls around the kitchen table and got them to write out their summer wish list. No surprise, it mostly consisted of ‘eat s’mores’ and watch Mum and Dad play Mario.

Every kid in our house knows this will parlay into them playing Mario with Mum as she loves those famous plumbers more than Daddy.  Hmmm… I mean, Mum loves PLAYING with those famous plumbers more than Daddy.  Er, um, Mum loves – oh, never mind: Mario is more fun for Mum than it is Dad.

In July, I made a decision: the girls were going to resume swimming lessons. It had been a year since they’d last been in, and with the threat of a big earthquake triggering a tsunami off our coast in the next 50 years; it was probably time to brush up on this life skill.

We started with two-week every day lessons: Monday to Friday at 10am. This way the littles and I could leisurely pad our way through morning routines with little impact to our cicada rhythms.

I have to say it was a well crafted two weeks. Home, pool, home, then back to pool in the afternoon for paid work. The downside?  No time to visit friends, beaches, water parks, or to laze around all day. That was what the rest of the summer was for right? Wrong.

Apparently this mama got a teensy-tiny over zealous when her youngest declared, “I love swimming,” on her second day of her 30-minute lesson.

Let’s be clear: Miss C has NEVER said, “I love” to any sport. So, naturally, this mother needed to strike while the iron was hot. Love you say? Love? Done. Two more weeks of swimming for you. Whatever baby wants baby gets.

So in a couple of weeks, we’re heading back to the pool for happy daughters, a new book for Mama, and no life outside of the recreation centre.

Take note, friends.  This is what good parenting is all about: killing the fun with way too much of a good thing. Stay tuned.

As for you, August? You’ve come in like a true Leo: hot and smoky from the forest fires around our province, and a little intimidating. My cells are playing whack-a-mole with the ‘s’ word as it stealthily creeps.  I grimace at the thought of dimes rushing out of my sailboat fund, like air in a punctured lung, thanks to haircuts, pencil crayons and running shoes times three…

But all is not lost, August.  By my count you have 27 days left, plus 4.  We have thirty-one days to squeeze every last grain of sand, and UV ray out of this summer.  I think we’ll start… NOW.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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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