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As the clock struck midnight on this, the most promising of years, the world is filled with more exploration, less guilt, more naps, less procrastinating, more chocolate, less sugar… more and less have never meant more or less.

Yet, after all the fireworks, kisses, and laughter, I woke and had to fill the dishwasher.

My husband, the long time loyal reader of this column, would probably like me to add there is at least two loads of laundry waiting downstairs for him.

Happy New Year, from our family chores to yours.

We allowed, let, awe, heck it was a last minute science experiment to have the girls stay up and greet 2017. In the past, we’ve tried to wake them in time for the ball drop in New York, but they’re hard to rouse, and the reality is some years, we were so tired, the saying: let sleeping dogs lie was the one we honoured…what would happen if they didn’t go back to sleep after singing Auld Lang Syne?

This year, though, at 9, 7 and 5, the girls said they were ready… and we believed them.

So, throwing caution for what January 1st at 5pm might look like to the wind, the girls showered, found their spots in the living room, and patiently waited for me to find something suitable on TV.  Miss Q observed, “We need to get more late night kid friendly channels.”

Even with the trappings of blankets, and pillows, the girls’ eyes stayed open as they watched episodes of Little House on the Prairie. My husband purposefully fell asleep. Yes, we know how to party.

I broke out the tea and chocolate around 9:30. Miss Q continued dispensing her almost 10-year-old wisdom, “This is the best night ever because I’m wearing my new warm and cozy pajamas. I’m lying on a soft couch under a warm blanket, in a living room with the heat on.”

Mama Bear’s updated New Year’s resolution: more listening to how her cubs see their worlds.

My husband woke at 11 – in time to watch what he proclaims is my New Year’s tradition: the flipping back and forth between the channels as I try to soak in all the New Year’s happenings.

With the lights off, we watched Rick Mercer “live” from Ottawa ring in Canada’s 150th birthday year. Flashlights and the glow of the Christmas tree illuminated our living room as I swooped in on the loves of my life, to dole out midnight smooches.

At 12:01 Miss S revealed the answer to the age-old math question:

over tired + sugar + seven-year-old = ??

At one point she was standing on a footstool in the middle of our living room, dancing with her flashlight to Lionel Richie’s Dancing on the Ceiling; a moment punctuated by the fact she was wearing only a toque and monkey nightgown.

After generous offers of, “You can go to bed if you want,” Miss C was all too eager to hit the hay. New Years for her was anticlimactic, but she was glad to be present and accounted for.

We woke in Victoria, this first day of January 2017, to a dusting of snow. Most days, most every snow day, the first flakes are greeted with clanging and banging of pots and pans, kids shouting for joy, and the local radio announcer warning of icy road conditions.

This snowy day our house was silent. All was calm, and our futures so very bright.

 

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The ‘L’ Word

They like clean hair. Four words that taunted, like a Murphy’s Law broken record, as I patiently parted hair this morning.

Searching, examining, scrutinizing, I felt like a paleontologist trying to unearth an object I had never seen in person. With only disgusting internet images and icky stories from parents who have volunteered to spy objects leaping off elementary children’s scalps, I was coming to this as one might approach a placid lake: the alligator was one follicle away from attack.

Thankfully my children, all three of them, were clean, uninfected, nary a nit in sight. I should stamp their foreheads with a red “pass”, or at the very least French braid their hair into triple checkmarks.

There is nothing but hair in this house. With three girls ages 7, 4.5 and 2.5, plus myself and our dog, our vacuum is in overdrive. So when the word “lice” enters our domain, it causes more than a pause; my germ radar, along with my heart, spikes off the charts.

When notice came home with Miss S from preschool, last year, I felt like I was in lock-down: for a week children couldn’t come into the schoolhouse unless their scalp was checked and cleared, the dress-up clothes were instantly bagged and sent home with the parent washer, anything that could be scrubbed was. Not to mention the mounds of laundry the family who had the infected child suddenly found themselves doing: stuffies, pillows, couch cushions, nothing soft was left unsanitized.

As a parent, I was grateful for the sense of urgency and deep clean. The last thing the preschool or my family needed was an outbreak.

This alert was different. Word came 2.5 weeks after our last contact with the family. The mum who reported it was completely chill; educated. She’d spoken to the pharmacist, bought the shampoo, done the research – apparently these buggers calmly crawl from head to head when an opportunity presents itself, no jumping; no flying. They also can’t live more than 3 hours off the scalp.

She joked that telling people felt like she admitting to an STD.

No matter how understanding, no one wants to tell their friends, “Thanks for the playdate. Oh by the way, the plague might be on the way, stay vigil.”

Sure, we say over coffee and sandboxes that it doesn’t matter, that communicable diseases are rites of passage, but the truth is they’re uncomfortable, routine altering and to some children, hospital admissible.

Fortunately lice are just a minor hassle in the grand scheme of things – A minor hassle, that if it darkens our doorstep, I’ll try not to go all Velveteen Rabbit on the stuffies.

So, knock-on-wood, throw salt over our shoulders; soak our tresses in tea tree oil, because with hair that stretches four feet, if you shave the girls bald (tempting) and lay the brown and blond strands end-to-end, if their childhood passes without checking the ‘L’ box off, you’ll get no complaints from me.

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Aside from the odd glitter fiesta, my life is pretty vanilla, solid, stable. These are all words that should bring clam to one’s psyche. For the most part, they do. Though there is another side to me that yearns for living outside the box and wouldn’t mind stepping on a few cracks along the way.

I credit a portion of my vanilla-happiness to my partner in crime, my husband, who shares my sense of humor and supports me in most everything I do. I write “most” because there are times I serenade him with:

Did you ever know that you’re the devil? The evilest man in all the world? I could fly higher than an eagle, but you clipped my wings and I fell to earth.

Bette Midler, eat your heart out.

However, even the most annoyingly logical of husbands can surprise you on occasion. So can your childhood friends.

They are the reason I find myself having a million heart attacks as I step way outside my comfort zone in this, the infancy of my 37th year.

Mrs M, emailed me in February. The gist of her email was: Do you want to fly anywhere in the world Westjet flies with me? She works for Westjet and after a crappy winter, weather wise, the owner of the company gifted his entire staff with two free tickets. Now, that is a company philosophy that I can get behind.

YES! I wrote back, shaking.  I was having an out of body experience. How could I leave my children? I couldn’t turn down this opportunity.

We can’t go to Disneyland, our children will kill us, but we can go anywhere you see a red dot on the screen, she wrote back.

I studied the screen. There were a lot of red dots on a lot of exotic places. Places I always dreamed of going; places I’d forgotten were exotic.

Never mind our children, the safe bet was Disneyland. Mrs M and I had a hilarious time there in 1996: two carefree teens, fresh from high school with Fantasyland at our fingertips. But now we would be 37. Anything carefree had to involve some careful planning. Namely: who would look after my children?

My husband said ‘yes’ way too fast for my still spinning brain to process. There I was waiting for him to lower the boom; to clip my wings and make me fall to earth; and he gave me the easiest ‘yes’ to ever emerge from his lips. He’d take a week off work; take care of the kids, no problem. Where were we going?

Where were we going? Gulp. There I was, hoping my husband would throw a flag on the play and let me take the easy road, sorry I can’t leave my children, but oh-no, it was full steam ahead.

After salivating over the red dots, I had my favourite: San Francisco. Didn’t hurt that the opening to Full House was filmed there. Could I be more immature? Okay, adult wise, it was in the same time zone as my littles and the plane ride was quick.

Side note: I dislike flying. Ever since my plane to Costa Rica (in 2000) flew through a thunderstorm, I have much preferred roadtrips and boats. Ironically, Mrs. M, dislikes swimming, my profession, so we make a great pair.

Mrs. M and I narrowed the red dots to New York, San Fran, and Vegas. All amazing places, but I let Mrs. M choose, they were her tickets.

She chose Las Vegas. As a flight attendant, she’s flown in and out of Vegas but never stayed. She’d also heard it was cheap and fun from passengers.

How could I argue with that?  Sorry, Danny Tanner.

As our Mama’s week marches closer, I have to remind myself to breathe. I can’t prevent the big things from happening while I’m gone: major earthquakes. Nor should I fret upon the small things: girls going to school with daddy hair.

The truth is: I don’t need a break from my children and I’ll miss them something awful. For some, leaving your kids for an adult vacation is natural.  For me it feels like I’m petting a cat backwards.

However, when you’re a mum with littles, opportunities like this only come around a handful of times, if ever. So even if I lounge in bed, order room service and catch up on TV, all week (I won’t) I’ve got to go.  After all, how can I tell my girlies to grab life by the horns if I don’t practice what I preach?

So, here’s to doing one thing that pushes you outside of your comfort zone.  And here’s to adventure!

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In Search of Zzz’s

A sleep expert came to the preschool tonight.  Maybe it was because it was round two with this particular sleep expert, in about as many months; or maybe because I seem to think differently about sleep and children than others, but, I wanted to poke my eyes out.

As a generation, we seem to feel the need to make our children’s lives more trendy-sterile than what we grew up with.  They take vitamins that don’t resemble powdery sugar; they eat sushi and chia seeds instead of peanut butter and jam.  We drive them to school, pack hand sanitizers in their backpacks, register them for outdoor kindergartens and preschools instead of letting them loose in their own backyards.  Heck they even have movie dates earlier than us.  Miss Q just saw The Lego Movie with a friend’s family over the weekend.  She’s seven.  I think the first movie date I had with a friend was Rainman when I was eleven.

Which brings us to sleep.  Not really, but it does.  We as parents seem to have an overwhelming need to psychologically analyze our children when it comes to snoozing.

Don’t get me wrong: I know all too well that tiny burst of relief when you give that last kiss good night and walk out of their room.

I also enjoy a good sleep.  I enjoy cozying under the fleece sheets, wrapping myself in the duvet and drifting off to dreamland.  In my dreams I sleep until noon.  In reality I receive a phone call from my husband at 7:30 asking if I’ve gotten out of bed.  Apparently setting an alarm for school isn’t my forte.

But listening to the parents in the room tonight, I have to wonder: in our quest for sleep have we lost the ability to think for ourselves and feel out what is good for our own children and situations instead of listening slack jawed to an “expert” handing out negative cookie-cutter diagnosis from her superior soap box?  (The expert has children of her own, and I wondered what their lives are like, living with a person who claims to be so in-tuned to their rhythms.)

Sure our littles need routine.  They also need to feel loved and secure.

So if everyone in your household gets into their pjs at 6:30 pm, turns off the electronics, and dims the lights, is your child really going to be tricked into thinking they aren’t missing anything?   “Nothing to see here Jane, your mother and I are going to bed too, so just close your eyes and wait for Sandman.  6:3o is the new 11 o’clock.”

Any child worth their salt knows that if they lie quietly in bed they can hear glorious things coming from the living room: the TV, phone calls, their parents discussing adult topics, or better yet, secret vacation plans.

When I was in elementary school, pretending to sleep, one of my parents’ friends was in our living room, telling a rip-roaring story about the local university and how he climbed the stairs in one of the buildings, opened the door, and came face to face with a giant boa constrictor.

Suddenly the ripples in my comforter didn’t look like waves.  I flung my sheets off hoping not to see a snake.

I know it can be argued that the advice doled out tonight was generic.  That parents are to pick and choose what works for them and their situations, but why do we feel a need for an expert anyways?

Have we forgotten that we’re the adults and “because I’m an adult and you’re a child” is a perfectly good retort?

We are in the trenches, People.  Dealing with littles is a trying sport.  They whine, they paw, they snot on your shirts.  They kick you with their sharp, tiny toes when they toss and turn in your bed (if you let them make it that far).  But this isn’t forever.

Having a quick snack at midnight is not going to sentence your child to a lifetime of trying to eat her pillow.  And, I’m almost certain you won’t be spraying monster spray around the room when your children are twenty.

In the words of 10,000 Maniacs: These are the days, we’ll remember.

Soon the bags under our eyes will be a distant (erasable) photograph; our children will be sleeping until noon; drinking milk from a carton and burping the alphabet; and there we’ll be, wondering what all the fuss was about.

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Ack.  Toy store.  How I fight thee each and every time I enter your fluorescent store.  I want to buy everything that I got as a child and everything I didn’t get as a child, but wanted, for my own children.

My children don’t need any more toys, yet I find myself giddy with anticipation each time I pull something off your white shelves and think of their reactions.

Damn the aisles filled with pink, jumping, “Me, me, me.”

Curse you sparkles and your pixie dust too.

And don’t get me started on stuffies.  Their pleading eyes and soft fur make me want to adopt them all.  My girls would give them a good home; no, make that a great home.  Yet they’re running out of storage space and they’re only just shy of three and 5.5 months old.

The problem with you, toy store, is I don’t visit you enough.  I’m not immune to your lures of low prices and flashy new stock.

Even with a shopping plan of a tutu and wand, for my almost birthday girl, I find my eyes wandering to tiers of fake cake, shopping carts, monkey pillows…

One day I’ll get to the checkout without scanning for what I may have missed along the way.

Until then, I fear I’m just as bad as the kids – without the pleading or whining.

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I’ll let you in on a little secret: our minivan isn’t sexy.  It’s not nimble, it doesn’t whisper on the highway, and it definitely isn’t fuel-efficient.  Our hand-me-down minivan is the furthest from a sexy ride that you can get.

When I traded my 80’s sports car, for the minivan, I was both excited and melancholy.  Gone were my days of cruising sans t-tops; blaring mixed-tapes into the stratosphere.  However, the stereotyped soccer mum was alluring.  Who doesn’t want to be that mum whom, while holding tea, opens the sliding door to let her children and dog bound onto a field?

The reality of minivan ownership isn’t far off soccer mum.  There are cup holders for my tea – eight total.  And the side door does indeed slide open to let my daughter and dog bound onto fields.

Fitting my ‘children’ into the minivan came with a lot of swearing though.  It was like a jigsaw puzzle, trying to figure out how to install, first, an infant Graco bucket-style carseat, then a Britax forward-facing carseat, and finally, one Graco and one Britax onto the two benches provided.   Somewhere along the line, we removed the middle bench for maximum ease of movement.

How do people with more carseats do it?  With two children and a dog, I find myself wishing for a bigger car.  But re-living the 8-seater A-Teamesque van my parents owned is not a dream of mine.

What had become a dream was finding a new radio, mostly for cosmetic reasons.  Ever since our toddler fed pennies to the tape deck last February, “I’m getting money, Mama,” our minivan looked like it was missing a tooth: the black hole where the radio once lived, another strike against our aged vehicle.

Yes, we were too cheap to replace it.  But we also didn’t really need it, or so I thought.  There had been numerous drives to my husband’s hometown, 7 to 12-hours away, depending on if you have or don’t have kids, when we didn’t listen to any music.  An old married couple, if you will.

We lived radio-less until Thanksgiving, when Grandpa remedied the circuit board, rid the radio of the putrid electrical smell and re-installed it.  He also fixed the passenger window, that wouldn’t shut properly.

Dang.  The sliver, and I do mean minute sliver, of hope that our ticking vehicle would be traded up for a purring 2010 model vanished.

This afternoon, cruising with my two girls, husband and dog, I watched my two-year-old groove to the music and my husband’s jaw twitch as I sang.  Ownership of our unsexy minivan was suddenly worth its weight in gold.

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We did it.  Another family bonding moment checked off.  Today: vaccinations to make sure the youngest one in our midst stays healthy.

After weeks of waffling, I decided to follow the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland:

If you don’t know where you’re going any road will take you.

So we bit the bullet, believed the hundreds of health-type people who studied H1N1 and created the vaccination.  An informed leap of faith.

The road we took to get vaccinated, once making the decision, was odd.

Last week: I phoned my family doctor to make an appointment for myself and Miss Q to get the shot.  The receptionist put us on a “list” with the promise of phoning back.

Monday morning dawned, Miss Q and myself were now eligible (as was my husband, but he has a different doctor).  No phone call.  Stories on the news all weekend weren’t helping the wait.  H1N1 was lurking at every escalator handrail.

Being pro-active, I phoned our doctor’s office, only to be told, “Oh no dear, we won’t be getting the vaccination.  You’ll have to line-up at one of the clinics if you feel it’s necessary.”

Deflated (and posting strike 2.5 up against my doctor’s office) I phoned my husband to relay the news, and tell him, it wasn’t worth it.  Standing in line alone with two children?  I’m brave, but not that brave.

His solution: pick him up from work and we’d drive to a clinic that morning.

It’s pouring with rain. We got to the clinic at 12:30.  There are 15 people in line.  Perfect. The news totally exaggerates.  Out comes the public health nurse.  Turns out there are over 100 people a head of us, getting squeezed in between people with tickets’ appointments.  (Those people were lined up at 4:30 a.m.)  We decide to stay and see how fast the line moves.  It doesn’t.  By 1:00, we’re told that we can stay (we’re the last people in line, literally) but we might not get the shot… and if we do happen to, it won’t be until 3:00.  We leave.

Tuesday:  A phone call at lunch from my husband saying somebody from work walked in and out of a clinic on West Saanich.  I bite the bullet, re-dress the girls, pick up husband, head to the clinic.  All the while trying to psych up Miss Q – we’re going to get some medicine…

Arrive at the fabled no-line clinic.  It’s closed.  No more appointments.  People were lined up at 4 a.m. down the block to a telephone pole.  Gawd.  What are people doing up at 4 a.m.?  This is beginning to feel like we’re scavenging for food; no room at the inn.

Wednesday:  The plan is to get to the clinic first thing: 7 a.m.  Reality = first thing = 8:30 a.m.  Husband literally leaps out of the car, before it stops, and joins the line.  I park, load up the kiddies, re-psych Miss Q up for her shot, “Orangoutans  don’t like shots, Mama,” and join him.

Feeling, now, like we’re in a bread-line, we rejoice when we actually get to speak to the check-in nurse; and hold our breath as we wait to see the needling nurses.

After 1.5 hours of waiting, we find ourselves on the other side.  Inoculated.  Waiting for 15-minutes to see if anything funky happens.  Miss Q is leaping off the bench – apparently orangoutans have tough arms.  (They’d better, she has to go back in 21 days for a second dose.)

Another parenting decision crossed off our expanding list.  Till the next one.

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