"Someday's gonna be a busy day..."

Friday, 27 March 2015

A Cold Day's Journey

There are friends you can drink wine with. There are friends you can take endless selfies with. There are friends you can gossip with. Eva isn't one of those friends.

Eva isn't much for gossiping and she doesn't drink. When we hang out, once every few months or so, we never end up just sitting around. There's usually a walk or hike of some kind involved in our visits. Even when we're in the city, we end up trudging through mosquito-infested trails beside the Grand River, or pounding the pavement in downtown Kitchener in -24 degree weather, on the hunt for a good sushi place. Sometimes she takes me for picnics in places like this:

One thing I especially like about Eva is that she brings her trusty camera nearly everywhere. She has a talent for taking fantastic, unexpected shots of random cool stuff like this:


And we always meet interesting characters:


Eva loves to take photos of me, too, because I am just as entertaining as little red salamanders and Alice In Wonderland mushrooms, don't you think?


This past weekend, Eva and her trusty camera came up to Someday for a visit. After Eva showered us with an assortment of funky gifts, D distracted the kids so Eva and I could do our thing. It was freaking freezing and horribly grey outside, which never bothers Eva, but the temperature thwarted my plans to initiate her into the world of sap domination: all the pails were frozen solid. So we bumbled around the farm instead. I introduced her to the cows and calves and barn cats (and to Carman) before we set off down the hill for a hike on the trails below the farm.

That's when the sun came out, turning the sky electric blue and the snow into a brilliant canvas of white. The air was as cold and fresh and crisp as my favourite wine. We trudged along the half-frozen trails, sometimes talking, sometimes not, always comfortable beside each other.

The best part about a hike with Eva is that she gets you to look at things you've seen before with a new appreciation. As soon as she whips out that camera, I know to pause and wait until she gets the shot she's looking for, and I try to see whatever it is she's seeing in the moss, or tree trunks or raindrops she's focused on. As a reward for my Buddha-like patience, I usually get a chance to act like an idiot somewhere within the frame of her imagination.


Eva and I try to sushi whenever we can. Kincardine now has a mind-blowing TWO sushi places to choose from, so after we stuffed ourselves with gyoza and agedashi tofu and dynamite rolls at Sushi Won, we went for a bone-chilling walk along the pier. I remember how fascinated I was with the lake during my first winter in the Bruce; I'd never seen the water wearing anything other than its sparkling summer attire, and it shocked me to see it looking like a setting in a Farley Mowat novel.

Eva was equally taken with the frozen wasteland as we braved the east wind and darkening sky:


I was tempted to jump down from the pier and see if the ice would hold - wouldn't THAT make the front page of the Kincardine News? - but after a horrified look from Eva, I settled for a Dorka-the-Explorer-meets-Sears-model pose instead:


We may not drink or selfie together, but Eva and I are in it for the long haul of friendship, one wacky walk at a time.

Monday, 23 March 2015

5 Things…I didn't do on March Break

Ahhhh, March break. Nine (that's NINE) days of uninterrupted quality time with my children. Enough time to take a trip somewhere, or plan fun and exciting daily excursions. You know, museums, parks, swimming, skating, hiking, ice fishing, skiing, sap-collecting. Because spring break is about doing all the things things as a family that you normally don't have time for.

Or not.

This March break was not what I'd pictured. Never mind the fact that we passed around a violent stomach bug like a diseased hot potato ("Here, you have it!" - BARF! - "No, you have it!" - SHART! - "I know, let's give it to our poor, unsuspecting cousin. Catch! - RALPH! -). We just didn't really DO anything. I suppose there's nothing wrong with that; there's a lot of pressure on parents to DO STUFF and MAKE IT MEMORABLE, especially during March break. To be honest, I don't even remember what we did last year. I asked my daughter and she just shrugged. Whatever we did, I'm sure it was at least moderately fun. Probably.

The year before that, we went to Florida. But that doesn't count as a fabulous March break, because neither kid was in school at the time. I'm sure we won't remember much about this slightly miserable break either. But man, I had plans! I had ideas! Plus I didn't realize how out of practice I was having the kids home for long stretches of time. I'm used to a nice chunk of quiet between our morning shuffle and the evening frenzy. I'd forgotten about the Sisyphean task of cleaning a house while children are still in it. I'd forgotten how much TV they want to watch. I'd forgotten how to juggle puke bowls and towels and the awful necessity of a middle-of-the-night-sheet-and-pyjama-change. Boy, do I remember it all now.

So here are 5 Things I didn't do on March break, in no particular pathetic order.

1. Go to Kindergym.
Got the kids up, fed, dressed and excited about Kindergym. Drove 20 minutes into town. Made children peel off four layers of outerwear. Realized gym was filled with women doing Zumba because Kindergym was NOT ON TODAY because TODAY WAS NOT SATURDAY. Plied kids with doughnuts and empty promises to stop the whinging.

2. Write.
By the time the kids were in bed, I only had the mental capacity to play online Scrabble very, very badly.

3. Do something fun as a family.
D worked the entire week, which was unavoidable but still sucky. Dylan and I made it to visit my sister Tanzi and hit the butterfly conservatory for an hour before the crowds freaked us out. I guess mooching dinner off Grandma several times that week kind of counts as a family activity.

4. Have a romantic date with my husband.
D had a worse week than I did. Plus nothing puts a damper on hanky panky quite like finding a child sleeping in your bed covered in his own vomit.

5. Swim. Skate. Go to a museum. Go the freaking library. GO SOMEWHERE. GO ANYWHERE! AHHHHH!

So what did we do? Well, we painted the hell out of every toilet paper roll and pine cone in the house. We cuddled. Imagined. Sang. Tickled. Planted. Baked. Told each other how much it stunk to be sick over March break and celebrated with chocolate cake when we got well.

It wasn't the best of times, it wasn't the worst of times. We did get to relax and hang out in our PJs with no real routine or schedule pricking us in the conscience, which was pretty cool. I think I so got caught up in what I wanted to do with the kids that I kind of forgot to ask them what they wanted to do. It was their break, after all. Turns out there's a big difference.

Last night, as we snuggled down for our bedtime routine, I asked my daughter whether she'd had a good March break, mentally shuddering as I anticipated her answer. "Oh Mumma," she sighed from the depths of her comforter. "It was SO GOOD. I got to wear my pyjamas EVERY DAY and hardly had to go anywhere!"

I guess next year I'll try not to be such a doofus and take a cue from my kids.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Waterworld

Up until last Sunday, I felt like I was the only parent in town who hadn't treated her kids to the glory of a certain giant, lodge-themed water park. I'd see photos of damp, happy families and read exclamation-mark-riddled status updates (WE'RE AT XXX XXX LODGE! #TOTAL FUN!! #SO BLESSED!!!) and my Mama guilt would start to tingle like a the beginning of a cold sore.

Spending more than two hours at any kind of park or event, wet or dry, in crowds of strangers and their offspring isn't really my jam. I loathed the day we spent at Disney two years ago. I can't bear to try our local Easter Egg Hunt with its herds of chocolate-addled children and over-caffeinated parents. I can only manage to march in the first half of any of Kincardine's weekly summer Pipe Band parades; I lure my children into the quiet Aztec theatre for ice cream at the half-time pause and lay low while the rest of the masses march past. And even though I adore the Ripley Fall Fair, I still feel the need to hide in the pie n'coffee social room at the arena every few hours to get a break from the crazy.

It took me three years of futile resistance before I gave in to water park madness. My sister-in-law found a 24 hour flash sale and the price seemed right for two nights and three days. We'd get the meal plan and I'd coax my other brother-in-law Carman - beloved uncle and all-purpose human trampoline - to come along and help me with the kids since D couldn't make it. I might not love water parks, I might shudder at the thought of crowds, but as my most favourite epithet goes, "It's not all about you." This one was not all about me. This one was for the children.

And you know what? Despite hours of planning and packing and a seemingly endless 3.5 hour drive, despite the tidal flow of people and a few Dylan related incidents, it was better than fine. Especially since one of the first things I encountered was a dimly lit coffee bar serving my absolute favourite brew, Kick-Ass Coffee. Clutching a large cup, my brother-in-law wheeled our mountain of crap to our rooms. When we opened the door and I saw delightful beds with fluffy white linen, real china mugs and a stainless steel coffeemaker, I knew the place wouldn't be so bad after all.

Considering the volume of people the lodge entertains, it was clean, well-organized and staff were surprisingly friendly. Anyone who has to deal with, not to mention clean-up after, a never-ending swarm of adults and children and still manages to smile and talk to my kidlets wins my admiration immediately. But the real test was the water park itself and the scary amount of people we'd have to navigate while there. My not-so-bikini body didn't add to my excitement, either.

We walked into the pool area and I immediately felt like someone had whapped me across the face with a warm, wet sponge. At least keeping my kids warm wasn't going to be a problem. We got fitted with bracelets (which Dylan and I hated) and were set loose to join the throng. After I got over the initial fear of losing my children, I sank into the semi-tropical water of the kiddie pool and watched my family have enormous fun. Around me seethed a mass of skin and hair and tattoos and feet...GAH, don't get me started on the feet. (I hate feet.)

As I people watched in between my kids' trips up and down the waterslides, I began to notice bodies of all shapes, sizes and skin colours. There was a wide range of ages, too, from the tiny baby who looked like it still had placenta behind the ears to the jolly-looking grandmother who plodded gamely along behind the excited toddler tugging on her hand.

I saw women in danger of revealing a bit too much butt-crack and four giggling Muslim women covered head to toe in black bathing costumes. There were men with six-packs and men with two-fours; men with long hair, women with buzzed heads. I glanced at tattoos, piercings, scars and birthmarks, heard tiny children lisping in languages I couldn't identify. The water park was glorious mash-up of humanity, something that my kids don't get enough exposure to in our sometimes-sheltered life in the Kink. Even though there was craft beer on tap in the restaurant, and creme brûlée at the buffet, I think the convergence of so many different types of people turned out to be my favourite part of the whole experience. Weird, huh?

On our final day at the park, as the minutes ticked down to the horrible moment when I'd have to haul the kids out of the warm water to change into dry clothes and get ready to face real life, I noticed Dylan floating on his back nearby, a happy little otter basking in the invisible rays of an imaginary sun. He flipped over, caught my eye and smiled before waddling to the stairs to hit the slides one more time. That's when I noticed the butt of his threadbare bathing suit had ripped clean open and his plump little rump was exposed for all the world to admire. He didn't care. No one else did either. His was just one more example of the unique homogeneity we'd been experiencing, where you let it all hang out, whatever your "it" is, and just enjoy the moment.


Tuesday, 27 January 2015

My, My, My...

How time does fly, fly, fly when I'm ignoring my blog.

I mean, come on: my last post was October 2014. What's up with that nonsense? Sheesh. You'd think that chest cold really DID turn into a raging zombie infection, causing me to become a mindless non-blogger who ate everyone in Kinkytown. Either that or I really got into the rum.

Turns out my affliction was nothing more serious than a case of mummy meltdown because Dylan started JK, combined with a healthy dose of "I don't give a crap about blogging right now." I know I'm a writer, which makes it strange and scary when I lose my need to write. It's sometimes hard to have faith that the urge to tell stories will return if I give myself permission to not write for a while. Then one day, I buy myself a new cahier d'exercices in a flashy colour, grab my favourite pen and sit down and scribble like I never stopped. That day was today. (Thanks, purple cahier!)

So fear not, faithful (and possibly frustrated) readers. I've been busy blogging in my head, so all sorts of things are ready to spill out onto scraps of paper and my keyboard. I'll try really hard not to abandon you for this long again.

Stay tuned for tales of dismembered rabbits, dancing at the Russian Tea Room, and that word of the year thing.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

A Little Less Should, a Little More Rum

It's Wednesday. No rain, just chills and wind and curdled clouds. I should be mowing the lawn. Or something.

I should do the kids' laundry so Jade won't have to crouch naked at the top of the stairs again screaming,
"MUMMA WHERE'S MY CHEETAH OUTFIT!? YOU SAID YOU WOULD WASH MY CHEETAH OUTFIT!!"
and Dylan won't have to wear his undies inside out tomorrow.

I should round up and capture all the dust elephants under my bed so I don't have another asthma attack tonight.

I should mix the dough for Hallowe'en cookies because it has to sit in the fridge for four hours before I can let the kids attack it with rolling pins and cookie cutters.

I should clean out the drawer from hell that caused D to curse and violently slam it shut when he was trying to find one elastic band.

I should write a blog article.

Oh wait, I AM writing a blog article. That makes one "should" out of five, which isn't bad considering I've spent most of the morning slumped on the couch playing online Scrabble and sipping a hot rum toddy. Mumma feels like she's getting a chest cold, and that does not make Mumma happy, or motivated, or overly concerned with her ever-present to-do list. Ever have one of those days when the "shoulds" creep up and try to strangle you? Screw the shoulds. Today I love the couch.

Anyone who spends most of their time looking after an active family knows the danger of forgetting to look after themselves. A couple of weeks of that stupidity and you simply collapse. After surviving several unsavoury health issues, I've come to recognize and listen to the messages my body sends me. Today, it was the sensation of having an invisible thirty pound cat sitting on my chest that made me stop doing the dishes and retreat to the sanctuary of my couch. I've essential oiled myself, turned the fireplace on, and concocted my tried and true "I feel like crap" remedy: hot water, lemon juice, raw honey, sliced ginger, a splash of rum and a cinnamon stick. Damn, is it good. It makes the invisible cat feel lighter with each swallow, and sends my should list back to where it belongs: in the drawer from hell.

UPDATE: 2 p.m.
I just watched the Walking Dead episode where a character gets a little tickle in her throat, which becomes a nagging cough, which then makes her cough up blood and die and become a zombie. If I start bleeding out my eyes, I know the rum just isn't cutting it.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Godzilla and the Garden

Gardening is a love-hate relationship. At the beginning of the season, I can't get enough of seeds and soil, weeds and watering cans. I sing while I dig and whistle when I plant. This all changes by mid-summer, when I start to curse all creatures with six legs, moan about weeds and lapse into a state of meh regarding anything with leaves.

There's a school of thought among the all-natural parenting population that says if you engage children in growing their own vegetables, said children might begin to put these vegetables in their mouths. Since my son Dylan does not eat any vegetables except potatoes and my daughter Jade has begun turning up her nose at all things green, I figured it was time to put this theory into practice. When my kids were destructive toddlers, I’d restricted their access to the gardens, making them wander around the borders or water daintily from the edges. No wonder they were disconnected from the food I tried to force them to eat. They thought gardening was a spectator sport.

One sunny spring day, we hopped in the car and drove to Country Depot to pick out seeds. Jade picked peas for herself and watermelon for Daddy. Dylan wanted a "beanstalk" so I bought him some scarlet runner beans, which can grow up to six feet tall. I chose lettuce, cucumbers and kale for myself, and threw in some carrot seeds for D. The lady at the counter said, "Wow, you must have a big garden!" and I smiled politely while mentally face-palming myself. Like eating at a buffet, our seed appetite was way bigger than our 12x40 foot garden stomach. I'd have to improvise.

Back home, we spent a productive afternoon hoeing rows and planting seeds while tree swallows swooped and serenaded us. The kids approached their tasks with the intensity of chess players, examining each seed before poking a careful hole in the ground.

This is good, I thought as my offspring got progressively grimier. This is one giant teachable moment about appreciating the earth. I sent the kids to fill their tiny watering cans so they could “give the garden a drink.” Sitting back on my heels to draw artistic labels on each garden stake, I smiled. This had gone better than I'd expected. In a few months, I’d be able to post photos of my darlings holding up their prize produce at the Ripley Fair. I was interrupted from this pleasant reverie by the shrieks of my daughter as she ran down the backyard slope, soaking wet and wailing incoherently. I sighed. My son would need some lessons on the art of watering.

The next morning, when Dylan fled the breakfast table and ran to the garden, I was thrilled. It was working! I'd captured his interest in growing food! Soon he'd be filling his plate with raw veggies and my husband would bow before me in awe. All for the price of a few seeds. Okay, a lot of seeds.

Jade and I followed Dylan down to the garden, where we found him not so much appreciating his earthly labours as furious that nothing had grown since yesterday.

"WHERE ARE MY BEANSTALKS?" he demanded, stomping through the freshly planted rows like Godzilla bearing down on Tokyo.

"AHHH!" I screamed. "GET OUT OF THE GARDEN! YOU'LL HURT THE PLANTS!"

"I can go get him," said Jade and began to chase Dylzilla through the garden like a pink version of Mothra, at which point I chased them both out with a rake. Before "GET OUT OF THE GARDEN" could become my summer refrain, I changed it to “WALK GENTLY IN THE GARDEN!” The irony was that my kids loved being in there and I hated that they couldn’t stay out. Never mind that there was a sandbox ten feet away; they preferred to plow through the garden like relentless little backhoes. Teachable moment, I reminded myself as I ground my teeth and helped my daughter repair yet another squashed row.

On top of the near-daily destruction, it was harder than I thought it would be to convince Jade and Dylan that the seeds were, in fact, growing. I YouTubed videos of seeds germinating. They were unconvinced. I acted out the life cycle of a plant. They rolled their eyes. Every day that they went to the garden and found it empty, their interest waned. What had I done to raise two such hardened skeptics? I talked about the magic of nature and preached patience. After seven days without so much as a sprout, when I started to sing my "Have Patience!" song, Jade snapped "Earth, air, water, sun, I KNOW MUMMA, I KNOW. But WHEN are they going to GROW???" I started asking myself the same question. Maybe the constant Godzilla reenactments had smushed our poor seedlings. It would be very difficult to refrain from screaming "I TOLD YOU SO!" at my kids, which was really not the teachable moment I’d been hoping for.

Then, finally, praise Gaia, it happened. The first crinkled pea shoots poked through the earth and the kids danced around, squealing with glee. "I told you so," I muttered under my breath, then smiled. Each day, something else popped up: beans fist-pumped the air with their tiny curled hands; a green mist of carrot tops appeared; cukes and melons stood upright, flaunting bow-tie leaves. The miracle of life had survived my children’s feet. Better yet, now that the kids could see the plants, they handled them with surprising gentleness.

After the initial surge of excitement over the appearance of our seedlings, Jade and Dylan started to lose interest again. I recognized the familiar signs of garden apathy. Instead of succumbing to it this time, I doubled my efforts to keep all three of us committed to our garden project. I coaxed (and sometime dragged) the kids down to help weed and water the fruits of our labour.

“I didn’t know gardening would be so much WORK,” moaned Jade, lugging her watering can around like it was filled with bricks.

“Funny,” I said as I raked, hoed and weeded, “I thought I was doing most of the work.”

Learning to garden means learning how to deal with failure. Since I had never been particularly adept at accepting my various horticultural fails, I wanted my kids to learn how to take things in stride and not get discouraged when things didn’t go as expected. This lesson repeated itself several times: we found all six tomato plants withered beyond recognition one morning, cause undetermined. Some kind of voracious bug devoured my kale and put huge holes in the cucumber vines. Half of the peas that Jade had planted didn’t sprout and Dylan accidentally uprooted one of his beanstalks during a weeding frenzy.

With the frustrations came the triumphs, though: handfuls of fresh peas eaten straight out of the pod (well, Dylan picked and Jade ate); a ridiculous bounty of beans and lettuce; cool, mutant carrots borne from improper thinning methods; dark green watermelon babies that lay heavy and content on the ends of their vines. The swallowtail caterpillar we discovered on one of our carrot tops was the crowning glory of our gardening experience. We took “Pippy” back to the house and tracked his transformation from a bright green eating and pooping machine to a dusty looking chrysalids, until one morning he emerged onto his stick, a velvet-winged butterfly.

It’s September now, and our garden is getting yellow and droopy. It’s littered with black walnuts and chestnuts instead of vegetables, and the kids and I decided it was now okay to let the weeds do their thing. Jade still refuses to put a carrot anywhere near her mouth and although Dylan tried (and spat out) fresh beans and peas, he still screams in horror if anything resembling a vegetable lands on his plate. As an incentive to increase my kids’ veggie intake, the garden project was yet another fail in my agricultural and parenting history. But as a chance to hang out and get our hands dirty together, to share accomplishment and impatience and success and failure, to experience the communion of earth, sun, air and water? Major win, for Mumma and kiddies both.



Friday, 12 September 2014

Welcome Back to Someday!

Phew, did that summer buzz by like a rabid bumblebee or what? Despite promising myself I'd make an extra effort to chill out and savour each day, June-July-August flowed into one another, a bright watercolour of beach and forest, meadow and park, lazy mornings and cricket-sung nights. It was a happy summer, and I'm going to tell you all about it. Soon.

Thanks for sticking around while we summered at Someday.