"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


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.