Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Summer Vacation 2008: Midterm Report

We are halfway through (almost to the minute) the summer and the next year at school. There have been highs, there have been lows. It is very hard to know how to grade it.

We’ve had too many issues to grade it an A.

The week of boredom alone would prevent an A. We are still trying to forget an issue we had that week at the park on Canada’s birthday that had me googling for parenting help.

On our mini holiday at a place as fun as “Dinotown” we had an issue in the train lineup (which frankly I blame them for, then run the 5 minute “train ride” every 15 minutes even if 3 trainloads of people - including us - are waiting to board.). I’m quite sure we must the subject of other peoples’ blogs, the ones with perfect kids, filed under “why can’t some parents control their children?”

Husband and I are driven to distraction, if not the brink of insanity, that we can be doing a fun activity that is for the kids and we will have an issue. We would understand the poor behaviour if we were making them clean toilets, or keep their rooms spotless. But we seek out activities that are active and engaging and fun, only to be met at times with incivility, resistance and defiance. Makes me think we may as well get clean toilets out of the deal!

I think we’ve had more than a little crankiness on the part of the kids, and me (don’t know which came first at this point).

On the other hand the summer, so far, has not been an F either. The kids enjoyed their day camp and vacation bible school. J has loved tae kwon do and has earned his first stripe.
The kids have played together a lot with minimal friction (though admittedly, the friction that does result is spectacular).

We spent a week at my parents and all appreciated the change of scene and we avoided any major meltdowns.

We’ve had some successful extended family gatherings and some excellent play dates.

And we did enjoy a great time at the water park, not to mention a wedding in our own family.

In the middle ground, bedtimes have been mixed. A little rough the first week or two but improving with some excellent nights where at 9 o’clock Husband and I didn’t know what to do with ourselves.

We’ve had some outings that were largely good. And ended badly. Like the one we just got home from.

We took the kids to Playland, a year round amusement park with rides. You pay the entrance fee and it’s unlimited rides for as long as your stomache can handle it. We had a lovely time, lots of rides. S tried the roller coaster for the first time. J had his first turn on the ferris wheel. The children were well-behaved and appreciative. We encouraged them to stay longer and try more rides. We bought mini donuts for a treat.

Then came the coin toss that would end it all.

In what can only be described as a moment of lunacy, when S asked if she could have some cotton candy, I said yes. She has never had it, but it’s pink and fluffy, what’s not to like. I was nostalgic and remembered that cotton candy was the treat on my childhood amusement park trips. It’s extortionately expensive even if you don’t consider the dentist bills.

I asked the kids what colour they wanted. “Pink.” “Blue.”

So came the coin toss. I asked J to call it, he called heads. I should have just said it was heads (technically not lying since it was a moose head on the Canadian quarter). J became unglued. I’ll spare you the details. Suffice it to say, we were a spectable.

I wrote the first part of this blog before the trip. I had been wavering between grading the summer as B- an ‘easy marker, or C+ as a ‘hard marker’. I’m swayed. C + it is.

I hope for a higher final grade on the Labour Day weekend.

The Water Park

On our brief two-nights-away-from home vacation, we made a trip to a water park. One of those outdoor long slide places.

  • We had to cajole, convince, rationalize with J to go (ultimately successfully) as The Suite Life of Zack and Cody was to come on while we would be gone. The fact that it comes on THREE times a day meant nothing when weighed against the ONLY chance to go to a water park in 2008.
  • J is a complete daredevil. No slide was too long, too scary, too dark or too fast. He gets that from me. (He conceded it was better than a Zack and Cody rerun.)
  • I cannot keep up with my 6 year old running uphill to the top of the slides. It's pathetic.
  • S loved the little slides. There were short but the water entry was just crazy enough to keep her interested. She also logged a lot of hot tub time. She gets that from me.
  • I can keep up with my 4 year old running uphill, if only because the entry to the small slides is not as far up the the hill. Still pathetic.
  • It’s a good idea to try a water slide before taking a 4 year old on your lap. The attendant told me that the water entry from the intermediate slides were slow. I watched J come down at a slow pace and decided to take S. As we came down at breakneck speed I was hanging onto S for dear life so I couldn’t slow us down with my hands. I may have sustained permanent nerve damage from trying to use my elbow. She took on some water. She stuck to the little slides after that.
  • I feel like a kid when at the water park. If only we had one in our backyard I would be fit and thin. I tried every slide, including the one where you ride down rapids on a big yellow inner tube.
  • Contrary to predictions, my butt does fit through those big yellow inner tubes. If fact, it gets wedged. I thought I may have sustained kidney damage on some of those rapids as I couldn’t get my butt back above the waterline.
  • It’s not a bad idea to go to waterslides in questionable weather. No lineups whatsoever.
  • Thank goodness for the oversized hot tub. A stop there every run or two is not a bad idea when at waterslides in questionable weather.
  • Even with his love of the scary slides, J was surprisingly happy to do multiple sequential runs on the small slides with S and especially on the small blue inner tubes. It was a highlight of our trip to see them enjoy doing this together.
  • My butt does not fit in one of the small blue inner tubes. Maybe next year.

Mother of the Bride. And Groom.

With our kids only 6 and 4 we thought we had a lot of teenage angst to go through before we had a wedding. But S asked us yesterday if we would attend her wedding. In 20 minutes. To her brother. We were driving home from our holiday and Husband and I hadn’t had lunch.
“Yes, of course we’ll attend your wedding”.

What prompted this was J had become “Dad” to Mr. Wicki. Mr. Wicki, until about 3 weeks ago, was my bear. J took him when he wanted me one night, which at the time seemed like a good deal for me (i.e. I got to sleep in my own bed). Now Mr. Wicki and I have resorted to secret trysts.

Anyway, S wanted to become Mommy to Mr. Wicki and realized that she had to marry J to do that (she may have learned this from all those Brady Bunch episodes).

J did warn S that she would become Mommy not only to Mr. Wicki, but also Quack, Quackie, Beary, Occy, Pengu, Clucky, and Cuddles. S was game and only asked that J be Daddy to her twin babies, named Pink Baby and Blue Baby (after the colour of their outfits). Her brood did expand once we got home. “Oh yeah, I forgot I also have Purple Baby and Baby Canada” as she observed them littering the house.

S ran up to her room to find her prettiest dress. She picked a cute pink one. J went up to find cute clothes. His best effort was a summer button down shirt and a pair of black jeans. With one knee ripped.

As the appointed hour arrived, S asked “Mommy, aren’t you going to get ready for my wedding?”

“I am ready”. S tried to hide her disappointment “Did you put on lipstick?”

“Yeah Mommy and that stuff for your cheeks?” J added.

They politely didn’t mention my hair which had been in the pool that morning and I hadn’t bother to fix it. Or the old sweats and t shirt I was wearing. I didn’t realized they noticed these things.

I went upstairs and put on a sundress (optimistic given that it was raining). And some lipstick. I brought the father-of-the-bride-and-groom a tie to wear with his golf shirt and shorts.

We all assembled in the family room. All the children of the bride and groom were lined up on the couch. Husband and I had to share the chaise lounge. We didn’t see a minister of justice of the peace, so we just politely waited for the wedding to begin. They had only been to one wedding in their lives, and that was 2 years earlier. We didn't know what to expect.

Both kids stood up on the ottoman or ‘the stage’ as they called it. And the kissed each other on the lips. They were married. (If that was all it took we’d all have more divorces than Liz Taylor by the time we got to high school.)

We had a few dances ("Daddy, you're supposed to spin me" S told Husband) and then the bride and groom took their kids to the dining room for the reception meal of apple juice and crackers.

They had a honeymoon (by which they mean vacation) and life was back to the grind of caring for their 15 children.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Separate But Equal

Summer continues to get in the way of blogging. My house is a disaster (though less so as we have a playdate in an hour and my shame trumps my laziness) and I feel more out of touch with friends.

Husband and I feel we are one third way through the marathon of summer and next week is the big long hill we've been training for: we both have the week off and plan a full week 'staycation' (as the papers seem to be calling it in all the stories on high gas prices). The zoo, an amusement park, the beach. It will be wall-to-wall activity and Husband and I know we'll need a weekend off to recover.

A weekend away together does not seem in the cards. So we are taking separate long weekends away in August. I will go to Edmonton for some girlfriend time and he will go to Calgary for a golf weekend with his brother. We both generally have a weekend a year to enjoy ourselves with these same people. It's good for both of us to maintain the ties with those we are close with.

This time, we would love to go away together, but are embracing option B, separate but equal vacations, to maintain our sanity. We know once fall somes, our 'busy season' and we both have out of town work conferences, plus the craziness of school returning, birthdays for both kids, it's another marathon and we'll need our strength for that.

Not that we needed any confirmation for our need or desire to get away, but we needed 2200 Airmile points for our flights. We have 2214. Pefect.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Husband and I subscribe to the school of thought that doing everything for your kids includes not sacrificing your marriage to stay at home and have endless discussions over behavioural issues, laundry issues and bathroom issues.

We have long thought having regular ‘dates’ was important for us to maintain our sanity, some connection to each other even though we might have to pay for it. We committed to monthly dates to do something for us. Once I went back to work, we strived for monthly lunches which meant we could get together and not pay additional babysitting fees.

I remember our first date. J was about 2 months old and Husband and I decided to catch a movie. Actually, we caught 2 movies. We couldn’t agree on what to see. While either of us would have probably gone to see the other’s choice, it did seem silly as we might not get to another movie for months (as it turned out, it was years), so I saw a chick flick and he saw some action movie. We did have dessert together afterward. And of course we had the drive to and from the theatre. I literally ran from the car back to our condo to see J. I just realized that he had been sleeping when we left and what would he think when he woke up to his grandparents doting on him instead of his parents?? I couldn’t imagine the psychological scarring that would result.

Since then our success rate has varied. Early on, we didn’t really have many babysitters close by. So we had to arrange dates near family, which meant a long drive home after the date and a lot of packing up, which took a little bit of the enjoyment out of it. For a while we were looking for a new house, so on a lot of our dates we were joined by our realtor. Then we’d go to Starbucks for a lengthy discussion over how to weigh THE most beautiful walk-in closet we (I) had ever seen against the lack of a garden shed.

Since our move to our present location we are close to sitters we know and trust and who are largely available. We are pretty much in a rut of going out for dinner, sometimes combining with an errand that is difficult to do with the children. Or a walk if I happen to remember to wear comfortable shoes. And what do we do on our dinners? Have endless discussions over behavioural issues, laundry issues and bathroom issues.

This weekend we did start to break free. For the same price as dinner, we played a round of par 27 golf and a sandwhich and beer and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Not only did we enjoy some fresh air, a beautiful sunny July day, I started breaking in new golf clubs I got the end of last summer. And we had not one discussion of behaviour, laundry and bathroom. Instead we criticized everyone else’s golf stroke. It was a bit of a slow round, and hey, what else were we to do?

Allergy Alert

J is allergic to grass. One might think that living in suburbia and surrounded by grass that this would be a bad thing. But the allergies really only hit for a couple months in May-June-July when, I think, the pollen germinates. Or something. I declined taking biology in grade 10 as I did not want to dissect a frog so I never completely got a good grasp of botany so as to understand why the grass allergy is not year-round.

The problem is that allergy season, which will always include June, coincides with end of school. June is not a month strong on academics, unless you count receiving a report card as some form of academics. The teachers are busy putting together said report cards and organizing activity days and such. Anyway, the upshot of all of this is J has less to do at school and is feeling congested and therefore tired which means, June would be a good month for me to go on holiday every year.

Now this year, June was an unusually rainy month on the wet Coast of Canada. The silver lining, apart from not having to do as much laundering of sweaty-sunscreeny kid clothing, is that the pollen seems to have been largely washed away. Or it felt that way. Perhaps our almost unswerving commitment to coercing J into taking his allergy meds daily, even if he felt fine, helped. And the expensive air purifier that makes his room smell like dirty feet. Anyway I will take the less torturous allergy season, because ya never know what next year will bring.

And on the topic of allergies, S felt inexplicably left out in not having allergies. Mommy has allergies. Brother has allergies. She was unwilling to be allergy-less like her Daddy. So in a moment of weakness after a long Q&A about anything and everything, I told her she could be allergic to zebras. She accepted this quite without question. Well she did question what she was allergic to. She gets giraffes and zebras mixed up so she sometimes has to ask "Mommy am I allergic to giwaffes or zebwas". For about the last year she has steadfastly avoided all zebras.

About a month ago, Husband took the kids on a walk in the forest behind our house and she came home sneezing.

“Mommy, did you know there are zebras in the forest?”

The other day S was being particularly loud and squealing. I told her I might have to send her to live in a zoo.

“I can’t Mommy. Remember, I’m allergic to zebras”.

Somehow, I think her fictional allergy will end up in her permanent school record. I am, however, pleased that I convinced her she is NOT allergic to stuffed zebras and she could probably tolerate one trip to the zoo this summer.

School’s Out

I apologize for the unplanned hiatus from blogging. Portentously, I did suggest in my last blog I would have a lot less time in summer, but I didn’t think it would affect my blogging.

The reason is that I made a grave error in calculation.

In planning the kids’ summer activities, I researched, I pondered, I planned. I printed out the calendar for the nine weeks of summer holidays (am I the only parents that knows it’s NINE weeks with no school?) and started penciling in things. I cross-referenced swimming schedules for both kids. I agonized, debating with myself and Husband. I came up with a tentative plan and tormented myself with all the possibilities I had left out.

Finally, I had a schedule that I thought kept the kids (well J, he is the one who needs the activities) busy enough but left enough days open for trips to the beach and science world. Then my plan was foiled by the unavailability of certain camps and the changing of schedules of others. Still, I reworked the plan and thought I had the perfect calendar.

Part of my rationale for this plan was the first week of vacation, I would not plan any formal activities. The Tuesday was a day off for Husband for Canada Day (Canada’s birthday) and my normal Tuesday off. So Husband took Monday off and we had a 4 day family weekend to take advantage of the best summer had to offer. I reasoned that the next two days after that, J and S would like to do adventures with A, our nanny. J is normally in school the majority of those days so only has a few hours of playtime and he has been looking forward to A time in the summer. So A took the kids to one of those slide and tunnel places one day and to the beach another.

What I didn’t account for (and this is the grave error) was J’s high degree of unrest that first week. It may have been the buildup of excitement that is the end of school. Or perhaps his unrealistic expectations of what summer vacation would be. (I did have to remind him that Mommy and Daddy don’t have NINE weeks off in the summer).

Regardless, if we weren’t getting ready to do something, coming home from doing something we were having long discussions about J’s bored-ness. This was often in the car in the parking lot having left the last activity only 27 seconds earlier.

So I pretty much spent most of my leisure time the past 10 days having the same conversation:

“Mommy, I’m bored”
“J, what would you like to do”
“I don’t know”
“Do you want to play a game?”
“Play in the backyard?”
“Play with your sister, watch a movie, read a book, write a story”.
“No. No. No. No.”
“Well, what would you like to do?”
“I don’t know, I told you I was bored!”

Apparently bored means unable to think, choose, process and or have the will to do anything but complain about being bored, which J could give a clinic in.