Monday, March 30, 2009

Ghosts? Gremlins?

Husband and I are starting to wonder if our house is haunted.

About 2 weeks ago, we were awaken but an enormous sound. We both jumped out of bed, adrenaline pumping. It sounded like a noise from the kids' bathroom, maybe something falling into the bathtub which of course registers on the Richter scale even if it's only a rubber ducky.

I assumed that J Boy made a nocturnal pee pee visit and knocked something into the tub in his stupor. Husband went to investigate. He was gone several minutes so I assumed that the clamour has also scared the crap out of J and Husband was getting him settled back into bed.

Husband came back with a puzzled look on his face. Both kids were fast asleep. There was something in the tub, but it somehow didn't make sense that it could make the noise. We both agreed it was either two noises or a longer noise. We both pondered this as we attempted to get back to sleep. I stared at the green light on our alarm system, knowing that if an intruder was in the house it would go out and I could wake Husband up to investigate (thought I did this one other night and it turned out to be J wandering around the family room thinking it was time to get up at 3 a.m).

The next day I went to put away some recycling in the laundry room and found the source of the noise. A shelf affixed to the wall had given way. I really don't know why those flimsy brackets could not hold a basket of batteries, a pail full of cleaning products, 4 litres of wiper fluid (one gallon) and a heavy flashlight. Mystery solved (but the shelf is still not repaired - Husband has been busy filing paper).

Fast forward a week. Husband and I are watching a show in our room, S is asleep and J Boy is in bed nursing a loose tooth that should have come out months earlier. The smoke detector goes off. Now this is a frequent occurrence in our house as the smoke detector often goes off when we open the hot oven door, light a candle or sigh heavily. We have a whole procedure that involves flapping a tea towel, opening of certain doors, closing of others. The whole family knows the drill.

But on this evening, we are done with cooking (or reheating as it usually is in this house) and no one was breathing heavily. We bolt out of our bedroom and we smell smoke and it's fresh. We run downstairs thinking we left the toaster oven on (again) but the smoke smell is not down there and seems to be isolated upstairs. There are only 2 lights on upstairs and nothing else is plugged in. Husband and I run around like wild chickens looking for the source of the smoke. Husband retrieves the mini fire extinguisher and we are feeling walls for potential sizzling wires within them.

The smell does seem isolated in the hallway. It's not getting stronger otherwise I would have taken the kids outside and called 911. But we want to know the source as we obviously will not go to sleep with something smouldering in the house.

I think Husband got the idea that a bug in the light might be the culprit. Sure enough, a little beetle has the misfortune of landing on the bulb in our sconce, which is conveniently located just under our smoke detector. Another mystery solved.

We do wonder what the house has in store for us next? Chandelier falling from the ceiling? TVs mysteriously turning themselves on in the middle of the night? I am personally hoping for the house to spontaneously clean itself.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

What Do You Do ...

... if you're 7 or 5, kind of bored with all the normal stuff you do in a weekend, driving your parents and your sibling crazy and it's 10 degrees C outside (50F)?

Naturally, you put on your bathing suit and run in the sprinker.
And then warm up in front of the fire with a friend.
Postscript: the outdoor pictures are kind of fuzzy due to the children moving so fast (no doubt to ward off hypothermia) and my absolute refusal to go too far from the warm house which required that I use the zoom.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Paper!

I do not believe I am alone when I say we are both overwhelmed and flummoxed by paperwork. Despite new file folders, baskets, boxes and a sporadic will to organize we cannot keep up with the paper.

Each year I redouble my efforts to conquer the paper accumulation. I get new folders, labels or baskets to make it easier to deal with the flow. Any improvements are temporary.

When Husband and I were engaged (10 years ago), I would complain about the paper accumulation. Even single and theoretically with plenty of time on my hands, I was already drowning in paper. Soon-to-be Husband, much like his sock matching prowess, had no trouble filing papers as they arrived in the mail. Right there, I made almost-Husband take an oath to always be the one who filed the papers in the family.

And so it evolved in our family. I paid the bills, as in made sure they were pre-authorized and more vexingly made sure that we had enough money in our bank account every month to pay the VISA bill. Husband would mind the paper. Pre-kids he did a fantastic job. Even with just the J Boy he would find a Saturday afternoon when J was napping and I was surfing the internet trying to find the perfect set of swimming lessons for J, and he would catch up on the filing.

With 2 kids, his time normally spent on filing were now spent on bouncing a baby on one knee, providing supervision to a non-talking toddler while I got the groceries. The year after S was born the only paper we dealt with were the takeout menus. They were religiously filed in a handy spot near the phone.

Luckily all our bills but one are set to automatically be paid from our bank account. But the statements, letters and other miscellanea accumulated in piles that spontaneously appeared. If the pile on the kitchen counter became too troublesome by, say, obscuring the view of takeout menus, we'd start another pile on the dining room table. Every once in a great while (like when we were having people over) we would gather up the piles and make one huge pile in a corner of the den. For a while we'd feel virtuous because we could see the dining room table, but soon a few weeks of mail would accumulate in the same spots.

When S turned one we had a full court press to catch up and we recycled much and managed to finally file the rest. By "we" of course I me Husband as he did all the work and caught us up to date. For the most part, he's really kept it up. It wasn't done monthly but every few months, he'll clear a space and start sorting.

Over 2008, somehow the wheels fell off the wagon. It may be that Husband and I both had increasing commitments at church. I think the overstuffed file cabinets made filing even less appealing and sometimes impossible. The kids have more activities so we spend more time in swimming pools, gyms and tae kwan do studios. And of course kids bring on their own deluge of paper from school and activities. Don't even get me started on home art projects, unfinished books, and scraps of paper that I think should be heading straight for the recycle bin, only to be told "But Mommy, those are tickets for our show!!"

Last week when I prepared our 2008 tax returns, I needed to find our 2007 returns. They were not in the tax folders, as I expected. I found them in the 'to be filed' basket. That means we're a year behind in our filing!

So this weekend Husband got to the sorting. I worked on digging through some other piles of paper that accumulated due only to my own sloven behaviours. In a few short hours we made fantastic progress. It's all made easier by the bigger file cabinet Husband acquired a while ago, so he can see the files and actually get into them without shredding his cuticles.

The downside of all this going-through-papers is we came across five (and counting) 2008 tax receipts so I will have to file amended tax returns. It is certainly bad enough to be filing tax returns ONCE, I certainly do not want to prepare twice, which is ample incentive to keep up with the paper chase.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Twins Day

Because keeping track of field trips, pictures days, hot lunch days, pizza days, show and tell days, library days and gym days is not sufficient work for the parents, our kids' school (and I think it might be a student council that did this...) implemented twins days.

Twins day, also called give-the-kids-license-to-shun-other-kids-day, is where kids may dress up like a friend.

On Tuesday for the first time I saw a notation that Friday is twins day. This is of course at the beginning of my work week (i.e. not at school for pickups or dropoffs). No other explanation is given other than "kids may dress up like another student in the school".

S: Can I be twins with J?
Me: I'm not sure. I think you're supposed to dress up like someone in your class.
S (puppy dog eyes): But I want to be twins with J.
Me (re-reading notice): it does say "another student in the school". You can ask him, I guess. (Though I am not really sure what the point is of being twins with someone in the school whom you won't see all day)
S: J, will you be twins wiff me?
J (on the computer): Huh?
S: Will you be twins wiff me?
J: Umm ....
Me: J, do you have twins day on Friday too?
J: What?
Me: Do you have twins day on Friday?
J: What's that?
Me: Where you dress up like another student?
J: No.
Me (to S): We'll find you someone in your class for you to be twins with.
J: Oh Mommy, on Friday, I need to wear my jeans, my school Tshirt and my running shoes.
Me: Why is that?
J: Because N, B, E and I are all dressing up the same.
Me: So you do have twins day?
J: Yes. Mrs. C. had us divide into groups to dress up like twins. (some sanity prevails as teacher facilitates twin - or quad - matching).
S (becoming anxious): I'll have to find a buddy to dress the same as.
Me: Yes, we'll find you a buddy (Not exactly sure how as I'm not going to be at work the next 2 days.)
S (as if reading my mind): Mommy, can you write a note to Ms L and ask her to help me find a buddy?
Me: Of course.

(I dutifully write a note to Ms L and ask whether they will assign buddies in class or whether I'm supposed forego my usual evening hobbies of doing dishes and overseeing homework in favour of phoning through the class phone list to find a buddy for S - - I say it a bit nicer than that. Wednesday morning, I tell Nanny about the note in case Ms L talks to her about it at kindergarten pickup. When I get home from school on Wednesday, Nanny reports that Ms L said nothing to her and there is no return note in her backpack.)

Me (to S): Did you talk about twins day in class?
S: No.
Me: We'll ask Daddy to figure it out tomorrow at kindergarten pick up.
S: Okay
S: Mommy?
Me: Yes?
S: I'm supposed to dress the same as T on Friday.
Me: Is she your buddy?
S: Yes.
Me: Did you talk about what you'll wear?
S: No.
Me: That's okay, I'll email her Mommy and we can work it out.
S: Mommy?
Me: Yes?
S: T said something about wearing something light pink.
Me: Like a top?
S: I can't merember. We talked about it and then it was time to go to library and we were going to talk about it at center time but then T left early and we couldn't talk about it so I don't know.
Me: I'll email T's Mommy, don't worry.

(So I email T's Mommy. I don't get to it until late Wednesday and don't hear about it by the time I leave for work on Thursday. I leave Husband strict instructions to forward any emails referencing twins day. When nothing arrives, I give a detailed description of T and her Mommy so Husband can try to have a face to face discussion to iron out the Friday wardrobe. I get home from work and Husband tells me that T was picked up early so he's no further ahead in solving twins day situation.)

Me: S, did you and T talk about the twins day?
S: No. We didn't have time.
Me: I'll phone her Mommy tonight.
S: Okay Mommy.
Me (to Husband): Could this be any harder?
S: Mommy?
Me: Yes?
S: I'm not twins with T anymore, I'm twins with P now.
Me: Oh, so what are you going to wear?
S: A jeans skirt and a blue butterfly top.
Me: You don't have a blue butterfly top.
S: I know to I'll just wear my school t shirt because it's blue.

This morning S was foggy on exactly what was discussed with P. She thought it was a jeans skirt, but thought it might also be jeans. Also, the colour of the top was in question. So S was dressed for kindergarten in a jeans skirt with pink leggings and her blue school T shirt. I also brought an an extra bag of clothes - pair of jeans, black pants and tops in light blue, green, pink, white and black. P showed up wearing jean skirt with leggings. Big score! P was wearing a green top so a quick wardrobe change and the girls matched.

So another dressup occasion conquered. I just hope I get at least 4 days notice before the next dress up event, likely to be dress up as your favourite mythological sea creature.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Second Child

Having a second child presents many challenges. In addition to the general challenge of not losing ones mind, one must accomplish new feats like breastfeeding an infant, soothing a toddler and sitting on the toilet all simultaneously.

However, second children also presents a great dilemma. How to make thing equal for the two children, or at least equivalent. The oldest child gets everything new. The second child gets everything used. However, ever if our name was Rockefeller and we could have afforded to buy all new things for our second child, it would still not really be fair because the gently used stuff of first born is still hanging around so second child gets double the stuff, which isn't fair to the first born.

Happily, much of this does not matter as I have yet to know a newborn complain about the state of his car seat or crib. However, when it comes to bikes, as we've learned the younger ones do eventually start to notice.

J Boy got his first plastic trike at about 2. He rode it all 'round the neighbourhood and even gave his sister an occasional ride.








By the time S was ready to ride, the bike was functional but well used. She didn't seem to mind and also traveled many blocks on 'her bike'.

J of course graduated to a 'real' trike and the two could often be found on our driveway racing around the van, which may explain some previously unexplained scratches.

S, in due course, graduated to the real trike, but of course by then J was onto a 2 wheeler with training wheels, was going to bike camp and he was a lot faster.
By the time S was onto the 2 wheeler she was wise to us. She had seen enough Dora, Princess, Butterfly and Hello
Kitty bikes around the park to know that all bikes were not blue and boyish.

We did try to appease the princessy one by pinking up her bike: streamers and a basket for bringing her puppies along on
bike rides. She was a good sport about it but she would sigh longingly whenever she saw a real girl's bike.

J needed a new bike last year and we bought him a used blue one. I confess we steered him away from any that were too overtly boyish (camo) in the hopes that S could use this bike one day too.

So this year, J needs a new bike again. We were planning to splash for a new one as he is up to a 20 inch wheel, which we are told the kids actually use for more than one or two years. We found this extremely cool one and J Boy was pretty good from the first. Well, initially he couldn't figure out the hand brakes, but he was practicing on the track at the high school so we just told him to ride around the runners instead of stopping. I know, we're so responsible.
In the end we could not resist buying S a new 'Magic' bike (not sure how it's magical, but that's what is written all over it) the exact same size as J's old one. Call us irresponsible with our money, but we just couldn't stomach the sad little girl voice accompanied by a downcast face and resigned tone saying "it's okay, I can ride J's old bike. Do you think next year I could get a new bike?"
And before anyone feels too sorry her her, she also managed to talk us into a new flashing Tinkerbell helmet.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

UnBreaking of Spring

As spring break wound done to a close today, I wanted to do 2 things:

1. Prepare and file our Income Tax returns.

2. Tidy my decidedly untidy side of our bedroom (Husbands is already tidy, as it always is).

I have been putting off the taxes. Preparing the returns is not hard. Our earnings and expenses are pretty uncomplicated and I feel generally qualified and up to the task, seeing as I am a tax lawyer and all.

The challenge is finding all the forms and receipts. We mostly stuff them into an envelope marked "2008 Taxes" as they come in, but there are always a few dilatory ones that drive me insane as I shuffle through pile after pile of papers trying to locate them.

Well, I took the bull by the horns this afternoon as the kids were playing as happily and 2 siblings weary of each others company after 9 days can be. Husband was ready to intervene over the squabbles. I entered in Husband's T4 (record of income) and got this good news:

I told Husband the good news, that we could finally afford the kitchen reno of our dreams and maybe even hire someone to clean around here once in a while. But the euphoria wore off once I realized we could not be receiving back many times more than we paid and discovered that I missed a decimal point.

Meanwhile the friction twins were arguing about who got to play with the only ball they could find in the backyard (I believe squirrels must have taken the other 30 that I know were there last fall). The only suitable ball that could break the impasse was seen to be a beach ball estranged from our family for a couple of years. Husband, in a well-meaning effort to get the Bickersons out of our hair for 20 seconds, suggested that they check the linen closet upstairs where we keep the beach towels and pool things that float. They did and came down the 20 seconds later empty-handed as unhappy as they went up.

I should have wondered just how they could have determined so quickly that aforementioned beach ball was not there. As I reached the top of the stairs, I was greeted by a massive pile of entangled sheets, blankets and table clothes and realized that they pulled everything off of every shelf they could reach in both linen closets.

Ironically, just today I had been telling Husband that when we moved into our house in June 2006, I went for speed over accuracy in unpacking intending to organize later. I never did get back to our linen closets.

So instead of surfing the Internet for available military elementary schools to send the offspring, I seized the twilight of our spring break to organize the closets.

Everything is folded. Well the fitted sheets are more squashed together as I have never been able to get those to fold nicely. I was always convinced that no one that has not worked in the linen department at Sears can either (or to reverse that double negative, only those that have worked in Sears linen departments can fold fitted sheets). But the mother of one of my "Sisters" excels in the ability to fold fitted sheets so you could fit it in an envelope and mail it with no need for extra postage. (Mrs. F, are you busy??)

None the less, I'm pretty proud of my effort and want it recorded on the blogosphere as I doubt it will last into the next calender month. And yes, I even made labels for every shelf. Take THAT Martha Stewart.








Thursday, March 19, 2009

Great Wolf Resort: Where to Begin?

I'm pretty sure if Great Wolf Resort wasn't designed by kids, they must have had a bunch on their planning committee. This place oozes kid-fun from every pillar, post and beam.

The Drive

Mapquest declared the drive would be 3 hours and 46 minutes without traffic, that was about 10 minutes too short if you didn't count our 2 stops. We had a modest 45 minute wait at the border (would have been 30 if we had picked the right lineup) where we surrendered contraband grapes. We made a quick driver-switch and restroom break around halfway point, but otherwise kept the van moving and pointed south (we offered trips for the kids to stretch their legs etc. but they declined).

We weren't sure how the kid would tolerate the trip - well J boy. S is a good sport about traveling when there is a hotel at the end of the rainbow. We talked all week about how it is a 6 hour drive (one school day, for J's benefit) and how we all needed to be patient and not ask "are we there yet?". We had lunch, snacks and entertainment items. Notably a barely-been-used DVD played was mounted and ready to go.

The kids watched a double feature in the back seat and apart from regular "how much longer?" from J Boy, who needs a tangible measure of our progress, we were pretty pleased. To be fair, they (and we) were pretty excited and it's not easy to sit in your chair when your excited and genetically programmed to wiggle all the time.

Then I committed The Unpardonable Sin of car travel.

"How much longer?", J requested an update.

"One hour and fifteen minutes".

The words were barely out of my mouth when Husband tensely correctly my mistake "Mommy means two hours and fifteen minutes!"

Apparently such mistakes are not to be tolerated in the confines of a minivan. There are no parental do-overs for trip time estimates. J extracted his pound of flesh by telling us he was refusing to eat or pee for the rest of the day.

If he had just meted out his punishment, we might have been willing to take it like good parental soldiers. But he had to remind us in not-the-pleasantest-of-voices every 7 seconds of his refusal to eat or pee. Add to that he was hungry and "J boy" and "hungry" are words best not uttered in the same breath unless separated by the word "not".

Fortunately, he did eventually recover and ate half of our lunch bag.

Our Arrival

I had rather foolishly thought that since Washington State was not having their spring break, that it would not be that busy. Somehow, I reasoned that I would be the only person clever enough in the province of BC to figure this out. A few days earlier, I begin to allow that a few other BC families might just make the 3 hour 46 minute drive.

I was right. My first impression is a parking lot FULL of BC license plates.

We arrived well before the 4 pm check-in time as we are allowed into the water park. Yes, the indoor water park is the main attraction of this hotel. As expected our room was not ready so we grabbed our suits and headed to water heaven.

We should have perhaps figured that entering an 84 degree biosphere would have been better done without our jackets. I think the park designers may have been able to figure out a way for the change rooms to have been closer than a mile to the entrance. After divining where to pay for a locker ($5 plus deposit for the day) we entered the tiny, wet and unappealing change rooms. I hate this place already.

The Pools

These people do it right. The sizable shallow kiddy area was entertainment enough for S. She barely left except to go to the hot tub and occasionally the wave pool. It took her a day to gather up her courage to to take the small purple slide, but once she did she could not be stopped. She logged many hours on the seadoo spraying water at her fellow travellers. What's not to love? I mean where else can you pull a string and squirt water out the mouth of a fish?

For the intermediate pool people, they have Fort Mackenzie a four story tree house that has water squirting out of it at random moments. On top is a 1000 gallon bucket that dumps its payload every few minutes. There are also 2 intermediate slides, which J could take on his own.

The wave pool was popular with most on single or double inner tubes (provided for free). J loved to ride a tube or dive into the waves. S mostly wanted to jump over the water where the water at her ankles. As long as she was having fun, we were happy to oblige.

The real bonanza in this place are the BIG slides. There are four accessed by stairs. The lower two, Alberta Fall, are 4 stories high and require single or double inner tubes. J might have been tall enough to go on his own (48 inches - see below) but he always went with us. This started at 4 stories and winded down at a fast but fun pace into a 3 foot pool at the bottom.

The real trip makers here are the raft slides. The first, River Canyon Run, is billed as a family ride (must be 42 inches) and can accommodate up to 5. J went with either Husband or I and it is a 6 story ride down of fun. The raft turns and twists and you can expect some spray, a tiny bit of airtime and a soft landing into 18 inches of water.

The grandaddy of all slides is the Howling Tornado (or Hurricane as J calls it). This ride starts with a steep decline followed by a 6 foot drop and finally into a 30 foot funnel where you slide back and forth before entered the final fast slide down to the 18 inch deep landing.

We initially told J he could not do this as he didn't make the 48 inch height requirement by 1/4 of an inch. But we soon realized that he has no fear of slides and has a need for speed. So we did what all parents should do: we taught him to cheat. We taught him how to stand tall but stretching out his neck (which by the way cause him to bug his eyes out). I also back-combed his hair with my fingers each time up on the stairs and he passed the measurement each time.

I wish I had a Mommy-cam to record the look of pure joy in the eyes of my first born. And that was just in the lineup. "Remember, you have to hang on tight, Mommy!" "Did you know there is a SIX foot drop??" "Are you scared Mommy?"

MagiQuest

What else do you do when you're taking a break from the pools? Well as soon as you walk in the door of Great Wolf lodge you see kids shaking brown wands at chests, pictures and monitors.

They are all playing Magiquest. The wands are quite high tech and part of an interactive game that takes place on 5 floors of the hotel. There are monitors where one waves the wand and you pick one of 12 Quests to start. Once you've advanced you can play the 3 adventures. The Magi will direct you to your mission. The parents are not left out, they are all carrying around tiny little manuals trying to figure out where the Man in the Stump lives, or on what floor they saw the Book of Secrets.

So after having climbed the equivalent of 30 or 40 flights of stairs in the pools to get to the fun slides, one can now continue to climb stairs up to the 5th floor trying to find all of the Pixie's Crystals only to realize that the last one is in the lobby.

Playing is not cheap. The game is $10. The wand is $15. If you want a light up topper, to really make the wand look cool it's another $15. Ribbons are $3 each and I didn't even check how much the wand holsters were. Or the costumes, shields or swords.

We opted to get just one wand and played the game as a family and there was no way I would even consider a $15 light up topper. Many families each had a kid with a gussied up wand playing their own games. So if you want to, you can spend the price of a TV on this game.

The good news is that the game last 4 to 8 hours. We completed the entire thing in 5-6 hours. The ONLY way we completed was at times asking for help from other parents who were slightly ahead of us in the game (they will also help you in the MagiQuest store, if you ask). Much of it is quite doable. In fact we only needed help once on the Quests and that was early on and we weren't sufficiently observant to notice the gigantic "PIXIE'S PERCH" sign mounted on the 2nd floor.

The adventures are hard and requires interaction with a gigantic screen and you have to know what to do when and in what order. There was always a lineup so you had one chance and then to the back of the line. Husband or I took the final turns. I don't think even our tech savvy J Boy could have done what was required in the right order and the the perfect timing required .

Well worth the $25. Oh and we kicked some MagiQuest butt. See our score ... our wand is Drago!

The Room

We opted to get a Kids' Cabin room. This is basically a regular room with kids' bunk beds built in and a wall decorated to make it look like the kids have their own little cabin. They have their own flat screen TV and a window from the lower bunk (their "climbing wall"). I think it was worth it as they could climb their wall and we could at least be one level removed from their excited tones. And excited tones they had. The downside of being at coolest-place-on-planet, is that they are kind of excited to be there. A lot.

They have Nintendo controllers attacked to both TVs which drove us crazy as J wanted to play. None of us know how to work those crazy controllers so we had to endure a fair bit of whining on this issue. We did relent and gave them $5 of tokens each at the arcade. I am quite anti-arcade, but they had quite a few games the kids could do and loved, like the roller coaster simulator (see photo).

The room has a microwave and mini fridge and we ate all our meals in the room with food we brought. We did require purloined plastic utensils from restaurants and drank our wine from Styrofoam coffee cups. We're nothing if not resourceful.

What about the Parents?

There are 2 things that are for the parents. One, free WiFi in the rooms. Since Husband has his laptop and I had my iTouch, it was what we spent our meager down time from the pool and MagiQuest.

The other is Starbucks. Right there in the lobby. You saw more than a few parents with one hand on the MagiQuest manual trying to figure out who Stumpy was and in the other a Venti Americano.

They do have a spa and a gym. But who has time for the spa when you have a dragon to slay or a Howling Tornado to conquer. And who needs a gym when you've climbed the equivalent of the CN Tower (or Space Needle).

The Final Verdict

No surprise to anyone who has read this far (congratulations by the way if you haven't nodded off), but we had a great time and will certainly go back. We thought 2 nights was a good amount of time to adequately enjoy the pools and MagiQuest.

There is never a moment when we had to think what you're going to do next with the kids. It was eat, swim, MagiQuest. Repeat. At the end of one day, J Boy actually sat in the elevator to rest as he could no longer stand from floor 2 to 7. This is quite something for the Energizer Bunny of 7 year olds.

While we were initially put off by all the extras they try to sell you (well, sell your kids because when they see them they want them), we only spent money on MagiQuest, the arcade tokens and ice cream sundaes one night for a treat. And Starbucks, of course.

We didn't pay for any of the crafts at the Cub Club, we opted not to get a stuff animal (think Build a Bear) and we didn't acquire or decorate Crocs. So I think we made out alright.

The wrist bands doubles as your room key and can be used to charge things to your room, so it is nice not to have bring a wallet.

Although the place was swarming with BC spring breaking families, the lineups at the pool were not bad. Only the Tornado had consistent lineups. We avoided when it was long so usually only waited about 10 minutes. Other lines were shorter and sometimes none. We were told the hotel was at 75% of capacity. It was a little crowded doing MagiQuest at times. But never enough to stop us.

We had plenty of the most important thing: quality family time.








And a quiet trip home.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

PackingPackingPacking

I enjoy packing for a trip. I look forward to the trip and think about the things we'll be doing, what we'll need to wear.

Ever since J entered our family 7.5 years ago, packing for a trip has never been the same. I now have to pack clothes for 3 people (Husband is well-trained to pack his own stuff). While they no longer need to accompanied by equipment (high chair, bouncy seats, playyards) they still require entertainment items. They will need a few toys, a few books and comforts for sleeping. This includes a CD player so they will go to sleep with minimal egress from their respective beds. They will also need a good supply of paper, pens, pencils, markers, plus glue and tape as you never know when they will want to make signs. Of course we also need food and snacks and the usual supply of Mommy things (wet wipes for cleanups, emergency candy, and a couple new items to keep them busy and from the brink of boredom).

Well, the progeny are taking the joy out of it all: they want to pack for themselves.

Oh, they want ME to go get their stuff and bring it to them, but they want to stuff it into their own bags with their toys. They want to bring too many toys and books so there is little room left for an occasional change of underwear and socks. While I guess I should embrace their owning up to some of the responsibility, folding the stuff up and putting it in bags, organizing by outfit, is the part I actually enjoy. Why can't the love unpacking. I would happily part with that task.

J actually tortures me by stuffing his clothes into his backpack without folding it. It's not like anything needs ironing, but he's not enjoying himself! S asked me to fold a couple things because "I don't know how to fold tops, Mommy". Bless her heart, she's trying to follow MY rules.

Addendum: Another thing that makes getting ready to go challenging, I just found J Boy riding his scooter on our indoor mini-tramp. Seriously, can't he just sit and watch sports on TV or something? That's what I want to be doing. S has not been unbusy herself. She's busy pulling things out of her packed suitcase. I will have to check everything later.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Breaking Spring

It's the last rest station before the end of the school year. Spring break and then the final leg of the school and onto summer holidays.

Husband and I are taking this week off. We have a mini-trip planned and will enjoy some quieter days (we hope). We also have 4 birthday parties to attend over the 2 weekends. I am looking forward to it all.

Husband reminds me that we have a 5 hour car trip to get to our destination and J Boy is not known for tolerating 10 minute car trips to the mall.

S reminded me that holidays don't necessarily bring perfectly compliant children even if we are doing super-fun-kid stuff. And I do assume when we spend money to do fun stuff, they will behave.

Just yesterday S threatened to throw a toy basket over the railing downstairs. Her Daddy told her (rather uncharacterically) sternly not to. Not only did Husband not want a mess, did want her to be respectful of our belongings, but he and the J Boy were pretty much in the line of fire if she did cause the basket to become a missile.

She threw it. She just barely missed her Daddy's head. There was an enormous bang in addition to miscellaneous rattles as toys scattered in our entry way. Husband and I both looked to see what had made the noise. None of their toys are that loud (cheap plastic toys crack and break, they don't bang). Husband's cranium just narrowed missed an assault of my bible. Both testaments.

I don't know how it ended up in the toy basket, but it's a good thing we found it. It might give us strength so survive our 3 day road trip.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Life Imitating Life

Our kids, and J Boy in particular, are constantly, as I say "on about something". There is always some imaginative and creative activity they are doing at home.

I wish by "creative" I meant crafty. Because the craft stuff can be contained to more or less one area and cleaned up fairly easily (especially now that I have the craft cart on wheels to be wheeled to and from kitchen table).

But they completely take over the house. Remember Cooking stuffies? The get-out-of-the-house procedures? And accumulated stuff that generally takes over the house?

This week they are on about fundraisers. You see, the kids' school is doing a fundraiser. They ask all the families to donate new items around a theme and put them in baskets. Then, they ask the same families to buy raffle tickets for the baskets they just filled (the very definition of getting you coming and going).

On Monday of this week, Husband had taken the day off and so we, for the first time ever, picked up the kids together. We decided we'd get the whole raffle issue behind us. Husband had a tenner in his wallet so we bought 10 tickets and let the kids pick which of the dozen raffle baskets they'd put their tickets in for.

S was careful but decisive and put her tickets in boxes as she saw something that appealed to her. She put 1 ticket for "Webkinz" basket, one for "Glamour Girl", one for "Fun & Games" and 2 for "Girls Toys".

J took more time. He quickly decided to put one for "Science and Trading Cards". After examining all baskets twice, he put one in for "Candy!!". His stress level was rising as he was uncertain what to do with his remaining tickets. He eventually decided to put his remaining 3 tickets in "Science and Trading Cards" to increase his odds (the kid knows a thing or two about math).

Husband and I were quite pleased with ourselves that we had gotten this bit of business out of the way. Something else checked off the list (and the year prior I had neglected to give J any money so I was determined not to forget this year).

On Thursday, I was speaking to J's class on career day (I thought careers for kid in grade 2 would be "student" or "soccer player" or "play expert"???) Afterward I could see J had a burning question. I thought he might be having second thoughts about his chosen career as scientist and wanted to ask a question about being a lawyer, bus driver or journalist.

No.

"I saw B putting lots of raffle tickets in the 'Science and Trading Cards' basket, like 5 or something. I need to put more in", he said with great seriousness. The kid knows too much about probabilities.

I gave a non-committal answer that included favourite parental catch phrases such as "later" "not now" and "we'll talk about it at home".

At the end of the day and we had to walk (for me) the gauntlet by the rows of pretty baskets in the front of the school.

"Do you have any money?" J pleaded.

"I don't think so".

"Can you check??" he pulled at my purse.

"My hands are full. We are not buying more tickets today". I am schlepping my purse, 2 back packs an art project and now a 7 year old.

J reaches into a pocket of my purse which contains my work ID, train card and business cards.

I testily get him out of my purse and tell him he can buy one or two tickets next week (You see, we have another whole week of this raffle business, what were we thinking buying the tickets on the first day????).

J was not in accord with that plan. I won't go into detail about the next 15 minutes but suffice it to say, it involved threats, pleas, ultimatums, bribery, consequences and deep breathing.

Well, once we got home, J found a way to scratch the raffle itch. He made up his own raffle at home. He created baskets by taking bowls from the cupboard and filling them with things from around the house. He had half a dozen baskets made up when he started giving our tickets.

I put 1 in "Toys and Games", 1 in "Girls' Things" and 2 in "Books". S got considerably more tickets and had about 5 in every basket.

J did complain that more people weren't putting tickets in baskets. I suggested I could put some tickets in for Daddy who is away at conference. But J was steadfast that Daddy would be required to be here to put tickets in the baskets.

Just before bedtime, J gave me the good news that I have won the "Toys and Games" basket. He kindly brought it up to our room and spread the loot over Husband's side of the bed. S won all the remaining baskets and J helped her bring her windfall up to her room, but not before a long search for bags, which included both of them searching in the darkened van for our reusable grocery bags, all well after their bedtimes.

While I know I shouldn't complain because because the raffle game kept them both busy all evening, I now have to repatriate a Battleship game, Bakugan cards, Dora figures and other miscellaneous toys from Husbands side of the bed. I haven't even looked at the bonanza in S's room.

And we were doing so well have only recently disassembled the hotel.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Personal Trainer

Husband and I are at the stage of life where we should be more active. But given a choice between spending our scant leisure time in the exercize room or the computer room, the latter invariably wins out. We talk all the time about the need to be fit for our health. One of the perils of having your kids later in life is that you need to keep in shape just to keep up with them.


Enter our personal trainer. She is relentless in pushing us to attain our fitness goals of actually crossing the threshold of the exercize room. She has been known to set a good example and exercize even when she can't bully us into it. Nothing makes her happier than getting the entire family sweating, stretching and gasping for breath. While she is subject to distraction with chocolate, that only buys us a few minutes before she is begging one of us (or both) to exercize with her.

The good news is the dusty elliptical trainer, which Husband and I easily justified 3 years ago as a replacement for gym memberships, has finally been pressed into service. S and I elbow each other while doing Pilates and J Boy has mastered skipping rope with only minimal damage to the walls.
I only wish I were as flexible as I used to be. (and yes, she is exercizing in bunny slippers)