Friday, July 31, 2009

Mid Summer Report

We are halfway through our ten weeks of summer. Time to step back and enjoy (or at least assess) the view. If for no other reason than to remind myself next spring about what went well or not this year.

Last year it was a very mixed report at the halfway mark and I know I was too embarrassed to admit how very very difficult some days were. I graded it a generous C+. I think we should have all been put on academic probation.

This was the driving force behind the "summer of camps" that we are having in 2009. Any financial restraint or fondness for lazy days (and I do love lazy) went out the window in order to keep the J Boy engaged.

We spent a lot of time talking about what activities to schedule and when. While this is always a full blown obsession for me, even Husband saw the merit of appropriately timed events.

We started the summer with 4 straight weeks of activities. Week 1 of course was a big hit. Not only did the kids love bike camp, behaviourally we had a great week.

Week 2 was a bit more dicey. Jackson certainly enjoyed making movies, but he got a little revved up and was making a bit crazy about the whole thing. And he was going to bed very very late. Sydney coped well except for the 4 hours she was waiting for Jackson to get home from Lego camp. And then he ignored her so that he could make movies. Until he wanted to show off his creation to her and then he stalked her until she would comply. Oh and they bickered. A lot that week.

Week 3 we took the operation on the road and had sleepovers at Oma and Opa's in order to attend vacation bible school at their church. We had a very good week there. The change of scenery and interposition of grandparents served us all well. Curiously Jackson went to bed at 9 most nights. Very twilight zone.

Between weeks 3 and 4 we have the carnivore issue, which we are all trying to forget about.

Week 4 was science and music camp (just guess who went to which?) at a nearby university. This was a bit of a crazy week schedule wise, mostly because I was having a nutty week at work. Which makes me nutty. And we all know what happens when the mother ship goes nutty. Still they enjoyed and came home tired and I think gamely tolerated Mommy being a bit nutty (well, honestly they should be used to it).

This week is a break from camps. I think the kids needed the break, especially since last week was 7 hours days from them, plus the drive. Jackson is a little at loose ends which creates a tense dynamic. I was home with them on sick duty on Monday and then worked the next three days. I wasn't sure what to expect today, Friday, a Mommy day.

I called Husband at work at about 11:30 this morning crying uncle and begging him to let me Fed Ex just one of the kids to him to deal with for the rest of the day.

We all rallied on a fruitless trip to the mall for new school backpacks (I had a line on a good deal, but it didn't pan out.). The coolness of the mall and the exhaustion of traipsing around looking for the perfect backpack (a red one) bizarrely served us all well. We capped off the day with swimming at the pool before lessons and I abandoned the kids to the care of their father so I could recoup some of the sanity that I lost this morning.

That sanity was lost when Sydney was repeatedly whispering "zoom zoom zoom" into my ear and became exasperated that I did not know that in her brand new made up language that that means "I'm hungry". And Jackson was insistent that he be able to email the well-meaning folks at fruitloops.ca to tell them "your website sucks" because one of the links doesn't work.

Okay final grade: B+. I think that is fair but not overly generous (okay I am forgetting about the biting).

Heat Wave

On the heels of last weeks thunderstorms, we've had a heat wave this week. Vancouver broke the record for the highest temperature EVER on Wednesday but the record only last until Thursday when it was broken again. Since we're not used to these kind of temperatures AC in homes is rare. We have 3 ceiling fans and some portable fans and thankfully a cool(ish) basement to escape to.

Here is what I learned from the heat wave this past week:

1. All modesty is abandoned in favour of wearing the least amount of clothes possible. With each day the downtown business wear got sluttier and sluttier as I would see fewer clothes, and more brassieres showing around skimpy tank tops. I saw more than a few women wearing less that most blushing brides (if there are still some...) on their honeymoon. "Sundresses" were flimsy, see through with plunging necklines. Don't even get me started on the strapless dresses (over sagging boobs) that are in vogue. By Thursday many had abandoned even wearing bras. The men, curiously, still all wore suits but some did walk around carrying their jackets.

2. "Climate-controlled" buses and subways are not controlled in this climate. On my 3 work days I have to decide whether I should walk from the office in stifling heat to the train station or take the subway, which I could walk to quickly and largely in air conditioned malls. However, once I get on the subway it is twice as hot as outside and the humidity was at 90%. And the smell was pungent. I opted for walking in the heat 2 days and the third I braved the subway only to realize I had made the right decision the prior 2 days. The commuter train is thankfully air conditioned but the shuttle bus is a fiery oven made worse by congested traffic. I only made it home with a litre of water to keep hydrated.

3. Appetites are smaller in the extreme heat. So my kids are nibbling a little on toast in the morning and swearing a solemn oath that they are no longer hungry. No amount of cajoling will convince them to take even one more bite. Thirty minutes later one of them would be plaintively crying for food. Hungry one will not be able to articulate what they want so it's a lot of guessing, and then they wander off into some activity when they remember that they were hungry. We find a snack for the hungry child and offer to the other who will deny even a hint of hunger pangs. Until the snack things are put away and then we'll hear "I'm hungry". It's a 16 hour process of giving them with sustenance. I'm thinking of installing some kind of snack machine (think hamster) to provide non stop snacks and water.

4. We Vancouverites like to complain about the weather. A lot. I suppose that this is part of the human condition. Last December and January we had enough snow to look like Buffalo. Or Montreal and we all complained about that. May was an unseasonably cool month and we complained bitterly that we had had a cold winter, where was our summer? Now we are collectively crying uncle as the summer is coming all at once.

5. Inconsiderate neighbours get inconsiderater. We have neighbours who love to have people over. In the summer they eat outside often. They are loud and gregarious and apparently they are very funny as they laugh a lot. They speak in tones loud enough for us to hear every word but since I don't speak Czech, I have no idea what they are saying. The warm nights means more lingering outside. Lately, the man of the house, who has a lovely baritone voice, has been belting out songs so loudly I can't even hear the news on TV. As a general rule they do shut it down at a semi-respectable time, generally just before whatever deadline I told Husband I would let it go to until I say something or call the police. But last night they were cavorting till 11:00 (a weeknight!) and then brought out the stereo to play some tunes. They actually did move the operation inside at 11:30 after I glared at them from my bedroom window but kept the music going for another hour. The perils of city life.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Invasion

WARNING: DON'T READ IF YOU'RE EATING OR SQUEAMISH

We were invaded by something foreign last evening. It came quite suddenly and unexpectedly.

TSV: The Stomach Virus.

Husband called the J Boy to dinner and he said "I don't feel too well" and for emphasis emancipated the contents of his stomach.

Husband and I were stunned because we had had no hint of any unwell feeling and we're in the middle of a freakin' heat wave. How do these germs live? Unfortunately this stunnedness prevented us from directing the J Boy to the bathroom for about 3 seconds which meant a further emancipation. Really, 7.5 years into parenting, we should have better instincts.

Fortunately, this occurred on the hardwood floors and not carpet or other soft surfaces. After a lot of cleaning up (and my being very grateful that Husband was around because he often isn't) we got Jackson settled on the chaise lounge, with all soft surface protected and a bowl at hand.

The lad has inherited from his father's side, a rather sensitive stomach, which once it starts this whole process won't stop. You could set the Atomic clock by it. Every 30 minutes he would start to moan, a trip to the bathroom, and he would be fine. Of course after the initial event, not much was really happening. But his body was in the groove and would not stop. Or as the sickly one said "my body is controlling me". In the past we have had to take him to a clinic to get an anti-nausea shot and once he was very close to being admitted to the hospital for dehydration.

After each event, Jackson would say "I feel normal" and bound back to his spot on the lounger for more cartoons. At one point Jackson said "it's a pattern, I get a tummy ache, I throw up, I feel normal."

After 4 hours Jackson was moaning in despair "when will the pattern end??"

We made a bed for him in the hallway near the bathroom (we didn't think him climbing down the ladder from his loft bed to race to the bathroom was wise). The 30 minute cycle continued and we tried unsuccessfully to get meds on board that would slow this thing down and knock him out.

When he wasn't complaining about his tummy, he was begging for water. "I could drink a whole jug." "I would drink a whole swimming pool." "I'm so thirty, I haven't had a drink in days".

I felt a little sorry for myself that Husband got to go to work in the morning, which meant I was largely on night duty.

Sydney, of course, when this happened needed to be shuffled upstairs and out of the splash zone . I gave her a terse "Jackson is sick, can you go upstairs?". She asked about 1,000 "h0w did Jackson get sick?" The evidence was pungently before her, I didn't know what kind of answer to give her, but eventually she seemed satisfied with "he has a bug". She went upstairs.

A while later I went up to have a cuddle and check on her and she wanted to know about the bug living in Jackson. What kid of bug? A spider? A beetle?

She was a little put out by bedtime of all the attention her brother (and the laundry) was getting and also wanted to camp out in the hallway. To be safe we put down some towels in her room, as we knew she would likely succumb as well.

Just when I thought I would be up all night, at midnight, the sickie fell asleep with a few final moans. At 2 a.m. I woke up and realized Jackson was indeed fast asleep and this episode was in the books. I felt sorry for Husband that he couldn't sleep in.

At 5:45 a.m. Jackson bounded into our room like a puppy telling us he felt completely normal. Good, all I have to do is wash every surface he touched, launder every towel, blanket and sheet he looked at and hope this thing doesn't spread. But first, a little sleep in.

At 7:45 a.m. Sydney came in told me she needed me. Yup, round 2. Right beside the towels.

My daughter does not have the sensitive stomach. She doesn't moan. She doesn't complain. She was only sick once. She hasn't even shown any signs of feeling unwell and is begging for breakfast.

I'm busy prioritizing the laundry situation. Code red laundry is that which took direct hits or used in cleanup procedures. Code yellow is possible hits, things inside possible splash zone. Code blue is anything either kid has touched in the last 24 hours that isn't nailed down.

Husband, lucky bastard, got to go to work.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Homework

I know, we're 4 weeks into the summer with 6 to go, why am I even uttering the word. Well, as evidenced by the J Boy's recent science lab, any advancement we may have made in the area of spelling seems to have evaporated with 4 weeks of summer day camps.

Spelling practice was hard work for all of us this past year, Jackson's first year with weekly tests. This is because Jackson's learning style, to put it mildly, is not rote. Normal kids could be told to come home, write out a few spelling words while they inhale a plate of cookies a couple times a week and bingo, words are memorized. It's a painless 10 minutes a few times a week.

We tried that last September and found that we had several hours of suggesting the idea, followed by looooong sessions with pencil and paper. After 30 minutes he will not have written out the words even once. And he would be complaining that "I've been doing homework for hours!!" It felt like it to us too.

It was suggested to us that we try playing games. And so began our thrice weekly games of hangman and our own variations of Scrabble. This actually worked out not too badly. But it took a good hour of games to get through the words once. Granted it was less painful and also quality one on one time with the J Boy, so we had no cause to complain.

Toward the end of the year, he had a marked improvement in spelling and was finally remembering common patterns and letter combinations. Four weeks into the summer and he has forgotten everything. Like that station is not spelled "stashon".

Sydney is an emerging reader. I thought she was doing pretty well at the end of kindergarten, but I realized recently that she no longer will read the words that she knows.

Both of my kids apparently inherited my poor penmanship. Jackson had remedial printing practice through half of grade 2 and Sydney is a little creative with her use of capital letters. As in capital letters rAnDOmLy scattered through her writing.

So I decided just a little practice over the summer would slow down the decay of their academic skills. Since they are as likely to volunteer for homework as I am for beekeeping duties (I have deep fear of being stung by anything) we needed an incentive program.

We had thought of taking the kids to the PNE, the Pacific National Exhibition, in early September just before school starts. It's rides, games and junk food galore. I thought why not have that be the carrot to get them to do the odd sheet of homework.

A few weeks ago I told them that only 10 short homework lessons would earn them a trip to the PNE. Sydney jumped right on the bandwagon and did a little reading and some printing and finished her first session. Jackson declined.

This afternoon, I floated the trial balloon and both kids seemed keen and even consented to the TV being turned off immediately when I had said they might think about doing this after the show they had been watching.

I gave each 3 small assignments. I realize now that I was getting a little greedy.

Jackson spent the first 10 minutes telling us how easy the math sheet was and asking Sydney if she thought his sheet was easy or hard.

Sydney did her numbers and letters practice and had some reading to do. Jackson abandoned his math sheet to help her with her reading. My heart warmed to hear them work together and to hear Jackson encouraging her.

I should have frozen that moment in time because that is where the wheels fell off the wagon.

Jackson realized that his homework was not getting done while he helped her. He understandably wanted to get back to his sheet. Sydney said she would wait for him to be done so she could read with him.

J: After I do this, I'm going to play in my science lab.
S: After that.
J: Then I'm going to have supper.
S: After that.
J: Then I'm going to play some more.
S: After that.
J: Then I'm going to watch TV.
S: After that.
J: Then I'm going to bed.
S: After that.
J: Then I'm going to have breakfast.
S: After that.

I can't remember how far into the next week they got, but it ended with Jackson moaning in disgust and Sydney storming off to alternate between pouting and fake-crying.

The J Boy went to a quieter room to work on his math. It then occurred to him that he still have more to do and that summer homework sucks. So he threw a (small) chair at me (and missed) and generally became discombobulated.

Husband stayed nearby to make sure that Jackson's foul mood did not result in any furniture going through plate glass windows.

The J Boy finally calmed down enough to involve Sydney in a conspiracy against the homework project. They sequestered themselves in the linen closet and came up with a 9 part plan to rid the universe of evil Mothers using the word "summer" and "homework" in the same sentence.

And so no more homework got done.

I haven't given up but I will just focus on one or two things and hope for the best. Or else I will just forget about it and let the grade 1 and 3 teachers clear out the cobwebs in September. The problem is I want to go to the PNE with them and I kind 've boxed myself into a corner on that.

The best laid plans of mice and moms...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Quite a Show

Hmmm. This could turn into something:
From darkness....

to light.

You'll never guess who wanted to watch:
And if that wasn't enough, here is the sunset we were treated to:
And for those that prefer video to stills, or would like to see the lighting, here's a clip that captured what my 343 pictures didn't:

Pitch Woman

While the J Boy seems destined to be a scientist with his hardcore curiosity and love of mixing things together "just to see what happens", Sydney's future avocations are more transient.

At different times, she has stated her desire to be a teacher, a spy, a daycare worker, a scientist, a Mommy, a doctor, a princess, a reporter and a restaurant greeter.

My money is on host for a home shopping network:



A good pitch woman sees the versatility in the wares she is selling:



If she stays this cute, she could sell snow to Siberia:

Scientist

What do you do if you've been at science camp all week at a "real live university" and you consider yourself a "real scientist"?

You set up your own lab, of course.

A lab would have to have stations. Safety first.What's a lab without chemicals.Put random bits of things in the guest powder room and decry any attempts to remove them even if company is expected for dinner any minute. Mommy's note to self, secure spelling tutor for September.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sparkle Celebrations

Well it's been a few weeks but we appear to be on the verge of (yet again) conquering Sydney's bum sparkle.

We've discussed, listened, waited, threatened, bribed, pleaded, begged, persevered and prayed. And we've done a lot of laundry.

In the last 24 hours, Sydney purged her sparkle. Three times.

At the first sparkle event, I celebrated - I thought - the appropriate amount for someone not having sparkled in 7 days. Which is to say I squealed a little. I clapped and did a little bum sparkle dance. I gave the Girlie Goo a hug and told her how proud Daddy and I were of her.

The latter 2 sparkle events I missed but Daddy was around. I do not know the extent (if any) of his celebrations, but I know they will have been more muted than mine.

Today in a quiet moment, Sydney said "Mommy, next time I poo, can you be a little quieter?"

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What a Difference a Day Makes

Yesterday I was overwhelmed.

Work was draining and I am trying to squeeze in extra hours this week to meet a deadline.

Sydney has her recurring bum sparkle (i.e. scatological) issues which make her and me cranky. And requires a lot of reassurance, negotiation and trips to the bathroom with an unwilling 5 year old and an almost as unwilling Mommy.

Jackson was having a good day but he was banned from most of his usual electronics so was struggling to entertain himself. He had drawn up plans to make a rocket the night before and was on a house-wide search for an appropriately sized box. Jackson is unable or unwilling to perform these searches without a parent at hand.

Laundry was piled to the ceiling partly due to bum sparkle issues and the fact that we were away last week and the weather has been warm.

Jackson, fresh from science camp at a local university, then decided to do experiments. The default experiment when something more original cannot be tackled, is baking soda and vinegar. One day a couple years ago when I was feeling very creative and generous, I suggested they add food colouring to the concoction. So that is what Jackson and his 5 year old shadow like to do. This requires supervision or we'd have food colouring on the carpet.

So yesterday I felt grotesquely impatient but tried not to show it as they made their potions. The combinations of colours and watching the foam and bubbles just irritated me. I let them use up legions of the supplies before I shut down the operation. Jackson was a good sport. Sydney was crying that she had to save some of the colour he had just invented or she would never see it again. Even Jackson cleaning up VOLUNTARILY did not get me out of my funk.

Husband handled getting the kids clean while I tackled lunches and kitchen clean up. Then I heard a monstrous crash and I just knew Jackson had shattered the shower door. I prepared myself to see blood as I ran up the stairs as fast as my squatty legs could take me. I stood beside Husband, both of us in bare feet in a sea of white glass shards. Jackson was happily singing to himself and showering. Notably, the shower doors were in tact.

We looked around for what may have broken and realized the dome light over the tub had shattered for unknown reasons. Though extremely grateful that Jackson and the rest of us were out of range, it was another thing to clean up. I picked up the big pieces and then Husband vacuumed while I finished his story reading duties with the Girlie Goo.

After nine I realized we had to do one more load of laundry or I would have nothing to wear to work today.

I felt sorry for myself when I hauled my carcass up to our room at 10 knowing I would still have to reboot the laundry.

With the dawn of a new day, all the stresses of yesterday should have bled into today.

But today, work seemed less overwhelming.

When I went to pick up the kids at the "real live university", they had problems at the parkade and I was a few minutes late picking up, but it didn't phase me (and oh, how I hate to be late ...)

I came home less annoyed and very unusually carried Jackson's backpack up for him. When I realized said backpack was empty and he had left his water bottle and lunch bag at camp, I said "you need to keep track of your things" only once and without the usual accompanying lecture. This has got to be some kind of record.

Husband called to say he would be home early and I easily summoned the energy to race out as soon as he was home to pick up one thing from the Purolator depot and one from the Post Office. I even threw in a trip to the liquor store, getting provisions for a BBQ we are hosting this Friday.
We still have bum sparkle negotiations and a bored 7 year old to contend with and the laundry project to finish, but today I could cope.

What is the opposite of the saying "when it rains, it pours"? Good karma begets good karma?

What were the packages I picked up?

My passport.

And Jackson's jacket back from it's warranty repair trip. With an industrial strength zipper.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Futility

Parenting sucks. At least it did today, in this house. Any modest parental triumph achieved in the past 7.5 years is eclipsed by recent events. To adapt a phrase from the Borg (Star Trek's Voyager), parenting is futile.

No matter how many times we preach, model, lecture and talk about respect, disrespect continues. I am humbled to the core.

Last week the J Boy did something to Sydney that is one of the biggest taboos: he bit her. I know, what is he? Three?

I only found out about it a few days later and had a sleepless night where I wondered where I went wrong. I yelled at him, spoke to him quietly, issued an ultimatum, lectured and made it clear, in the certainest of terms that is was NOT TO HAPPEN AGAIN.

It happened again. Today.

I am at a loss. Where does he get this from?? We have no know vampires in the family. What am I supposed to do, give him a teething ring?

While our J Boy has his emotional tendencies, they mostly result in slammed doors and chairs knocked over. I guess we see the occasional shove with his sister (and he receives in kind), but that is where the physical aggression ends.

Telling the lad not to bite is not working. Futility. He knows not to bite, yet he does it. Futility.

I thought that in dealing with the biting last week, which by the way he denied both times even in the face of incontrovertible forensic evidence, we had not been emphatic enough.

No more. Not today. We needed to dig deep. Persevere. Parenting is not for the faint of heart.

J was sent to his room. I told him he had dug himself a big hole and he had to do a lot of things to get out. I wrote him out a list:

1. Calm down (that means no screaming, kicking the door and being able to have a conversation).
2. Write Sydney a note of apology that says more than "I'm sorry". If must talk about what happened.
3. Write out 50 times "I will NEVER bite."
4. Have a talk with Mommy or Daddy (your choice) and talk about this until we understand why this happened.
5. Clean up anything you messed up while in your room being upset.
6.Agree to whatever limitations and punishments Mommy and Daddy have for you.

He scrunched up the list and threw it at me. He denied all biting.

I posted myself as century outside the door to his room as he made attempts to escape. When he wouldn't remain in his room, I locked his door.

When he found things to open the lock, I repeated took them away until he ran out of things that would work.

Then he tried to beat down the door. I told him if he broke down he door we would put him in another room with a door and he would have to pay for the door out of his allowance.

He asked how much so I googled and told him $117 plus tax.

He said he didn't want to save up for anything anyway and kept banging.

He finally fell silent and I asked if he wanted to start working on the list. He said he would never work on the list and he had realized that he had to calm down if he wanted to think of new ways to defeat me.

I told him that he had HURT his sister. He said he didn't care. And that biting didn't hurt. He bit himself to prove it. You could take a dental impression from his arm.

He eventually agreed to let me read him Sydney's victim impact statement which read "You hurt me and made me angry when you bit me on my elbow". No response.

I think boredom took over and he eventually agreed to have some tentative discussion with me over the biting. "Why did you bite your sister?"

"She was being super annoying." [I resisted the urge to point out that he was admitting to the biting]

"You can't go biting people when they annoy you. That's no way to get through life."

"I only bit because she was super annoying, not just regular annoying. She's the only one in the world that is".

"What is you grow up and have a boss that is super annoying, will you bite him or her?"

"Bosses aren't super annoying."

We deferred the discussion and he agreed to start typing out "I will NEVER bite" on an old computer. But not before he said that wasn't much of a consequence for biting. I said it was just a start.

He then moaned and felt very sorry for himself for about 45 minutes saying 50 times was too many. Then he showed him a long list of "I will NEVER bite", 168 of them to be exact. I didn't know he knew about cut and paste.

He did show some remorse and apologized to his sister. I asked Sydney if her heart felt better.

She said "Y-E-S." [who knew she could spell??]

We had a long discussion over the whole incident which was no doubt the MOST painful part of the whole exercise for him.

He's lost a bucket of privileges which really only punishes the parents as we have already had to listen to an excessive amount of moaning about boredom and it's only been a few hours. But that's our penance for not being there to intervene (darn British Open playoff).

The kid did accept his consequances and didn't squawk once over the computer or his before-bed tv show. He published a couple of his own books and now is reading through a stack in his bed.

He has also agreed to enter into a non-biting contract which will have sanctions the likes of which North Korea has never seen. And will include a limitless lecturing by Mommy clause.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Death

It has been a long time coming, but we are facing death straight in the face. One of our fish, Isaac, is dying (he's the orangy one in the forefront).

The two koi joined our family 2 years ago when we dipped our toes into pet ownership for the first time. That is if you don't count the long succession of caterpillars that served as pets until the koi came along. And it was a deliberate attempt to distract the kids from the fact that we were not getting a puppy.

I'm not sure if these koi are the same kind you put in ponds, but they're pretty long-living for fish. We were gifted the 2 scaly ones from a friend (S, a Bad Cop) who had long ago upgraded to a dog and the fish sat on their bathroom counter for years simply refusing to die.

So this charming pair came to live with us along with tank, filter system, and all the necessary accoutrements. The orange one, the designated boy, was named Isaac, which is Jackson's middle name after my maternal grandfather. His tank partner, the designated girl fish, was named Anna after my paternal grandmother's name. I do love symmetry.

Anyway, Isaac has shown signs of slowing down lately and not eating a lot. Today he alternated between lying down on some plants and floating near the surface.

I gathered the kids near the tank and gave them the news that Isaac was very sick and maybe dying.

Sydney went back to watching cartoons.

Jackson went back to the computer.

But I could tell that Jackson was affected by the high-pitched-trying-not-to-cry voice that he told us he was going back to his game. I went to the den a few minutes later and he said:

"We can get another Isaac. It's not like koi are endangered".

Sydney continued to lie on the couch.

Jackson came to the tank periodically to check on Isaac who most mostly floating throughout the tank with occasional spurt of energy when he would swim upside down. I, myself, found it a bit hard to watch. "What do you think we should do?" I asked, not exactly sure what to expect.

"We should call the real owners." I sent an email to S.

"Maybe Isaac is just sick and he'll get better." Sydney ventured.

"Isaac isn't sick. He is old. Everything dies once. Even people." Jackson was mostly trying to convince himself.

"We need to get Isaac out before he makes Anna sick" Sydney interjected.

Oh, that's why Sydney isn't showing much emotion. Isaac is Jackson' fish.

Well, if you said ownership had anything to do with caring for the pets, Husband would have the only claim as owner as he cleans the tank, buys the supplies and does all fishy tasks. The kids mostly only take an interest when their friends come over and are fascinated by the big fish.

After some googling on what we are to do with Isaac s he seemed very much on death's door, we asked Jackson if he wanted to bury Isaac in the yard or if "Daddy should take him out of the tank". We were purposefully vague on the details.

"Daddy can take him out. What should we name our next fish?"
Later, when Isaac was no longer showing any signs of life, Jackson expressed an interest in getting him removed. Husband bravely removed him from the tank, thankfully without incident. Poor Anna.

Jackson decided he wanted to make a gravestone. Husband is not too excited about burying the fish in our yard (a lot of animals around here) so I floated the trial balloon that maybe we could put up the gravestone to remember Isaac, but we didn't have to actually bury him.

"Mommy", Jackson said quite impatiently, "we're not making the gravestone to remember Isaac, we're making the gravestone so that if we want to see him again, we'll know where to dig him up".

I certainly hope you can rest in peace Isaac.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Week Deux

Week 2 of summer is over (that's 20% for those - like me - keeping track). It was a busy week for the kids and for us.

Sydney spent the week at Tiny Tykes Adventures Camp. This is a preschool camp for my grade 1 daughter. Because I made the grave error of birthing her in September, she does not qualify for any of the camps for grade one and up because you can't go to camps unless you are actually 6. Seriously, I know nightclubs that are easier to get into for 11 yr olds that the grade 1 camps for my grade oner. So she is relegated to preschool camps. This was the same one she was in last year and the theme was building, so a lot of Bob the Builder colouring, which in my estimation is geared to 2 and 3 year olds. She noticed she was the oldest in the class but happily, she didn't seem to mind. As she is petite she fit in size-wise and she said she helped the younger kids. Next year, happily, we can leave preschool behind, which is good because she will be almost 7.

This has been a week Jackson has been looking forward to: Legomation. He spent the week making movies with Lego, like claymation, only using Lego. Here is his creation


Last week on the last day of bike camp, Jackson told me with her usual fervor that he wanted to do something special with the family. He said he would need a few things: 2 bikes, 4 people, an MP3 player, and a CD of music. I told him we had all those things. Then he said "oh yeah and a school and a parking lot".

We spent the afternoon negotiating about which parking lot might work. He was adamant about going to the "bike camp park", which we eventually did after numerous attempts to point out there was a football game on, the season opener. He was not to be dissuaded. Why? He wanted to bike dance. It was more ride around wiggling his butt a little to Green Day, but he learned it at bike camp, and he had a pathological need to share it.

This week the J Boy came home, wanting to make movies. He first seems satisfied with this lower tech version of what he had done during the week just using our digital camera. He even insisted that Husband post it on YouTube, as he likes the fame this will obviously bring him:



By Saturday, Husband was harangued enough that he searched for and found an old webcam, and Jackson spent most of Saturday making some animation movies. Which were pretty good considering the poor quality camera and a certain degree of impatience on his part.

So let's review:

- bike camp leads to obsession with bike dancing

- Legomation camp leads to obsession making animation movies.

- this coming week's activity? Vacation bible school. I just hope we will not be booking travel to Syria to reenact Paul's missionary journeys.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Zipper Angst

As if I don't have enough on my plate with answering questions, looking for deals to Disney, and ignoring laundry, I have a pressing issue I've been confronting in the last week: zippers.

Jackson has countless jackets where the zippers are broken. Their dysfunctions differ. On some the end is broken off so. Some are near impossible to zip up. One has missing teeth. Others jam and require the jaws of life to extricate the boy.

I keep buying more and more jackets, not believing what bad luck we have. More than once we have been in the lets-go-we're-going-to-be-late-for-school-hurry-up-put-your-shoes-on-do-you-have-your-backpack-put-your-jacket-on scenario and it all comes to a screeching halt over zippers. Jacket after jacket is put on and then discarded into a heap over zipper issues. More than once this has caused us to be late for school. More than once the J Boy has gone to school without a jacket, with one inappropriate to the weather or in one belonging to his sister. It's bloody irritating.

In February, the J Boy had been wearing his snow jacket when the weather did not require it. When even that jacket, our last holdout in the working zipper category, failed, I was beat. After one of those mornings when zippers caused us all far too much stress, I went in search of yet another jacket and I was prepared to pay whatever it cost for a better quality jacket. I hypothesized that my buying cheaper jackets was the root of the problem.

I found a very nice light rain jacket. It was an excellent brand (Columbia) and on sale for the same price as I usually pay for inferior quality. I bought this better quality jacket quickly when I found one remaining one in Jackson's size, and knowing that better days were ahead in the zipper department (see photo).

I think I pointed out the perfection of this purchase to Husband every day for a month. "Wasn't that jacket a good deal?" "This is such a good jacket for this climate, he can wear it in 3 seasons." "It's a good size, he'll wear it for two or even three years". While Husband did not necessarily share my zealous enthusiasm over this purchase, he did approve of having at least one jacket in the house with an operational zipper.

You probably think that I said these things to Husband only for a month because then I got distracted by a new purchase to brag about or, say, by something shiny. No.

For the next months I was saying things like "I can't believe the zipper went on that jacket too!" "Columbia is such a good name??" "Don't you think a better quality jacket would have a better quality zipper?" "What do you think he does to his zippers that make them all go?"

Fortunately, we survived the next few months with no jacket due to nice weather, or at least non rainy weather and we salvaged one other hoody jacket by repairing the zipper (which was of great use to us the days it wasn't sitting in the lost and found). The new Columbia jacket could be pressed into service on rainy days since we jerry-rigged the zipper so it would go up and down but just not undo at the bottom. So he would step into his jacket like a hula hoop put it on and zip it up.

Then the really nice weather came and I was chasing Jackson with bottle of sunscreen in the mornings and looking for hats not worrying about zippers.

About a week ago, the weather took a turn and the Columbia rain jacket was completely nonfunctional unless you want to use it as a doormat, dish rag or possibly a kite. So I did what had been suggested to me during laments to other Moms and went to a tailor to get the zipper replaced. The cost: $32.50. The jacket purchased on sale was $29.99 plus taxes, coming in at just over $32.

So I decided to buy the J Boy another jacket instead of just buying a zipper. I hoped I could find one with Velcro closing, or magnets. But I discovered those jackets are usually meant for the under 4 set that cannot manage zippers and have firetrucks, Diego or zoo animals and I am not prepared to subject Jackson to grade 3 ridicule just to make my life getting him out the door a little easier.

After a quadrant search of the mall I ended up at the kids' jackets section at Sears where I had bought the Columbia jacket last February. I found the exact same one for $32.49 before taxes. I recoiled at this and sought out the sales clerk and asked about Sears's policy on defective goods. Though I did not have the bill with me, miraculously, I did have it at home. For some reason it's been sitting on our kitchen counter since I bought it and has been a constant taunt (well whenever I try to sort through the papers on the counter) of what I am supposed to do with yet another broken zippered jacket.

The sales clerk seemed optimistic that they would exchange it if it had been bought in the past 90 days. I couldn't actually remember the month I had acquired this, but thought it just might be 90 days.

When I got home, I realized I had bought the jacket in late February. I contemplated pleading my case to the powers that be at Sears and quote provincial legislation that required goods to be of "merchantable quality" and if a zipper goes on a boys jacket in size 8 so quickly it is obviously not "merchantable quality" and they should replace it. I have made this argument before. It's funny what results quoting the Sale of Good Act brings in these situations.

But for some reason, I was not up for the fight this week. As I lamented to myself (again) that Columbia really should have a better quality zipper, I notice "Columbia.com" on the tag in the jacket. On a lark I checked out the website and saw that they have a limited warranty and for the price of postage to Ontario they will replace the zipper gratis. It may take 8 weeks, so this needs to be done now to beat the falls cool rainy season (and I take back all the bad thoughts I had about Columbia).

Which is a problem with my aversion to getting to the post office.

Teenagers and Roots

Me: Wow, it sure is quiet in the back seat, are you guys sleeping?

S: Nah, we're just sitting here and being teenagers.

Me: What does it mean to be a teenager?

S: You know, not excited about anything.

Me: Oh

S: Not really talking about anything, not being a chatterbox.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

J: Mommy, why is your hair brown except at the ends it's white?

Me: That's not possible. We need to get your eyes checked.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Radio Shrink

I flipped on the radio with the kids in the car today and a radio shrink was on. I thought I'd listen just for a minute as the kids were busy tormenting each other in the back so I had no one with whom I could have an intelligent conversation.

The Radio Shrink was dealing with a caller who wanted to know if it was okay to let her 6 month old baby stay with her parents over night (yes, it is.)

J: What is this even about?

Me: People are calling in if they have a problem.

Caller: I'm having problem with my husband. He says I don't obey him.

J: Mommy, do you have any problems?

Me: No, my life is perfect.

Caller: We are disagreeing on where to go on holidays.

J: But have you ever had a problem?

Me: Sure.

Shrink: Women run things in the home.

J: Have you ever called that lady with your problem?

Me: No, if I have a problem, Daddy and I talk about it.

Shrink: If the man wants new curtains they won't happen until the woman wants them.

J: What if Daddy is the problem?

Me: Well then it's most important to talk to Daddy about it. Just like if you have a problem with me or I have a problem with you, we should talk. It's best to talk to the person with whom you have the problem.

Shrink: Your husband probably thinks you make all the decisions in the house.

J: But that lady is having a disagreement about where to go on holidays and she isnt' talking to her husband about it.

Me: Well, she is calling a Dr. who is helping her with her problem. I don't think I would ever call a Dr. on the radio if ever I had any problems [I blog instead].

Caller: You're right. My husband thinks I make all the decisions. So you're saying I should obey him?

CLICK.

That was about 5 minutes too late.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Hows and Whys

Our endlessly curious 7 year old, Jackson, is enamoured with the hows and whys of the world around him. He must ask why or how and understand the response 1.7 giga-jillion times a week. With our committment to listening to our kids, you can understand just how big a deal this is.

He wants to know how stuff works, why stuff is where it is. "how do they know what the weather will be?" "why does the garbage get picked up on Thursdays?" "why is that sign right there and not closer to the store?"

But it doesn't end there. He wants to know who people are, why I'm walking around carring a spatula in my hand and where I got the spatula. He wants to know who I'm talking to on the phone to and why. He wants to know why Sydney is in trouble (in the rare event that he is not implicated in the trouble, that is). He's our family's own Mrs. Kravitz: a busybody.

Not surprisingly this leads to many questions when it comes to the rules of life. Ages ago I blogged on Conventional Parenting Wisdom and my meager efforts to simply the rules. I think whatever success I ever had, has been completely forgotten is episodes such as this:

"Jackson, don't bodyslam into the patio window" I say as he lauches himself there from the mini-trampoline. I'm not sure if I'm more worried about the window, his dental status, his cranium or his becoming as a mosquito to a windshield.

"Why?"

"Because I don't want you to get hurt."

Window slamming continues.

"Jackson, don't jump onto the window, I don't want you to get hurt!!"

He hears "don't ... get hurt".

"I'm not getting hurt."

"Well you might get hurt. Just because you didn't hurt yourself the first time, doesn't mean you won't the tenth."

Bounce, bounce, bounce, SLAM.

"Jackson, if you break that window it's 100 years of your allowance. At least. Don't slam, you might might break the window!!!!"

He hears "don't .... break the window!"

"I'm not breaking the window."

And so it goes. You can see why I need my hair coloured so often and why I never seem to get the laundry done around here.

On the weekend on my watch, the kids went into Husband's shop and started "fixing" their toys. When Husband returned from his weekly trip to the home improvement store, I had thought that they were in the kitchen or outside as I could hear their voices. It turns out they were downstairs. They each dragged a chair and they were standing on them in front of the bench, hardly believing of the good fortune of Mommy being on the computer for so long.
"Umm, guys, shops are for grown ups", I said in a high pitched voice, pretending to be calm.

"Mommy, we've been here for an hour" Jackson responded. If he's ever done something once, he takes that as tacit approval to do it into eternity.

"Mommy, only the hammers are dangerous and we're not touching the hammers." Sydney responded.

"Shops are for grownups." I said with finality that I hoped they would not read as resignation.

So imagine my perturb-ment when today they ventured into MY side of the shop. I store treasures and importantly hide gifts. They crawled in and around and even found a few stashed gifts that I had entirely missed over some such holiday.

I started to rant about disrespect and privacy, and could see myself getting a little worked up, so instead I regrouped and posted this sign on the door, which amused Jackson:

I trust that is clear enough even for the future lawyers in the family.

Ears Wide Open

One of the things Husband and I have tried to do with our kids is listen. With ears wide open. Frankly some days that was all we had. I think it's the most consistent thing that we have done.

We've listened to their recaps of some inane TV show they shouldn't be watching over dinner. We've heard 17 versions of the same joke from each of them on the same car trip to the mall. We've heard a scene by scene recap of Inspector Gadget 2. Twice. In a row. After bedtime. Every once in a while we'll get a nugget, something we need to pay attention to: "I don't really have any friends."

We figured if our kids felt they were listened to that would give them a sense of self worth. They are important to us and what they say is important. As they grow older, talking to us becomes more and more important as we navigate waters I don't even want to think about. Plus we might learn a thing or two on where their adorable little heads are at.

Today while touring Walmart my ears were particularly keenly tuned to Sydney (the Girlie Goo, previously known as S).

First thing I heard was her taking phone calls from her best friend V. "Well, I'll check my schedule, but I don't think I'm free today". She looks at me, covers her hand-phone and whispers "V wants me to come to a pool party today but I'm busy".

She took another call from V as they tried to sync their schedules and then an email from her brother who is making movies with Lego at a camp this week. Jackson (a.k.a. J Boy) wants to read her a story later after his camp.

Then as we walked we had this conversation:

S: I'm very famous Mommy.

Me: Really?? What are you famous for?

S: I give advice. People write to me and I give advice. They write "Dear Mrs. Sydney".

Me: What kind of advice do you give?

S: Well I just started yesterday at this job, but the first advice I gave was about a girl who's boyfriend wouldn't kiss her and she wants to break up with him if he won't kiss her.

Me: [stifling alarms bells and queasy feeling in stomach] What advice did you give?

S: I told her to ask her boyfriend why he won't kiss her.

Me: Why do you think the boyfriend wasn't kissing her?

S: I think he had a sore lip and it would have hurt to kiss her.

Me: [speechless]

S: The advice I gave today was to a boy who wanted to know why he didn't have a girlfriend.

Me: What did you tell him?

S: I told him he had to be handsome and then the girls would like him.

Me: How would he do that?

S: Do his hair handsome, with gel -- making it stick up. And wear a tie and handsome clothes.

Me: Oh.

S: I'm also famous because I write Hannah Montana's songs.

Me: You do?

S: Well I give them the ideas for the songs. Another man writes the songs.

Me: You must be very busy.

S: Well I used to do the Hannah Montana songs for a job. When I was a baby. Right after I came out of your tummy and slept in a crib. Now I work for my boss giving advice.

Me: You must be very famous.

S: Yes, people do things for me. They get me drinks, clean my room. But I don't get mad at them if they don't do what I want like some famous people do. If they're sick I can do those things for myself.

Me: Do you think those people would do nice things for me too? Since I'm your Mommy?

S: Of course!

Me: Do you think ...

S: Just a minute Mommy, my boss is calling, I need to take this call.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Gift of Time

With the summer starting off so well, you are probably wondering what I am doing with my time since I am not cobbling together activities to ward off boredness. On top of blogging and booking our trip to Disneyland, here's what I have been up to:

1. I put in place a "kids bring your dishes to the counter after you eat" rule. Husband or I steadfastly repeated this every meal at least 8 times to each kid. We did so calmly as we know the reason the kids are allergic to chores is because we have been doing everything for far too long. It has been an unqualified success so far. I've been keeping stats and when Husband or I have asked them 10 or less times in the space of 30 minutes, we have a 10% success rate.

2. I started a major reorganizational project. We have a full bookshelf in the basement of craft supplies. While I am the uncrafty mother on the block, we have a lot of supplies due to our Nanny's crafting tendancies and some surplus supplies from church and VBS. I decided that I would organize and purge and try to narrow down our supplies to what will fit in the craft cart in the den upstairs. Then we might actually use some of it up. One subproject was the Great Marker Sort. While the kids were playing outside with sidewalk chalk, I brought a shoebox full of markers and figured out which ones were still working and sorted them into type. I discovered we have quite a few more than I thought and also more types of markers than I thought possible (changeables, gel markers, stampers, Color Wonder). One tiny downside to this project came up. The kids, now that they know where to find the markers, are actually using them. This is what my kitchen table looks like:

3.I started trying to find a dance class for S in September. I know, I know. The ink is barely dry on the summer schedule and I'm sorting out fall?? But the dance places have started taking registrations. In addition to sifting through just which of the dance places are too serious (professional as they would call it), I have to find one that has classes at at time that will work with our increasingly finely scheduled week. And I didn't want ballet but something with fast music, likely jazz or hip hop. We are fortunate to have a half dozen dance schools in a close drive so I did not really think this would be a problem.

Well it was a problem to find the schedules. Despite the fact that a monkey or any child finished grade 4 could load a document to a website, when I went to look online for schedules I either found "schedule coming soon", "here is our 2006-07 schedule" or no mention of it at all. So I had to phone or email for schedules. Obviously the people who are responsible for the website updates are also responsible for answering phones and responding to emails. There were a couple I had to hunt down like dogs. One I gave up on as I figured if they were so inept at getting people the most basic information they wouldn't be in business for long.

I finally found one I thought would work and told S the good news. She told me she didn't want to take dance. Unless it was with her best friend V. I haven't come to the end of this project. I'm a little demoralized by the wasted tim. I don't think it will work out with V but S also consented to taking a hip hop class with her brother, which I can get them into on Mondays, my preferred day.

4. Probably the most satisfying thing I did was sort movie clips on the computer. We don't have a video camera, but I am the high priestess of taking short (15 to 60 second) movies with our digital camera in an attempt to document our lives. While I upload my camera frequently (I need the instant gratification of seeing photos on computer screen) and I sort them chronologically, I needed to sort through the last 18 months worth of movie clips to their appropriate spot in the MOVIE folder . And cull them for the duds: either the 1 second clips when I was trying to take a picture and forgot it was on movie setting, or the ones where I look too fat (in the rare event that I am actually in one).

I loved reliving the past 18 months and even some older ones as I sought to put the misfiled ones in the right spot. Here is one that provides hard proof of my parental neglect putting keeping the camera going over my daughters health (no Girlie Goos were hurt in the filming of this piece):



And here is the first one I ever took in 2004 (J was 2.5, S was 9 mos). I don't know how, but I used to understand ever word the J Boy said:

I forgot how little they both used to be. Sigh.

What a Difference a Year Makes

As the sun sets on week 1 of summer, I can exhale.

Last summer, week 1 was a bloody nightmare challenging week. In fact, I didn't blog for 2 FULL WEEKS as the J Boy and I tried to gain our equilibrium. It was the hardest week of the summer (though it had some stiff competition) and frankly started us off on the wrong foot.

This year, June was not a spectacular month for J (but notably May was a superb month) and so I admit I was a little apprehensive about getting our summer on track. With school winding down, the J Boy had extra excitement and less mental busyness which is a recipe for disaster. More than once in the last week or so of school I said to Husband "we just have to get him to June 25", thinking once school was out, all would be better. Husband replied "do you remember last summer???", more than implying that no relief would come with the school closing its doors

The first day is sometimes the hardest, especially when it's a Mommy day. You may recall the last full day I had with both kids, no school. It challenged me to my core, so my expectations were low: no outburst lasting more than 5 minutes, no punches thrown and importantly no sarcastic Mommy voice. The first day met all those expectations and more. I can say it was an unqualified very very good day. Pinch me!

The weekend that followed ranked as 'best weekend we've had in June in 4 years'. The kids were good, even uncharacteristically mellow. We enjoyed our end of school family celebration with one small exception: the J Boy did have a bit of a hissy fit over a gift. I went to great lengths to find them appropriate books that were equivalent. I found them each a book with a lock (think diary) that had stories inside. How was I to know that S's Spy Stories had sound effects when the Creepy Stories we gifted to J didn't?

Monday brought the week's activity: bike camp. J was very keen and even more keen to find out he would be riding on ramps on day 2! S was a little apprehensive to go, but found her bike legs quickly. Each afternoon, they were tired and low key. By evening they were ready for something and Husband gamely took them on evening adventures (how I love that man!)

Monday night I said something to Husband that he has been waiting to hear for a long, long time:

"J had a perfect day".

I give J a great deal of credit. He has matured over the last year. He is able to take some punches here and there and not fall to the mat. He is somewhat open to reason and even manipulation.

I'll also take a little credit. I spent 1.2 gigahours planning their summer (many when I should have been sleeping) and maybe I got a few things right, including starting the summer off with a lot of physical activity (i.e. bike camp). I still have some chill, as I resolved to maintain a few weeks ago, and that didn't hurt.

Week 2, here's to more fun, more family time and more chill.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Guess Where We're Going??

Yup, Disneyland.

For two years I have talked about it, researched it, and cross examined every returning Disney friend about where to stay and what time of year to go. Quite when I wasn't expecting it, in a single day, we managed to book it. Of course, it wasn't simple.

Some years ago, when J Boy was still in diapers (which really only narrows things down to a 4 year window), a friend told me to go to Disney the first week of December. "No one goes then, and it's decorated for Christmas".

Since I inherited my father's distaste for lineups which I generously passed onto my son, going to Disney at a less busy time is mandatory. So for years Husband and I have mused over just which December to go to the D-Land.

We pondered the possibility (for about 10 seconds) of going when J was in kindergarten, but S was only 3 and to put it mildly, not a good walker and not a fan of the stroller, and I thought Husband's spine might compress a couple inches from having S on his shoulders for 3 days. The next year J was having a bit of a tough year behaviour wise and it was hard to imagine paying all the money to go to Disney only to be confronted with meltdowns over the wrong colour of the ferris wheel car or because Mickey shook everyone else's hand but not his. So we settled on going when the J Boy was in grade 2 or 3.

In my own mind, I wanted to go when J was in grade 2 as I didn't want to miss the Princess window with the Girlie Goo. I wanted her to experience the magic of meeting the princesses when she actually believes she is one. We might have actually gone last December, J's grade 2 year, only the "Kids Fly Free" promotion by Alaska Airlines was offered 9 months last year and that didn't include December. I tried to make it happen briefly in January, but we couldn't find a week to make it work.

So the other night, with my passport well on it's way to the bureaucracy, I turned my mind to Disney. I proclaimed to Husband on Monday night "We must go to Disney the next school year. And when it's not busy. So that means from September to February".

I went to so far as to get the name of a travel agent from my sis-in-law, who was just there in May. I'm nothing if not gung ho when I've set my mind to something.

While the December trip still is our preferred timing, that plan had 2 wrinkles. The kids' school has a biannual Christmas programme and this December would be it. They entirely shut down the academics for a couple weeks and focus on making costumes, singing songs and practising whether to exit stage left or stage right. If we went in December, the kids would miss out on half the hoopla. While it wouldn't bother me much, it might bother them. Secondly, if they didn't offer the "Kids Fly Free" in December, it might actually cost us a lot more to go then.

On my way to work on Tuesday, I saw the daily advert in the paper for Disneyland. When I got to work I called a "Disney Specialist" with the question of whether the Kids Fly Free would be offered in December. No, so the December dream died a quiet death at the prospect of paying an additional $500.

So that meant we would have to go before the Kids Fly Free ended (end of September) or when it hopefully would start up again (January). Well, at least things were narrowing down. I was wondering whether I had the stamina to get organized enough to book a trip in September when the Disney Specialist remarked "today is the last day to book the Kids Fly Free for September". It was like a challenge that I could not pass up. I quickly convinced myself September is the perfect time to go.

I had previously scouted the calender and realized that we had only one week that we could go since I didn't want to take the kids out of school the first 2 weeks and I won't do Disney on a weekend. We also had to work around Husband's work trip to Montreal in late September.

So I had it narrowed down to leaving on September 20 and returning on September 24 (having previously decided 4 nights and 3 full days at Disney is the perfect length). I asked the travel agent to look into hotels in my preferred location and get back to me with some quotes.

I tried to get a hold of Husband to tell him the great news but he was unavailable. He has 2 students about to defend their PhD dissertations, so he is a little busy with that. I sent him an email with the subject "CALL ME AS SOON AS YOU ARE FREE!!!!!", which he did an agonizing 60 minutes later.

I put the time to good use and searched for vacations online with Alaska Airlines. The prices were indeed pretty good and what we were expecting to pay. I then started checking reviews on the few hotels I didn't know about and tried to figure out the one that balanced cost, location and reasonable accommodation.

When Husband called he told me he would leave for Montreal on the 24th. So we had to weigh the options of (a) keeping the original dates but traveling home on the morning of the 24th (getting kids up early) so Husband could jump on another plane or (b) moving it up a day and having a Sunday at Disney as one of our days. So much for "I won't do Disney on a weekend".

We settled on (b) and I called the travel agent back to tell her about the change of dates. She gave me the quotes for 2 hotels in my preferred location. It was $600 more than on Alaska Air's website. She asked me to email her the search results and she would look into it.

I researched hotels further and finally settled on one, in consultation with Husband. They had a 4th night free promotion, which brought down the cost. It did not include breakfast but did have a hot tub and pool and it was ranked 13 out of 102 Anaheim hotels on Trip Advisor.

I emailed the travel agent the final time, telling her of the simplified plans. I went so far at to tell her the exact flights we wanted and the price we could get online. Then I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

I finally called to make sure she was receiving my emails only to find that she was dealing with an emergency for a client who has missed his flight. So I wait some more.

And waited.

And waited.

She finally returned my call and confirmed that she had received my emails and would look into the particulars. A couple hours later she phoned me on my commute home to say she couldn't match that price and I should go ahead and book it online.

I impatiently tapped my knee the remainder of my commute (subway, train, bus), wanting to get this deal done -- remember it's the last day. I worried that the flights or hotels would not be available by the time I got home.

But they were. After I heard about the days' exploits at bike camp, and got the kids' dinner in the toaster oven, I settled in to try to get the trip booked. I found all the pieces of the trip and proceeded to checkout.

I was way-layed when they wanted Passport, birth dates and middle names of all traveling so the US government can ascertain we do not have any nefarious purposes in traveling to California. I of course do not have the particulars of my passport. After several error messages I finally realized it was not accepting Husband's middle name and so finally I got to the final pay-your-money screen.

J has tae kwan do coming up and I wanted to get this done before then. I also wanted, for some strange reason, for Husband to be here when I actually clicked on "Book This Trip" button. He finally arrived and I clicked, awaiting the confirmation code. But none appeared. Instead I got an error message "We cannot contact one of the sources. Please try again later.".

The 1-800 number is only attended until 5:30, long since past. I click again. And again.

Husband took J to tae kwan do, and S went along for the ride. I pulled out the "Unofficial Guide to Disneyland" and start reading about rides, restaurants and parades. I clicked about every 10 seconds. At some point the error message changed to "We are having technical difficulties."

So I just kept clicking figuring that eventually some IT geek up in Alaska would get a page and sort out this mess. It was kind of quiet and peaceful so I didn't mind.

I was telling myself that I would not freak out if we couldn't book the trip. It would just be a sign and we could go in January. Not that I wouldn't be disappointed, but I would keep my composure.

My clicking was interrupted by the phone. The call display said "out of area" which usually means our bank trying to sell us life insurance or get us to take their credit card, which we have with a different bank due to optimal cash back. I usually hang up on them or ask to speak to a supervisor to get off their #^$&**% list.

I answered and a business like voice asked to speak with Husband. I said he is not available and asked for a message. It's the credit card company. WHAT?!?!?! Now they want to sell us life insurance too??

No. They are calling about unusual activity on the credit card. Have we used it today? I explained I'm trying to book a trip online with Alaska Air. He asked about buying gas. I said that Husband was out but he may well have been buying gas.

He said the credit card was suspended due to "multiple access attempts". Yeah, that would be me and my clicking finger. He said he'd reset it. Not to worry.

I fully expected that the trip will now be booked, but another 45 minutes of clicking to no avail. When Husband returned he tells me he tried to buy gas (where there was a big lineup as new tax to take effect the following day) and the Mastercard didn't work. Oops. (Fortunately, we have a Visa for just this eventuality).

Husband fired up his laptop and I tried to purchase trip from a different IP address, to no avail. I am planning to keep this up until bedtime but I decided to take a short break. Then Husband suggested trying using the Visa.

It worked. Disneyland here we come. September 19th.

While I was earlier feeling badly that we did not get the princess to Disneyland last year, that has vaporized.

The princess will be partying with the Disney princesses ON HER BIRTHDAY.

Oh Canada

Canada celebrated her 142nd birthday today and we marked the day with a family picnic: