Sunday, August 30, 2009

What Teddy Taught Me

I have been consumed by the celebration of the life of the late Senator Ted Kennedy. And I am inspired in a way I did not expect.

I admit I'm a bit of a Kennedy fan. I still in diapers when President Kennedy was shot but I remember when Senator Bobby Kennedy was killed.

As a child, I was taken by the tragic tale of three brothers lost in one family. I didn't then know about Kathleen, a sister killed in a plane crash in 1948. I wrote an essay about JFK in grade 12.

I, like many women of my generation, had a crush on John John. He was handsome and seemed to live a very unKennedy way. He biked and roller bladed through Manhattan. His taking the bar exam three times made him human. I loved that he started his own political/pop culture magazine. It seemed so right, kind of out-of-the-box Kennedy. I expected one day he would be a Senator like his father, perhaps even run for the top chair in the Oval Office.


Ted Kennedy was elected to his brother's vacant senate seat the year I was born. He was probably my least favourite Kennedy. I read the biography of Joan Bennett Kennedy, his first wife a couple decades ago. I can't entirely recall how the book treated Ted -- it dealt largely with Joan's lifelong battle with alcoholism. I do recall that being married to a Kennedy was burdensome.

I listened to the many powerful speakers last Friday night at the Irish wake in the JFK Library in Boston. I listen to the eulogies given by his sons Teddy Jr. and Patrick and by President Obama at the Basilica. And I watched the HBO Special Teddy, In His Own Words.

I certainly could have been inspired by the way Teddy became the lion of the Senate and authored some 300 bills, many championing civil rights or making the lives of millions of Americans easier (his politics certainly align with my own). He was true to his beliefs over almost 5 decades in the Senate.

I could have been inspired at the way Ted persevered after so much tragedy. He lost four siblings in the primes of their lives. He suffered with severe lifelong pain after he broke his back in a plane crash in 1964. Two of his children had cancers with grim prognoses and the third suffered from severe asthma and had a benign tumour on his spine at age 20. He could have lived a quiet and self-indulgent life on Cape Cod, sailing in regattas, playing football and perhaps fulfilling his public service obligations by running a family foundation or two.

I could have been inspired by his ability to come back. After a certain death of his celebrity and any serious political ambitions with Chappaquiddick, he came back to challenge President Carter, albeit unsuccessfully, for the Democratic nomination in 1980. A public divorce in 1982 was followed by a decade of public intoxication and was capped off with a night of carousing with his nephew after which his nephew was charged, and later acquitted, of rape. He went on to marry his second wife, Vicki and enjoyed, by his own account and others, a wonderful and loving marriage and a rejuvenated vigour in the Senate.

But what struck me from the stories and tributes was how he lived his life. Despite the tragedy and personal debacles, he embraced life.

He loved to sail, to sing and to paint and he did these things enthusiastically, whenever he could. He was known to gather friends and family for a night of singing show tunes. Even after his devastating diagnoses of brain cancer, Ted insisted on skippering a ship in the Cape Cod to Nantucket regatta. He painted, especially landscapes, and shared his art with friends and acquaintances.

He was a superb friend, by all accounts, and was the first to call and lend support in the face of a tragedy, death or crisis. He invited his friends to enjoy his passions with him.

He was an involved father to his children. Caring for them in health crises, sharing with them his love of history and inspiring them to never give up and to be all that they could be.

He stepped into the shoes of his two older brothers and cared for their 13 children and more than fulfilled his responsibilities. He brought history alive to all the Kennedy children and attended graduations, first communions and sporting events. He did this enthusiastically.

I have a lot to learn from Teddy: to live life with purpose, to do the things that bring me joy, to live up to responsibilities enthusiastically and to honour friends and family.

Now, I just have to figure out how to apply that to keeping the laundry under control, keeping the kitchen table uncluttered, neither of which I expect Teddy had to worry about.

RIP Teddy.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The End of Freedom

Our week at home is over. Husband is due back any minute with the kids. It's been a leisurely week in many ways. We did not accomplish any of my tongue-in-cheek goals.

We did some house organizing and cleaning. Husband has chipped away at some yard work and I knocked a few things off my to do list. We've both generally just enjoyed a quieter pace and we hope to do this again next year.

We did sneak in a couple good rounds of golf. "Good" is measured not by the score, but by the weather and the company.

I used to golf more (only badly) but I have not golfed much since the arrival of the J Boy which was also the arrival of minimal leisure time. Husband has been golfing since birth so he's enjoyed the occasional round with his or my golfing brother. I opted to spend my limited leisure minutes and dollars on massages and pedicures. Husband and I had a dollar for dollar trade. A pedicure is generally about the same as a round of golf so each round he had, I was entitled to a pedi or massage. We of course never kept track.

A couple years ago, I bought some new clubs with some special birthday money and I have been slowly trying to resurrect my game. The past couple summers we get out for the occasional pitch and putt or par 3. But I was dying to take a few swings with my new driver which is about the size of my daughter's head. And to finally conquer the new hybrid club that is supposed to be a good fairway club.

So we found a shorter course (par 32) with plenty of wide open spaces I could practice with my longer clubs. I did have the odd good shot but a lot more practice is required just to get my game back where it used to be -- mediocre.

Finally, I just wanted to point out my husband's vacation beard, the first in his life!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Who Knew Camp Was Such Hard Work?

The kids are at camp this week. Not like an activity with "camp" at the end of it ... music camp, science camp, Lego camp (all of which we have enjoyed). This is what camp used to be: hiking, swimming, kayaking, archery, camp crafts.

I am no where near brave enough to send them for OVERNIGHT camp, but they are gone for 6 hours a day for Monday to Friday of this week.

I expected that they would come home dirty and exhausted from the hard work of being a camper.

But I didn't expect how much work camp would be for the grownups. It's a good thing we took the week off.

Husband and I spent our Sunday getting ready for camp. First, we had to do a house wide search for an appropriate back backs. Sydney's kindergarten backpack was not big enough to accommodate the camp gear. Jackson's was sent to a toxic waste site earlier in the summer. While I was was (barely) willing to allow brand new lunch boxes and water bottles go to camp, I was not so generous with the new backpacks.

We needed to pack lunches and fill water bottles, of course. But also swim suits, towels, jackets, sun screen and an extra set of clothes. Okay that last one is my personal requirement as I consider it a talisman against rogue pee pee accidents that I feel sure will happen if I don't send an extra set of clothes along.

We needed to monitor weather conditions for the "how heavy of a jacket?" and "what kind of swim suit?" questions to be answered. I had weigh against the needs, the likelihood that any of these things might be left in the bottom of a canoe and just how perturbed I would be about the missing items.

On Sunday night, I fired up the label maker and labeled everything and packed it all up.
If only it ended there.

On Monday, after camp, I opened the backpacks and did an inventory and remarkably noticed nothing was missing. I knew that the wet swim suits would need to be dried. What I didn't count on was that everything else in the backpack would be wet. So the neoprene swim suits went to the back deck to be dried. The towels had a little sand on them so I shook them out and then sent them and other items to the dryer. Later, we rechecked inventory, made lunches and repacked the backpack.

On Tuesday, we lost a hat. I conducted cross examination of the hat owner who indicated that he didn't even know a hat was in his backpack and so denied any knowledge of where it might be, but indicated his swimming locker was in a dark spot and perhaps it had fallen out there. Backpacks were wet so a repeat of drying procedure was required. And repacking and lunch prep.

On Wednesday, I picked up the kids from the bus and noticed the front pocket of one campers backpack gaping open. This is the water bottle and sun screen pocket. The sun screen had vanished. We checked the bus to no avail.

I guess I was getting a little cocky with the post-camp procedures as I missed the all important shake-out-sand step. I went to check on the dryer and wouldn't you know this would be the day someone brought home souvenir handfuls of sand. The lint trap was covered as were all cracks in and around the door. I'm quite sure we'll have to put "new dryer" on our back-to-school shopping list. Oh and I need to get the laundry room floor vacuumed.

We have one more full day. Today is "campfire" night. It's figurative as there is a fire ban on due to hot and dry conditions. Parents are invited. The kids think Husband and I are going to see what camp is all about. But we are mostly going to check out the lost and found.

Monday, August 24, 2009

FREEDOM!!!!

Guess where they are going??
To camp.
For the day.
FIVE DAYS IN A ROW!
And Husband and I are still on holidays.
They were most excited about the bus ride.
We are almost as giddy as them.

We plan to:

1. Implement high intensity exercize programme so we will be ready to do triathalons by Friday.
2. Clean out every closet and cupboard in the house.
3. Do major reorganization projects including the garage. And my purse.
4. Talk, plan and make decisions about our fall schedule and the rest of our lives.
5. Savour the silence and the ability to finish a sentence.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Long Road Home

If Husband or I believed in foreshadowing, we may have been alarmed when Sydney came to our bedroom at 7:45 on our departing day of vacation to announce "we're hungry. And Jackson wants to go home." If ever I wanted Bewitched powers of nose wiggling (and yes, I know I'm dating myself) it was then.

Husband and I had decided, contrary to my inborn organizational mania, that we would do all the packing up and cleaning on the last day and not sully our last full day of vacation. It's a trailer, how long can it take?

It felt like two eternities with a seven year old boy saying "can we go home now?" every 12 seconds. It started before Husband or I had finished breakfast and continued until he mercifully decided to watch some YouTube videos.

So Husband washed up the dishes while I started packing up the kids' bedroom. We continued until Husband had enough things that he could start packing the van. I felt I had either a literal or figurative boy tapping his toes and tapping on his watch to hurry us along. I don't like feeling pressured.

We had hoped that the kids would play a little tennis or go a swim with Husband so I could get organized in peace. It was not to be. Once I kicked the kids our of the trailer to do the final cleanup and they decided they would sit in the van and wait, the impatience climaxed.

At 10:45 a.m. we drove away from the RV park, with my usual sense of "what did we leave behind?" Husband pointed out that it was a tiny trailer, what could we have left behind?

As we drove out of town Husband and I did our post mortem of our week and thought about whether we would want to come back to this place or the same lake but a different place or an entirely new location. This peaceful back and forth lasted 7 minutes.

Then we suggested to the kids that we stop for lunch at The White Spot. A restaurant with good reliable food and Pirate Packs for the kids. They bring their meals in cardboard pirate ships complete with (chocolate) gold coin. It's usually a hands down winner as the kids LOVE the mac and cheese there.

"I'm not stopping. We are going straight home" Jackson pronounced in a decidedly inflexible tone.

And so went the back and forth. We tried to point out it was an hour and a half ride home and we have been eating lunch all week at about 11 and we were all already hungry. The fact that Jackson was actually hungry impaired his logical reasoning faculties and we could not penetrate his single-mindedness in REQUIRING to be home and creating the office he had been scheming about the day before. He was a boy with a mission and we were standing in his way.

Sydney tried to soften the blow and say "We'll just stop for lunch and then the next stop will be our house."

"Well, we do have to make a quick stop at the vegetable and fruit stand." I added quickly before that seed took hold. We needed to pick up fresh corn for a family gathering.

"TWO STOPS!!!" the J Boy moaned.

To make matters worse, we found a mini White Spot inside a gas station but it only sold burgers. We were told of another White Spot a few blocks away. Unfortunately the few blocks took us a while as it was by a huge mall which is just off the main highway and I guess at 11 a.m. on a Friday morning a lot of people want to be just at that spot.

We made our way to the White Spot husband pointed out that this is the same one we went to on our vacation LAST year. And it was the longest wait we have ever had at a restaurant in our lives. Lightning couldn't strike twice, could it?

Jackson was insistent that he was not making this stop. I told him that it was illegal for us to leave a 7 year old in the van by himself. So I would stay with him while Daddy ate and then Daddy would stay with him while I ate and it would take TWICE as long to eat lunch and that would delay our trip home.

He suggested that he could stand outside the restaurant while we ate. I told him that was also illegal and the government frowns upon it.

I finally saw that his intransigence had diminished a little and he was ripe for a compromise but it had to be good. "How about I piggyback you inside and so if you don't walk, it won't count as you making a stop?"

He paused, thinking whether he would take the bait or make a counter-offer.

"But it will still be a stop if I touch anything in the restaurant" he said.

"We'll bring a towel in and you can sit on the towel so you don't touch the restaurant."

And that is what we did. I schlepped the boy inside, rib injury notwithstanding. Despite the fact that there were only about 4 tables in use, Husband and Girlie Goo, who had been cooling their heels for at least 5 minutes, were still in the lobby while they "cleaned a table for us".

Husband noticed that the greeter was also cleaning tables and taking orders. This did not bode well for fast table service. The lack of staffing was the cause of our here-to-eternity wait for our meals last year.

"Let's just hope she isn't also the person doing the cooking as well" I said hopefully.

Jackson was situated on his towel and we ordered. Jackson was saying he still wasn't hungry and would just wait while we ate when I said those two magic words "Garlic bread?". Jackson agreed and we hoped that and some french fries would get him carb-loaded up enough to get us home.

Husband came up with the bona fide brilliant idea that I could run to the vegetable stand during the meal waiting period. Which is what I did. It was further that we thought but I still made it back before our meals arrived and we happily avoid another showdown over an additional stop on our trek home.

When I arrived back, Jackson was telling his Daddy he better go cancel our order as we were not waiting any longer and "WE ARE GOING HOME!!".

Just then the garlic bread and the rest of our meals arrived. Turns out Jackson likes sweet potato fries and ate his body weight in that and garlic bread. Husband threw his credit card at our server so she could run it through and we could hastily exit when we finished eating.

"Next stop home!" we said as we loaded into the van. I might add that Jackson was much more reasonable and lifted his embargo on touching anything in the restaurant and walked out under his own steam. I had discovered the short cut to the highway on my vegetable-stand excursion. Things were looking up.

For about 5 minutes.

Then, I uttered the word "CRAP!!" And banged on the dashboard. And thought a lot of words that are worse than 'crap'.

"What???" Husband asked.

"We forgot our tennis rackets."

"Well I'm not going back", an emotional J Boy gave his edict.

Husband briefly tried to calculate the cost of 4 tennis racks, a sleeve of balls and a volleyball. He was thinking there is no way it will be worth it. Jackson tried to convince us we should head straight home and then Daddy could drive back to get the rackets.

It wasn't really a close decision and we turned the ship around with theatrics in the back seat.

We stayed calm and tried to explain that NONE of us was happy about going back. Jackson was unrelenting in his stance that HE was not going back. As we neared the RV park he insisted that we pull over and leave him on the side of the road and pick him up on the way back. He was okay with the rest of us going back but he shouldn't have to. We told him the government has rules too about leaving little boys on the side of the road.

So then the boy started throwing things which breaches the cardinal Mommy rule, first created when he, as a 2 year old, threw his shoe at my head and scared the crap out of me and gave me a goose egg. Jackson lost all "screen" privileges (tv/computer/DS). Despite the histrionics we got back to the trailer and retrieved our items. It would have been an excellent time to remember that I had left some earrings in one of the drawers but I wasn't thinking clearly, no doubt because I was still smarting from the water bottle missile thrown at me. (I told you I don't like packing up under pressure - I rarely leave anything behind!)

As luck would have it, once we set up the DVD player in the car, both kids watched 2 DVDs which brought us straight home. We actually made good time and we were all relieved that the trip was over.

Jackson got out of the van, lay on the dirty garage floor and gave a very satisfying sigh. After checking that our fish had survived, I headed straight to the dishwasher to fondle it with a similar satisfying sigh.

Jackson got straight to work on creating his office in an alcove by the stairs:











His first order of business?? Writing as essay on why he shouldn't throw things in the car (to earn back his screen privileges). Here it is:


I am actually pretty pleasd with how many words he spelled correctly and may revisit the summer homework policy. I'm waiting for him to ask me what "S.A." stands for.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Fun in the Sun -- Talking Points

Husband and I spent a lot of time deciding what to do for our summer vacation this year. If we had money to burn and full time nannies on retainer, we could no doubt come up with countless fantastic trips visiting castles in Europe and swimming with the dolphins in Costa Rica. Such is not the case, however.

Last year we had planned a "staycation" -- day trips from home. As we started planning, we realized some of the fun things were located close to each other an hour plus from our house and it made sense to find a cheap hotel to spend a couple nights. Which is what we did.

It turned out alright. We enjoyed the water slides. But Jackson could not get into the rhythm of the vacation. Only 2 nights away and a different activity every day did little to quell his desire for routine and the result was a tendency to become unglued. Only in very public places.

So this year we decide a week in one spot was in order. We booked a week in an RV, with many comforts of home (washer, dryer, microwave) and one comfort we don't have (AC). The community where this is located is minutes from Cultus Lake and has a pool, hot tub (!!), tennis courts, open field. Not only that, but we have friends with a cabin in the area and other friends who had a place booked at the same time.

The place had plenty to keep the kids busy. Jackson snorkeled constantly looking for fish in the lake or just examining the bottom of the pool. As expected, we were kept busy but burned sufficient calories in the first several days to keep up with the extra calories we were indulging in snacks, even if the smores were prepared in the microwave due to a campfire ban. We swam at least twice a day, played tennis, went for walks. This meant the kids were hungry NON STOP. We needed snack dispensers on our bathing suits so we could whip out a yogurt tube, some fishy crackers or grapes at any moment. The sun, fresh air and activity had us all worn out by bedtime. One night Jackson asked if I could finish his game for him as he was too tired and needed to go to bed. This is foreign territory for us.

We made special memories at the waterslides where I suffered a slight whiplash on the "Valley of Fear" (this added to the rib injury I endured when I fell off a chair and landed on a laundry basket). We also mini golfed and tried our best to enjoy pizza amid an infestation of wasps of biblical proportions.

How did the kids do? Well, Jackson did play his DS a fair bit. We were a little taken off guard that "satellite TV", which we expected to be kid channels in 9 different times zones and 3 languages, meant only basic TV channels. Not Family Channel or Teletoon, their current favourites. This meant we did not have kids shows at ready access. Thank goodness I asked them each to pick 3 DVDs to bring along. And a bigger THANK GOODNESS that Jackson chose for one of his picks a 4 DVD pack of Veggietales. And an even bigger THANK GOODNESS that I chose not to call him on a technicality that 4 DVDs cannot count as one pick, as I would do 99% of the time. The Veggietales went a long way to maintaining their catatonic state amusing them in the non-pool hours.

Confined to a tiny space had its challenges, but being outside and active meant the RV was for regaining our stamina for the next adventure. The place actually had 2 tiny bedrooms so we could recline in comfort at opposite ends of the trailer and they could still hear us yell "quit tormenting each other" without either one of us having to put our drinks down.

By Thursday, the last full day of our vacation, something quite unusual happened. We only had one trip out during the day and that was a wasp-shortened trip to the beach. Husband and I played 2, yes TWO, games of cribbage DURING THE DAY when the kids were awake. Sure, by the second game, Sydney was asking "is that a board game or a card game? Because I see a board, but you also have cards." and "can I move the pegs for you Mommy?" But still we completed 2 games.

But what of the boredom factor and the J Boy? Jackson did tell us "I don't know what to do" a couple times, but it wasn't like the desperate "I'm bored" which is said with the subtext of "if I don't have something really cool to do in 10 seconds my brain will be deprived of oxygen." He was ... mellow by Jackson standards. He was satisfied with tying himself up in knots (see photo) and swatting flies. He is never like that. He is excited about something, or looking for the next thing to get excited about.

By late in the date on the eve of our departure his ennui was back and he was aching for something to occupy his buzzing brain (as Husband calls it). He finally came up with the idea of making his own office in our house. This meant he had to draw up plans for how to accomplish this goal, complete with diagrams. And by bedtime he was very anxious to get home.

It's gonna be a long road home.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Fun in the Sun

Another update will follow with narrative but here is our week at the lake in photos with twitteresque commentary (I don't twitter):

The cold lake did not entice them a lot, but they did enjoy it when we could coax them into the refreshing water -- usually by saying there are no wasps in the lake.
Tennis courts = good way to burn energy This, for the uninformed, is soccer tennis. Warming up. He did everything but sleep in the mask and snorkel. Sydney could be coaxed for an occasional float in the lake. So far, both of the kids have taken up my very impatient approach to golf. Instead of reading the lie, checking for obstacles as their Daddy does, we were lucky if they let the ball stop between strokes.
Cannonball!!!!
What is not to like about glow sticks.
I mean light sabers.
The sweetest (and quietest) moment of every day.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Making a Difference

[Reposted from December 2007]

We all seek to leave our mark on the world: to do something that will be appreciated by others, even if we receive no credit. Here is my story.

I shop at the Real Canadian Superstore regularly. It’s where we do our regular family shopping as well as occasional mid-week trips. Now the Czar of Superstore, or at least the VP in charge of aisle naming, organizes the store in so cryptic a fashion that neither I nor Husband (who does his share of the family shopping trips) can discern a pattern (and we’ve tried). Tomato sauce is on a different aisle than tomato paste. Fruit in little cups is in the pudding aisle while fruit in larger jars are in the fruit and vegetable aisle. Don’t get me started on the maze that is the produce section. Even if it were organized by colour I think I’d have a decent chance of making it through that section in one go.

To be efficient in our shopping, we have created pre-printed lists where we list what we ordinarily shop for by aisle, in the order that we traverse the store. Last year we moved from the catchment of one Superstore to another. We discovered that the VP of Aisle-Naming does not have enough to do so he creates a new labyrinth in each Superstore which only resembles any other Superstore in that homo, 2% and skim milk are usually in the same cooler. So we revamped our list. In all honesty it took us about 6 months to get it done, but finally we were prepared.

Within eight minutes of our updating our new list, Superstore decided to re“organize” all their stores to have a similar “pattern”. So our list was out of date. (and still is – but we’re coping).

Some months ago, I was looking for crackers. I had done my usual rounds of every aisle except pet food (can’t stand the smell) and did not come across the crackers. I know I have found them before but I cannot remember where. They are not with cookies, chips or even rice/pasta (thinking maybe carbs are stored together?). Crackers are not listed on any of the overhead signs. Now I would have thought that crackers were a big enough category to merit its own piece of real estate on the overhead signs. It’s not like I was looking for “anchovy flavoured gel candles” to be particularly identified.

As luck would have it, a store manager walks by and I ask him where the crackers are. He tells me the aisle and I look toward that aisle and the overhead sign read “Juice / Drink Crystals”. Of course, I should have immediately known. VP of Aisle-Naming must have known when you eat crackers you get thirsty and you may want juice or a drink made from crystals so that is where they should be.

Seeing the opportunity to have access to VP Aisle-Naming (who must attend at least one meeting with this manager every three years), I say to manager is as pleasant a voice as one can muster after 60 minutes of shopping with a cart with 3 bum wheels “now that’s not entirely intuitive.”

“No it’s not”. He concedes.

“You see” I continue, “if I were looking for drink crystals, I might be able to make the leap that it’s on the juice aisle. But looking for crackers, I did not make the connection.”

He said “we should change the sign. I’m going to look into it.”

This is pretty heady stuff for someone who can’t get her own children to listen to her. No doubt you can see where this is going. When I had all but forgotten my interchange with the seat of power in the juice aisle and after another half dozen times of having conjure up the memory of where to find crackers, one day I see it in white and green: “CRACKERS”.

Don’t give up the dream people: you too can make a difference.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Time is Relative

This morning Husband trudged off from our trailer golf clubs in hand for 18 holes of child-free time. He got up early so that my imprisonment quality time with my children would be briefer. Yesterday Jackson got up to use the bathroom at 5:15 which pretty much meant we all were awake from then on (it is a trailer).

I was surprised at 7:30 that I had not heard a peep. At 7:45 I heard the kids sweet little voices as they made their way out of their room. They made their way to the clock on the stove and I heard Jackson say "it's too early to get up" and Sydney reply "I'm going back to bed."

We do have very strict, completely unenforced rules about when to get up on weekends. The kids may get up at 7:00 a.m. Parents get up at 8:00. We don't need rules for school days as the kids will sleep to the last possible moment and then only dynamite or the threat of cessation of computer privileges will sever their skinny butts from their bedsheets. But even by weekend rules, the kids were entitled to be up.

I went to their room and Jackson was pretending to be sleeping. Sydney whispered "I know it's not time to get up but I'm not tired."

"You guys can get up if you want", I said.

Jackson woke up from his fake slumber "But Mommy, it's the hour before midnight. We're not allowed to get up." He was insistent.

We checked the oven clock together and the top light on the clock had burned overnight. So the 7 looked like at 1. So Jackson thought it was 1:45 a.m. Mr. Responsible, was right, acting on the information before him.

I couldn't be prouder.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Kids Stay in School!

[Reposted from May 2008]

To all those kids out there that are wondering what use studying World War II or Chemistry will be, all this knowledge will not only come in handy, you’ll wish you did all those extra credit projects. That is, if you’re ever to become a parent (and most of us do).

Here is how the programme and curriculum could be recast for more appeal to the current generation. Bachelor of Helpful, Enlightened and Lucid Parenting. Or B. HELP for short.

THE SCIENCES

Basic Science 100
New Name: How to Deal with Curious Preschoolers 100

You will understand and be able to answer the following questions:
- why some balloons will float to the sky when released and some won’t?
- why you can’t put a balloon together after it bursts?
- why the bike or ball will roll down the driveway and into the street and why it won’t roll back up?
- why it’s bedtime but the sun it still up; why it’s not bedtime but the sun has set?
- why you cannot conjure up snack foods while in the car stuck in traffic?

Advance Sciences 400
New Name: Science Projects 400

This senior level class will teach students how to do the following with materials found at home. All can be accomplished the night before science project is due:

- build 5 different kinds of volcanoes that spew.
- grow beans simulating 5 different climactic regions
- build a semi-conductor.
- recreate a galaxy with at least one black hole and two super novas.

Chemistry 400
New Name: Stains and Smells 400

Part I: Weekly labs you will explore the chemical properties of chocolate ice cream, ball point pen and “washable” paints and why they stain and what you can do to prevent this. ($500 lab fee for this portion of class to cover cleaning supplies).

Part II: Weekly labs will look at chemical interactions that will mask odor of vomit and urine. Special attention will be paid to car interiors and car seats. (Not for the faint of stomach).

Mathematics 100
New Name: Surviving Car-rides 100

This course will teach you to:

- calculate distances without measuring (how far is it to Grandma’s house exactly?)
- calculate time in seconds (how many seconds since I was born?)
- advanced estimation (how many cars do you think are on this highway right now?)

Health Sciences 100
New Name: Childhood Diseases, Aches and Pains 100

After this introductory class you will be able to:

- determine child’s temperature to the 100th of a degree using you’re the back of your hand.
- accurately predict when a fever means an ear ache or when you have to distribute bowls and towels throughout the house.
- check for lice while child eats snack and she thinks you’re just being affectionate.
- tell the difference between real and fake tummy aches in school-aged children.

LANGUAGE AND SOCIALS

English 100
New Name: Talking to Toddlers 100

After this class you will:

- be able to tell a toddler they cannot have a 7th cookie without using the word “no”.
- have at least ten polite synonyms for poo, fart and penis.
- be able to explain the difference between child calling brother “stupid” and parent calling SOB who cut you off in traffic “stupid”.

History 100: Dictators of the Twentieth Century
New Name: Temper Tantrums 100

You will understand the mindset of a child who:

- will hold breath and turn blue rather than clean up toys
- will pass on trip to Dairy Queen rather than eat 3 peas.
- would rather spend sunny afternoon is his room that say “I’m sorry” to his sister

History 400: Diplomacy and the Cold War
New Name: Bedtime 400

This senior level course will teach students to deal with all of the following nighttime excuses:

- need to find bear
- need to find the brown bear
- I'm thirsty
- I'm still thirsty
- have to pee
- forgot to brush teeth
- need snack
- need to brush teeth again after snack
- need to ask a question
- have a follow up question to the last question
- too quiet
- music too scary
- scared of the dark
- light in hall too bright
- you forgot to kiss me goodnight
- you forgot to hug me goodnight
- can’t sleep

Psychology 100
New Name: Staying One Step Ahead of Your Kids 100

After this class you will:

- understand power struggles and why you want to win as much as child does.
- know when to start using reverse psychology
- know when to stop using reverse psychology and start using reverse reverse psychology.- recognize when the child is using reverse psychology on you.

Psychology 400: Understanding Brain Biology
New Name: Increasing Your Memory and Speed Reading 400

After this senior level class you will:

- remember field trips whether the notice comes home 1 day before or 3 months before event and that special shoes, jacket, headwear is required.
- remember where all stuffies are for all children are at all times, including ones they dug out of ‘giveaway’ piles earlier in the day while you were at work.
- be able to speed-read through 40 pages of material that come home daily the first week of school and remember to send back permission slips, cheques for activities and personal contact information for you and 100 backup family members.
- be able to read every road or store sign while driving so you are prepared for “what did that sign mean?” question while driving.

OPTIONS

Physical Education 100
New Name: Keeping Track of Stuff 100

This course focuses on stamina and strength so you can:

- 5 sprints back to car from shopping mall/school/church for purse (because you were carrying child, diaper bag, blanket and stuffed bear and pushing stroller with other hand), then wallet (because you forgot that you hid it under kleenex box at school drop-off), special art project, special green pencil crayon and stuffies.
- run up and down the stairs 27 times every morning finding library books, stuffies, lunch bags and clean socks.
- run up and down the stairs 27 times every night getting snacks, drinks, stuffies, blankies and the right CD to play for bedtime (“that one that has the nice music in the middle of it”)

Physical Education 200
New Name: Pain and Endurance 200

This senior level course is geared at increasing pain threshold and endurance so that you can:

- step on small piece of Lego and not break the skin, any bones in your foot or wince.
- carry 30 lb. child on your hip with six bags of groceries in other arm while maintaining calm conversation with second child running behind.
- endure any injury or illness and still be able to drive the carpool, attend Mommy and Me classes and still use the ‘nice Mommy’ voice. (or Daddy).

Spanish 100
New Name: Dora the Explorer 100

Object: to know as much Spanish as average 3 year old princess

Clothing and Textiles 100
New Name: How to Avoid Calling Your Mother at Midnight 100

After this class you will be able to:

- thread the smallest size needle with a 3 year old pulling on your leg screaming “MR. BEAR’S TAIL CAME OFF!!!!!”
- fix the patch in jeans at midnight when you’re tired and just remembered it’s “jean’s day” tomorrow and all the jeans have holes in the knee.

Clothing and Textiles 400
New Name: You Don’t have to Fear Halloween or School Pageants 400

This senior level class will teach you to make costumes such as donkey, Winston Churchill or Spongebob, using only rags plus straws, Popsicle sticks and Styrofoam cups. (Lab fee of $500 for supplies).

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Natural Order

Well we are on vacation at the lake. It is good to be away from home and the to do list and piles of paper begging to be sorted. The homestead is in the good hands of a housesitter. Here we are, access to beach, pool, tennis court, playground and, surprisingly WiFi! I was so sure we'd be off the grid here in a glorified trailer, that I have a couple classic blogs that will repost this week.

So far, things are going pretty well, here are some highlights:
  • The kid love the pool and are tolerating my saying "anyone ready for the hot tub?" about 3 times a minute. Actually the pool is over 80 degrees so it is hardly torture but I do love me a nice soak in the hot tub.
  • The kids are making up new games to play on the tennis courts. Sydney has been playing "tennis soccer" which is hitting a big ball with a tennis racket. Jackson is playing "volleyball" which is kicking, hitting or throwing a large ball over the tennis net, the object is to get it as far away from one's opponent so as to make them run as much as possible. Jackson and I did a lot of running today. This game necessitates a lot of trash talk "have you played this before?" "you call that a kick?" and "is that all you got?" were frequently yelled.
  • Jackson is tolerating all the newness and lack of comforts of home. He did freak out when he couldn't find a game on the computer. He put his feelings on paper and handed me a note saying "YOU SUCK". I told him in no uncertain terms that he is not to use that language. I elicited an apology and secured his vow never to use that word again. When a trip to the pool did not happen the moment he desired it he wrote me a note saying "You still YOU KNOW WHAT!"
  • Sydney is doing fine and likes having so many parental cuddles. She did express to me that she was bored earlier and the ONLY thing that could cure her boredness was to watch me shave my legs. "Smooth legs are SOOOO awesome" she told me.
Today, Sydney and I make a trip to Walmart to pick up tennis balls that actually bounce and a couple other sundry items that neglected to find their way onto my lists. We did not think separating the bickersons for an hour or so would be a bad thing. Husband and Jackson stayed home to make up more games and perhaps explore the fastest route to the beach.

On the way back from the store, Sydney asked why it was just the two of us. I told her that we thought it was nice to have time with just one parent. Plus we thought it was okay that we separate the kids for a bit so they don't get on each other's nerves. I talked about being civil to each other (which they generally, are but when things go off the rails, it's spectacular) and being understanding when one of them needs a little space.

"But Mommy, you're going to disturb the natural order of brothers and sisters".

"What is that?"

"Well, Jackson is bigger than me, so he is in charge of me."

"Really, I didn't think you liked it when Jackson bosses you around."

"Mommy, it's the natural order."

"What about the parents? I thought they were in charge of the kids?"

"No. Their job is to protect the kids, not to be in charge of them."

"What happens if the parents are in charge the kids?"

"The natural order is disturbed."

"And what will happen?"

"All the kids will rampage."

"Oh."

"Mommy, there is also a natural order of parents."

"What is that about?"

"The parent that is bigger is in charge, so that means Daddy is in charge of you."

"But I'm older than Daddy, doesn't that mean I should be in charge of him?"

"Mommy, it goes by SIZE not AGE."

"Well I don't think Daddy is in charge of me."

"Well, if you want to disturb, the natural order..."

"I'll take my chances."

"I think I better stop talking about the natural order, I worried I'm going to confuse you."

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

[later in the pool]

"Sydney ready for the hot tub?", I asked hopefully.

"No."

"It's the natural order of Mommies and daughters that whenever the Mommy wants, the daughter has to come to the hot tub."

"Huh??"

"You don't want all the Mommies to rampage, do you?"

Thursday, August 13, 2009

DeListed

Well it's vacation time in our house. Two glorious weeks off work, which has been pretty busy lately. I'm ever so happy not to have to crack open any tax statutes until September. I would have actually done a cartwheel on my way out of work if I didn't believe I would have put my back out (or if I did believe that I still knew how to do a cartwheel).

We'll be at home a good bit of the time, and have some out of town company coming. But we also have some days at the beach planned.

So the first thing I had to do to prepare for this adventure was to make a list. Of all the lists that I need to make.

One list for what we will eat, which must include all meals, snacks, emergency beach food and conjuring up any meal item that Sydney will actually eat. Then a second list is made for which of the menu items we will have to buy and what we already have in the larder. There is a list of things to do before we go (shopping for said food items, doing laundry, paying credit card, finding housesitter). There is a list of clothing to pack (times 4). I don't write down every sock or pair of underwear, but I have to make a list to ensure we don't forget the non basics, like beach shoes, sunglasses and bathing suits. We have the entertainment list, which is mandatory is Husband and I will ever get to relax. Movies, games, craft projects, toys and books all must listed before they can be assembled and ready to go. Then the miscellaneous list because we need to remember to bring bedding, paper towels and electronic items plus rechargers for all the electronic items. It was never this complicated when I was a kid.

Husband actually suggested that he make a list when I was feeling a little overwhelmed one night. But I declined as this gives me comfort and control. Husband checks the lists and adds to them. I'm always very pleased with myself when he says "we should put the portable DVD player on the list" and I can say "I've got it on already". I feel like I'm passing some kind of Mommy test (and there are so many of the Mommy tests that I don't pass).

Some things I didn't put on my list like "negotiate with Sydney over which suitcase she will use". We heard an inordinate amount of whining over that one. Even after I told her she didn't have to share a suitcase with her brother, she whined for an extra 30 minutes, some kind of endurance test for the frazzled Mommy in me. All the while I was trying to cross reference a couple of lists to make sure we didn't forget anything and she was entirely ruining my concentration not to mention my enjoyment.

Jackson was surprisingly good about tracking down some entertainment items as I requested he do. I was pleased that one of my children was cooperating. We did have a code yellow when I suggested he grab a few books and he said "I don't read. I haven't read a book in a month". And I said "well you better bring some books because you are going into grade THREE and I'm pretty sure they are going to want you to read!" He went off in a huff. Actually, so did I.

When I got on the train today, my last day of paid work, I bought myself a rare can of coke. I knew the sugar caffeine bolus would be required to get me through the lists. Husband was home today and got a good start. Within a couple hours I had the food assembled including miniature portions of olive oil, mayonnaise and ketchup plus some spices premixed for some of our meals. It's the most Betty Crocker I can be.

The only things not crossed off the list are:

  • lost 15 pounds
  • tone flabby arms
  • develop buns of steel.

After all, we are going to the beach. Oh well, maybe next year.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Birthing Babies

The kids waited in the van while I ran into the house to make a quick bathroom trip and procure some jackets.

I returned and the J Boy reported, "We've been having a nice conversation about family"

"Really, what about family?" I ventured.

"Well, like when we grow up" he said.

Sydney added, "like when we grow up and have kids."

My curiosity is piqued. "So what did you talk about?"

"Like how many kids we're going to have" Jackson said.

"I'm going to have two" Sydney reported.

"I decided I'm going to have two too" Jackson agreed.

"Do you know what you're going to name them?" I asked.

"No" Jackson said.

"Yes" Sydney said.

"What are your kids going to be named Sydney?"

"I forget."

"So Sydney will have two babies and my wife will have two babies" Jackson summarized. "We were talking about how our whole family will change because you and Daddy will be the grandparents and Sydney and I will be the parents. And the babies will be the kids. And Oma and Opa and Granny and Grampa won't be in our family anymore."

"Well, they will be the great grandparents" I clarified.

"Oh I just remembered the names" Sydney said "Coco and Abby. That's if they're girls. I don't know if I'm going to have boys or girls but those will be the girls' names.

"How do they get the babies out Mommy?" Jackson took this conversation in an alarming direction. "Do they give you medicine to make you fall asleep and then take the baby out and then give you medicine to wake you up?"

"Well, when I had you, actually that was what happened. It was an emergency and they had to get you out really really fast so they gave me medicine to make me sleep and then when I woke up you had been born. By an operation." We have touched on some of this ground before.

"Why was it an emergency?"

"Well your heart rate went down and they were worried about you so they wanted to get you out fast.

He wore it like a badge of honour, "Sydney, when I was born it was an emergency, they had to get me out really fast."

"With you Sydney, I had a different kind of medicine and the medicine made it so I couldn't feel my tummy or my legs and they took you out of my tummy with an operation."

"I don't want to have that operation." she declared.

"Well, not everyone has the operation, some people just squeeze the baby out." (I think I may need some back up on this.)

"I don't want to have the babies out. It doesn't sound fun", Wise-before-her-years Girlie Goo said.

"Well, I won't lie to you Sydney, that part isn't always fun, but the good part is you get a baby. Plus when the baby is in your tummy you get to feel them swimming around and kicking and you can even feel when they have the hiccups!"

"The babies swim in water in your tummy?" Sydney asked.

"Well, amniotic fluid. It's liquid that is made especially for the babies."

"There's also stomach acid that the babies swim in because that is in your stomach too." Jackson interjected.

"Well the babies don't grow in the stomach, they grow in another place. The stomach is for digesting your food and that is what stomach acid is for"

"But the stomach is that whole tummy part of your body" Jackson pointed out.

"There's actually a special part for growing babies." (I need to phone a friend.)

"What's it called?" Jackson persisted.

"The uterus."

"The uter-what?"

"The uterus. It's near the belly button."

"Right here?" Jackson pointed near his belly button.

"Well, yes but only girls have uteruses, not boys."

"Oooooooh." A light bulb went on for Jackson. "THAT is why men don't have babies".

"Right." (Can we end this right here?)

"So do they squeeze the babies out the belly button?"

"No."

"Then where?" He just can't let it go.

"The girl privates." I cringe.

"They fart the babies out!?" Only 7 year old boys can make childbirth sound cool.

"Gross", Sydney said, "I don't want my baby to stink."

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Progress So Gradual We Didn't Notice

Last night we had Husband's family over for a BBQ. Husband's brother was in town which meant the 4 siblings and their parents were all under the same roof, a realative rarity. All were gathered at our house.

Husband's family are a remarkably flexible and helpful bunch so it's never a high stress affair. I put together some simple starters. Husband was to BBQ some burgers, I threw together a salad. Others brought corn and dessert and, bingo, we've got dinner. Various people helped get things on the table.

But still, being the host, Husband and I are busy. Slicing and dicing for the salad, monitoring the BBQ or making sure the drink barrel is replenished from the fridge. Of course we want to visit and join in the fun and laughter (of which there is always plenty).

At about 9 when everyone had left a rather shocking thing struck me: I missed the kids. They had almost entirely amused themselves for the past 4 hours. They played soccer, visited with various aunts and uncles, played on the computer, watched TV and foraged for food. I had barely had a cuddle, been asked a question or heard a recap of the latest Scooby Doo episode.

Well, to be honest, Sydney did require Husband at one point to get her signed into some crazy thing on the computer. And I did have to intervene when Jackson was sledding down the stairs into the basement. He informed me he'd been doing it for a while, and had also sledded off the guest bed, the couch and an old microwave. The only way I stopped him from a head/neck injury without a full scale nuclear meltdown was to tell him that I had a corn-on-the-cob with his name on it upstairs.

But for the rest of the 4 hours we barely saw the kids. They could have caught a bus downtown and back and we would have never known.

It was only a couple years ago that we had to have a complete game plan to deal with the kids when we had people over. Sometimes we had a babysitter come for a couple of party prep hours and an hour or so into the party so I could be sure to have time to follow the guacamole recipe. Sometimes we'd rent a movie and plug it in at the busiest party time.

More often we'd be serving a plate of appies with a kid in one arm or hanging off a leg. Or both. We'd be interrupted often and often didn't enjoy the gatherings as we were constantly attending to their urgent needs, like by searching for the other red Barbie shoe which had not been seen since the Halloween before last. And when we went back to the party we tried to remember what we were doing before we left. And we'd just remember, right getting out the dessert plates, and then someone present themselves, requiring a glass of milk.

Somehow quite without our noticing, the kids have morphed into quasi-independent creatures who are capable of sustaining, or at least entertaining themselves when the circumstances require. Who knew it would ever happen to us?

Next thing you'll know, they'll have table manners.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Serenity + Aromatherapy

I am in need of serenity as much as the next person. Probably more. I'm not exactly one who goes much for yoga, balancing yin and yang, chakras or the healing power of chrystals.

My only interest in "aromatherapy" was that time I got an aromatherapy massage because it was the cheapest one available.

So I am probably not the target market for this: Seriously?? You can skip your next aromatherapy appointment just by soaking your hands in this? Multitaskers will be able to clean up the pots and get a little zen-serenity as the same time? One might become so serene one might forget that the entire kitchen needs to be cleaned? If one cleans the floor with serenity soap, it might chill out all who walk on it?

The Power of the Pout

We are just at the end of week 6 of summer, over the hump. Mercifully, the end of our 2 week break from camps. The kids have had swimming lessons after dinner but the days have been an endless wasteland of nothingness unstructured.

But what have they been filling their days with?

Making cookies.













Playing at the park.













By the way, parks are not immune to pouts.













Mostly, the dynamic duo have been flexing some entrepreneurial muscle. They came home from swimming last night both chanting in remarkable unison "rooster, dumb head, do-do". I initially wondered what Husband had done to elicit this rebuke but then I realized they were not chanting it at him, they were happily chanting it. Turns out they decided that wanted to go into "the music business" and they liked "the sound of that phrase" and they were "practicing saying it together". Who am I to stand in the way of "The Hills" (think The Carpenters, without the eating disorder)?

They also have been running a gift shop. They run around picking up little things from all around the house and have them displayed and they await customers:

















Then they make announcements like this (don't ask me where he gets the fake accent from):

video

Or this:

video

When they realized their foot traffic was so low, they expanded to take phone orders. People call and order things and they set them aside (i.e. put them in a laundry basket). When all the things are gone, they do something quite remarkable. THEY PUT THE STUFF AWAY. They usually start the game again an hour later.

Even fun games like this are not immune to pouts:

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Patterns

One of the first things kids learn in math in school is patterns. It must be the foundation of all other arithmetic principles. It is worked into the curriculum even in kindergarten.

This must have worked because my kids are constantly finding patterns in the landscape of our life. Only last week Jackson found a pattern in being sick. They find it in food, scenery, at malls or even in people "Daddy, Mommy, Jackson, Sydney" is really "boy-girl-boy-girl".

We are in the mid point of our 10 week summer. It is a long weekend in Canada plus I have the Friday before and the Tuesday after off from work. It's a long stretch for me to be at home and not having too many specific plans.

Friday, my first day home, Jackson was suffering the ill effects of a non camp week and he was a little testy. He had issues with the computer, the timing of his food, who was in the room with him and whomever couldn't read his mind. Happily, as previously noted, he did rally halfway through the day.

Sydney on the other hand was quite reasonable and her adorable self. She was understanding that "we need to give Jackson a bit of space today".

Saturday, Husband and I determined we need a fantastic morning activity to ward off testiness so we headed to the beach. We were out of the house quickly and descended on the beach, still quite unpopulated at 10:30 a.m. Husband dropped the kids and I off with our gear (4 chairs, 1 cooler, 4 pails, 4 shovels and a few craft supplies). While Husband secured a parking spot the kids and I looked for a good place to perch ourselves.

"Where do you think we should put our chairs?" I asked democratically.

Sydney pointed to a spot that was, in my estimation, most unsuitable.

"That's not very near the sand". I pointed out. "And it's near that group where someone has a megaphone and someone put up a big picnic shelter so we can't see very much. And it's near the garbage - it will be stinky." I guess it was really piling on. I moved us another 50 feet to a spot by the beach in full shade. And tried to sell the fabulousness of this location.

"Look, you can see the water! And there is tons of shade. Sydney you pick where the chairs will go."

Pouty princess sat on the ground, back ramrod straight , arms crossed in a full Category 5 pout. She was non-responsive. I ignored her and shuttled the rest of our gear to our appointed spot. Husband arrived and Sydney agreed to talk (and not pout) so that we can negotiate the chair location issue. Somehow negotiation turned into parental capitulation and we ended up in Sydney's preferred location. I decided to model very mature behaviour and demonstrate a high quality pout myself which resulted in a legendary pout-off in which no one won. Jackson started crying and Husband was exasperated. (Eventually, we move to a neutral and mutually acceptable location on the beach).

Sydney continued her poutiness throughout the day when faced with grievous infractions such as the condition of her grapes ("they have scratches on them").

Jackson had a great day and generously agreed to "give Sydney some space".

Sunday, the J Boy was fierce. He barked at me that he was "busy on my DS" when it was time to leave for church. He was even grumpy over the flavour of the new peanut butter we bought and generally testy in every interaction we had. At one point, I told him that was entirely unacceptable to speak to anyone in that tone and I took away his DS which led to a 90 minute "incident". It was another low in the parenting cycle.

Jackson only pulled himself out of the abyss when I told him that we had a movie planned the next day and he would not be going unless he could find a way back to civilization. It took him 3 minutes.

Sydney was her charming self.

Monday, a scheduled pouty day, and Sydney woke up with a frown on her face. The choice of her clothes, the colour of her underwear, everything sent her stomping off to sit on the stairs, arms crossed and lip extended.

We went to see G Force (which I recommend) and we needed to see the 11:50 showing to see the 3D version and to be able to fit swimming lessons in later in the day. This meant eating a quick lunch in the car. While we did have a little issue with Jackson not liking what I made for him, he easily recovered and we all nibbled as we drove to the theatre.

After the movie, I asked Sydney if she enjoyed the movie "I don't like eating lunch in the car" she grumped. This was news to me. We periodically do eat in the car to accommodate activities and schedules. It's not like it's every day or even every week, but it does happen and I have never heard this complaint.

She pouted and threw things and harassed her brother. The rest of the day was the same.

Jackson had a near perfect day.

Today, day 5 of my days at home, and guess who woke up testy? And doesn't like any of the breakfast options, was gloating about some crazy thing with his sister and is generally on the edge?

Do you see the pattern? Testy-Pouty-Testy-Pouty.

My question is how have they accomplished the testy-pouty pattern with such ease? Are they having late night conferences to plan it? "Ok, so tomorrow, it's my turn. I'm going to hate breakfast, not want to get dressed and will not do any craft no matter how good it is. You be super nice to Mommy".

Okay after writing the above entry, the kids, who surely want to keep me guessing, have decided today is a testy AND pouty day. I now realize how lucky I was to have had one accomodating child for the past 4 days. Please send reinforcements!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Swimming Lessons

I don't think anything has taken up as much brain space or calender space as swimming lessons. I grew up with swimming lessons several times throughout the year. As a result, I had fantastic times at camp swimming or diving off of rafts. We canoed on family camping trips and jumped out of the canoe to cool off. Most importantly, I could swim so that my parents didn't worry (too much) if I got dunked into some deep water or fell off a dock somewhere.

And I was determined that my kids would learn to swim. Basic safety. Non negotiable.

At 8 months Jackson had his first lessons. My love of logistics went into full overdrive as I tried to figure out what I would do with Jackson while I got changed. He was a bit of a crawling curious monster at that age and would not sit peaceably anywhere (not much has changed since then). It all worked out as they had a playpen in the change room for moms such as me.

The early years of swimming lessons were much less about learning the skills as being comfortable and having fun in water. And so a couple times a year I had Jackson and then Sydney in the pool for parent and tot swimming. Sydney was much less taken than Jackson and she had to be distracted through many a lesson.

At age 3 I put them in lessons on their own which Jackson in particular enjoyed. He is not exactly destined to be Michael Phelps with or without fancy buoyant suit, but progressed through the levels appropriately. And he loves swimming lessons. Rare is the day I have to coax him to go. Which is saying something.

Sydney on the other hand was reluctant to go without us. We went through one whole set where Husband or I were on standby in our bathing suits. She eventually accepted that swimming lessons weren't optional and attended with mixed attitude: sometimes very keen, sometimes very unkeen.

Twice we had to pull her out over bum sparkle issues. The fear of sparkling at the wrong time (or the sensation that is brought by swimming) combined with public health concerns meant pulling her out was appropriate.

Actually scheduling the lessons of course is harder than finding a window for NASA to land the space shuttles. I spend a lot of time reading, cross referencing and pondering the possibilities.

My goal now is to have them in lessons 3 times a year. I have found they learn much better going twice per week, so we usually sign them up for twice a week lessons for 5 weeks. Husband and I put our heads down and steel ourselves to a bit more busyness, but it's something we must do.

This summer we have them in lessons 5 days a week for 2 weeks. Since it's a little hot out, the past 2 days Husband or I have swam in the pool with them before or after their lessons, to keep cool, burn off some energy and have some fun.

Well, today the two of them were swimming on their own underwater. I was impressed. I knew Jackson could do this a little, but he was doing it constantly, and for longer times. Sydney for a long time had to be convinced to get her hair wet. Now she is swimming away with her own unique stroke. After her lesson, she showed off her skills and she actually did a back crawl. Seriously I can't do that and I had a gajillion years of swimming lessons.

It is very gratifying to see my obsession with swimming lessons paying off. They are comfortable in the water and enjoy the pool. And they can actually swim.

Now, if I could just get them to feel the same enjoyment about eating vegetables.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Beach Divine

What do you do, on a beautiful Saturday at the dawn of August? Drying off on the pint-sized Diego chairs that I was so pleased to get on sale. They are almost never used but I imagined would be used all the freakin' time. They just don't usually sit for very long.I have no idea what shocking thing the lad was telling his sister. Photographic proof of parental supervision.Really, I was having a good time.Adventure with Daddy. Sydney calls this "living the life". Indeed it is, Girlie Goo.