Friday, July 30, 2010

Summer Mid Term Report

Halfway through summer? How is that even possible? Where has the time gone?? It can mean one thing and one thing only: July was not that bad.

July rivals June as the most challenging parental month in this house. Jackson in particular had for the past 5 years had a tough-ish time in July. We have struggled to find the right balance of activities to keep him busy and allow Husband and I keep the mortgage paid and the fishy crackers flowing.

Here are some lowlights of Julies past:

  • In 2006 Jackson experience his first allergy season and we struggled mightily. He was stuffed up, sneezing and miserable and we didn't know why.  I still owe a favour to the pediatric allergist we got into on short notice.

  • In 2007, I had the kids signed up only for a few activities which meant I spent every Monday, every Friday with them with no structure. I’m still surprised I came out of that one unscathed.

  • I am still smarting from a Canada Day trip to the park in ’08 which involved Jackson walking away and my following him in an unknown neighbourhood. It ended badly with my glasses broken and a couple budding hernias as I schlepped a defiant boy back to our van.

  • We had the carnivorous period in July last year which had me question my ability to stick out the parenting gig.
But this year, friends, has been good. The general mood in the house is good. The evenings have been pretty mellow. We have had the occasion fierce period, but they have been surprisingly mild, not nuclear. Jackson’s fixations, which can range from him wanting build a hotel in our backyard to trying to find a game online that he swears exists because some guy at camp told him so, often exhaust us to the core. This July they’ve been mild and fleeting.

The kids are playing nicely. Sydney has been whiny at times. Jackson has had his intense moments. Sometimes they have even intersected with my being tired, hungry and impatient. This intersection of moods usually sends Husband running for cover and leaves a wake of raw emotions and long list of apologies and amends to be made. But somehow, we have weathered those storms and righted the ship quickly afterward.

It hasn’t been perfect. I have spent the last week coming up with new manipulations  to convince the J Boy to go to camp at SFU. While week 1 was a breeze, week 2 has been a struggle in the mornings. He is happy about his day when I pick him up but convincing him to park his bahookey in the van each morning had been as easy as capping a well in the Gulf of Mexico. But we have persevered and have come to the end of July in tact.

So I am giving July a solid A minus. How do I know that is a solid grade and not merely an attempt to mollify myself that things are really so bad? I have three weeks off coming up and I am LOOKING FORWARD to a lot of family time.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Random Thoughts about Day Camps

The kids just finished week one of two at Simon Fraser University day camps.  They have about 30 camps going each week. To facilitate easy drop offs and pick ups, all the kids, hundred of them congregate in the gym. It's very easy for parents.

Jackson is in mini-university, bachelor of science where he is attending classes in chemistry, engineering, biology and kinesiology.  Sydney is in music camp and studying Mozart.

Here are some random thoughts:

1. Jackson is really growing up. Last year, he required me to escort him right to his camp meeting spot. I gave his name for him. Showed him where to sit down and pointed out who is leader was.  This year, he wandered over the sign-in area while I got Sydney settled.  He had given his name, sat down appropriately and was waiting for further instruction by the time I had made my way over there.

2. I wonder why Sydney's music instructor remembered Sydney and I from last year.  Does this instructor have a photographic memory? Was it because of Sydney's extreme adorableness? Her stellar classroom behaviour? Or the fact that I made a big deal last year about the unadvertised swim portion of the music camp, which required Husband or I to be there mid day because of some unresolved bathroom issues

3. Relying on 8 year old to tell their parents that they need to bring some material to camp the next day, is at best optimistic and at worst fruitless.  If we are lucky enough to hear  "I need to bring some candy" or "I need to bring some milk" it doesn't tell us the purpose, the quantity or the type.  Sending home a note with all the requirements for the week would be appreciated. Better yet, take the cost of milk and candy out of the high priced fee we paid.

4. Seven hours is too long for camps for my kids. And starting at 8:30 requires a 8:00 am departure is too early in the summer. For everyone.

5.  Ignoring the alarm and being roused up at 7:55 by a Girlie Goo saying "I think I have a bug bite on my shoulder" does not allow adequate time to get to camp on time.  Rushing two children out of the house and convincing them to have a no preparation (i.e. different) breakfast without a cup of coffee on board is also not recommended.

6.  Jackson shared his lunch with a kid that forgot it. Who is this boy?

7.  Every day I heard how well behaved Sydney was from her instructor.  When I went for the camp ending show, I saw why. About half the kids of the 14 were fidgety, off task, not listening, wandering, talking and distracting.  Sydney must have been an oasis of calm.

8.  I can be proud of my kids for soldiering through and enjoying camp despite it being a long week. Even if Sydney did doze in the van for the 20 minute ride home.  She earned it.

9.  Dozing in the van after a week of camp can also mean a certain 6 year old picked up a stomach virus which will mean a lot of consolation, laundry, cleaning and air freshening for the next 12 hours.  Now I realize that having hundreds of kids in one place will often lead to virus spreading. Last summer's stomach virus came right after this same camp.

Common Sense

I feel, along with my various neuroses, quirks and eccentricities, I was blessed with an abundance of common sense.  

My children? Not so much.

We were at the beach last week and the kids were at the nearby playground.  I was talking to my in laws as we waited for Husband to arrive from work to our picnic. 

See-saws were ubiquitous when I was a kid, but now they are a playground anomaly.  The kids were understandably drawn to it.  There is a 10 pound weight discrepancy between them so it takes a bit of pushing and leaning to make it work, but make it work they did.

Then Jackson apparently wanted to add a challenge to the balance game and stood up on his end of the see-saw while in the down position owing to his owning the extra 10 pounds. 

I started walking toward them as I was worried about his falling off and cracking his head open as he pretended to surf.  Apparently gummy worms have taken over the common sense part of his brain. 

I needn't have worried about his falling. He jumped.  Which of course had the effect of a swift six foot free fall for his sister.  I ran. I yelled. I screamed. I asked him if he was crazy.

I envisioned shattered ankles, compressed vertebrae and a broken tailbone for the Girlie Goo.  She amazingly had no physical injuries but her feelings were hurt that Jackson had done this. 

Jackson did not share my assessment of the danger of the situation or the need for the "crazy" remark and dissolved into a puddle of tears.  He eventually regained his composure and returned Sydney to the playground. 

Then, I watched as they did the one thing you should NEVER do. The one thing that THEY never do.  The thing that turns my stomach, makes me and most Moms shiver with fright.

They went to the public bathroom.

At the beach.

Alone.

In their bare feet.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Forest, Meet My Kids.

Nothing beats a good fort in the forest:
Or a good photo op for Mommy:

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Sound of Awkward Silence

Something quite remarkable has happened in the past week or so.  The weather in Vancouver and environs has been perfect to almost everyone.

No one is complaining that it is too hot.
Too cold.
Too wet.
Too cloudy.
Too windy.
Too humid.
Too foggy.

Or that it's changing so fast you have to dress in layers. Or wear a heavy jacket in the morning and carry it home at night.  Or that you don't even know how the weather day is going to turn out.

No one is talking about an impending thunder storm, heat wave or cold front. No one is even resorting to the hail Mary of weather complaints: that the good weather is not lasting long enough.

The weather has been mild. About 22 to 25 degrees Celsius. Or 72 to 75 Fahrenheit.  No wind. Only soothing breezes.  We've had a little cloud cover some mornings but by the time people have had a coffee break, we're back to mild blue skies.  We're into our second week of this San Diego weather shangri-la.

I suppose there is the odd sucker for punishment southern belle who would like it hotter. Or the odd 5 year old who thinks a good mud puddle would really make his summer.

But in general, we have widespread meteorological contentment.

The problem? 

There is too much awkward silence.  What else do you talk about during long elevator rides,  in taxi trips, at cocktail parties or while waiting for your pap in a paper gown?   We always have the weather to complain about.

It takes up much less of the awkward time to say:

"Nice weather we've been having"

"Yup."

We are also in a simultaneous lull of hockey and television so pretty soon we're gonna be forced to talk to each other about something that matters. Oh wait a second, we have  a 40% chance of showers on Thursday, doesn't that just bite ...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Princess and the Pedi. And Mani.

Sydney has been working very hard on something which confidentiality agreements require that I keep secret (i.e. she'd pout for a year if I went into any detail.)  She needed a LARGE does of motivation.  In the past we have given her smaller incentives but she has accomplished the goals we set, enjoyed the prize but then we are back to our issue. 

So a month ago I told her if she did the thing I wanted her to do for a month, I'd take her somehwere she is DYING to go. To the spa. To get her nails done. Until now she has had to endure my extremely sloppy pedicures which gets more nailpolish on her feet and my hands than her nails. 

Before I get accused of being one of those parents that indulge her children FAR TOO MUCH, please know this isn't the full treatment. Just a "polish change" (shaping, filing and polish)  for $15.  She does not enjoy the scaling, calluses and dry skin that requires my getting two pedicures per summer with the full treatment of 12 kinds of lotions.
So, here she is, getting her fingernails worked on:
Is it just me or does she look way older than six?
What colour? Pink for the fingers.
Here's how it all turned out. I'm glad that I took this picture because after we got home she has dug weeds in the garden and played in the sandbox so it will never look as nice.
Then, onto the toes:
Sparkly silver for the toes. Very princess worthy.
 She had time to kill so she STUDIED the colours carefully.
She seems to think she might be coming back again.
And she had to wait for my toes to get done:
Afterwards as we were leaving to pay, she had one question
"so I'm definitely not getting a massage?"

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Responsible

Pop quiz:

Which of the following has Jackson said to me in the last month?

a) It's Monday Mommy, don't forget that Sydney has dance class.

b) You don't need to become involved Mommy. I can work it out.

c) Mommy, aren't my library books overdue?

d) Mommy, I already wore those shorts two days.  I am not wearing them a third.

e) ALL OF THE FREAKIN' ABOVE.

Jackson, Mr Head-in-the-Clouds has belatedly developed a sense of awareness of his world.  All of the sudden he has figured out that certain things happen on certain days.  He realizes that library books have to be returned. And he cannot wear the clothes for days on end  - he was right about that one, I smelled his shorts and ran for decontamination.

However, he still does not know that dishes don't levitate themselves to the dishwasher,  that toilets don't flush themselves and that money does not grow on trees and whatever money Mommy and Daddy might earn is not his personal video game slush fund. It just might be earmarked for luxuries like the mortgage, groceries and Mommy's Starbucks allotment.

But I'm trying not to get greedy.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Out

Me: Sydney, are you making friends at art camp, or are you too busy working on your projects.

Sydney: I'm making friends. I play with Mandy and Sophia.

Me: That's nice.

Sydney: Mommy, I have a new best friend, Mandy.

Me: From art camp?

Sydney: Yeah, she says she's crazy about me.

Me: That's nice.

Sydney: We decided we're going to be gay.

Me: [long pause] Pardon me?

Sydney: We decided we're going to be gay.

Me: Do you even know what being gay is?

Sydney: Yeah. It's like when a boy marries a girl except gay is a boy marrying a boy or a girl marrying a girl.

Me: Where did you learn that from?

Sydney: Jackson's DS game.

Me: Huh?

Sydney: One of the characters said something about being gay and I asked Jackson what it meant.

Me: And he told you?

Sydney: Yeah.

Me: So how did you and Mandy go about deciding to be gay?

Sydney:  Since she is crazy about me, I asked her if she wanted to be gay with me.

Me: What did she say?

Sydney: She asked what gay meant. So I told her.

Me: Huh?

Sydney: And then we agreed to be gay.

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

I don't even know where to start with this.  We live in a startlingly homogeneous place.  While people of different backgrounds and races are well represented, families consist of a mom, a dad, two to three kids and a dog. We are anomalies even being canine-free.  Even single parent and blended families are infrequent.  We have never really talked about what it means to be gay.  Someone in our extended family is gay, but it still hasn't been a topic of dinner conversation.

So imagine my surprise to learn that both my children know what being gay is.

Even more astonishing is the fact that my daughter came 'out' at age six.

But what is really unbelievable is that she is recruiting.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Summer Sizzle

We are well into week 2 of summer. Week 1 was a short one as the kids had 1.5 days of free daycare school.  We had  Canada Day celebrations, some family time, a day with our former Nanny and bingo bango bongo, we are 10% through the summer.

Summer is all about getting to the end of the summer before I get to the end of my sanity.  While I freely admit we all could use a break from school by June, the summer has it's own challenges.  Husband and I don't get 10 weeks off so we need to find a)childcare for the kids and b) something to do so c)Jackson does not get bored and so d) Sydney does not spend the entire summer on the couch watching TV and asking for more pretzels.

We've had mixed success finding the balance of activities and downtime. Two years ago started off close to an unmitigated disaster and was up and down after that. Last year wasn't bad, but we had some low points here and there

Largely because of last years modest success and because by now I have largely memorized the calendars of every place that has a camp, class or lesson around here, I was uncharacteristically laid back about getting registrations in.

I asked the kids in about February what kinds of things they wanted to do this summer. I'm all about upward feedback and taking into consideration their preferences.

Sydney said "I liked EVERYTHING, but my favourite was Camp Sasamat".  This was the day camp they went to last August while Husband and I golfed and had adult conversation. 

Jackson said "I'd like to play video games all summer."    When I told him that wasn't an option, he told me he liked everything last year and would do any of it again. Except Camp Sasamat.  He would not reveal the reason for his reluctance.  I am guessing all the group time and lack of individual freedoms didn't exactly ring all the bells for our introvert.

But the thing is, I wanted to send them BOTH to Sasamat. It is hard to coordinate the kids going to different camps the same week. Drop off times and proximity have to coordinate. It's not impossible, but it's not easy. 

Jackson had previously agreed to go to Camp Sasamat for a day during spring break.  So, my mommy-manipulation plan was set. After the one day at spring break, I was pretty sure he would have a good time and then would agree to go to summer camp.  While the camp does fill up, I wanted to send them on the last week of summer which is the least popular. And for Internet stalkers like myself, the camp actually have online the diminishing availability. So I could easily check how many spot were available for the camp the week I wanted.  I checked at least once every week in March. 

After Jackson went to Sasamat during spring break in late March, he said he had a great time, but didn't want to go in summer.  I used the worst of the dark art of persuasion but could not get him to agree to the Mommy plan.  Sending the J Boy against his will is just not something that ever works out. Trust me, I've tried.

When at last I gave up my attempts at coercion persuasion, I figured that I'd better sign Sydney up since 25 spots remained when last I'd checked. I didn't want to leave it to the last minute.

Most will have guessed that when I logged on to register, the freakin' camp was full for the whole, entire and complete summer.  The guilt weighed heavily on my shoulders. I put Sydney on the wait list and called the camp hoping to get some reassurance that she would get in.  She was 14th on a list where almost no one gets called. This is what the J Boy would call epic failure.  I did not get the Girlie Goo into the one thing that she most wanted.

I think it was that guilt that pressed me to register Sydney for fancy art camp this week. Jackson is at Legomation -- making stop motion animation movies with Lego. It is super cool and right up his alley.  Last year, I put Sydney in a very cheap and equally lame day camp intended for preschoolers. Blasted September birthday.  It's easier in this town for a 14 year old to get a case of Coronas than for a 6 year old to get into  camp meant for 7 year olds.

So fancy art camp it was.  It is totally up her alley. She loves the complicated hands on crafts that her mother is not only not good at, but despises the mess of.  Girlie Goo actually got to choose which classes she wanted.  So she is making a paper mache puppy, weaving a blanket, creating a mask, writing and illustrating a comic book and making something she can't quite describe out of clay. She is in seventh heaven.  I am thinking of holding a garage sale to make room for all her projects.

The thing about this week though, is Legomation is 5 minutes from our house.  Art camp is 15 minutes in a different direction.  And Sydney's camp starts first and ends last. If you're the kind of person who works out the logistics in your head you'll know that means Jackson is the one doing the extra driving in the car.  I think we all know about Jackson and car rides.

To give us a little extra challenge, Jackson doesn't like being late for things so he watches the clock and no matter what time it is he'll say about 10 times in the 15 minute trip "Mommy, it's 8:42. I'm going to be late".  Even if we have plenty of time. 

On Monday there was a conference at the school where Lego camp is.  I knew this ahead of time, but it's a big high school with lots of parking. I wasn't too worried.  As we were heading up the hill toward the high school, I notice the  longest line of cars parked I have seen in the 4 years we have lived here.  I did not how I would find parking and escort the J Boy to his camp all in the 4 minutes before Jackson's brain combusted from stress over being late.

As I circled the parking lot, I floated the trial balloon "do you think you could make your way in and find the class yourself?"

"Huh? What did you say?"

"Do you remember where the room is? Room 300, the same as last year. Do you think you could find it?"

"Yeah, I remember Mommy. Room 109."

Scratch that plan. 

We then bequeathed a gift from the parking gods as a spot opened up right in front of the school.  I got him to class just in time.

As we remembered from last year, although Jackson does love the unique and creative ways he gets to blow stuff Lego characters up and make movies, it does cause a certain amount of stress.  There is a deadline. He is working with a partner, someone he doesn't know.  And while he hates not quite knowing how to do something, guessing how to do it or doing it the "wrong way", he is loathe to ask any questions of his teacher. 

He bottles all that stress up and brings it home to Mommy.  Especially when he experienced an epic failure in his movie making as he did on Tuesday.  Still, he's having a good time , he's just a bundle of nerves.

Sydney on the other hand came away from the first day of camp and said "Mommy, I have four words. FUN. BEST. DAY. EVER." 

Maybe now would be a good time to tell her about Camp Sasamat.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Why Children Should Come With TV Remote Controls

1.  This is obvious. Mute button.  Husband and I value almost nothing more than listening to our kids.  Of course we want to hear about what they are worried about, who their friends are and which field trip notices they forgot at school.  But we also listen to an endless play-by-play of the game they just played on the computer, the next game they want to get on the computer, why they want to get the next game, where we could get the next game.  Sometimes I just want to mute.  I'm pretty sure Husband might use this one on me occasionally.

2. Replay.  You know, that button that will replay the last 30 seconds. Perfect for sports fans who wants to see if that was really goaltender interference, or an expert dive.  Well, sometimes, I am updating my status on facebook  making dinner and I don't quite hear what has gone on. One kid is in tears and one kids is wildly knocking over furniture, and I want to get an accurate account because neither  "Jackson is the worst brother in the world" or "Sydney is a big fat poo-head" tells me what went on.  This would also be useful on me, as I sometimes say something in an effort to be funny and it comes out kind of unfunny. Or mean.

3. Rewind.  Things fall off the rails sometimes. Someone said something or did something and it sets off a chain reaction of incivility, poor behaviour, hurt feelings and noisy conflicts.  Sometimes I wish we could reach back in time 30 minutes and have a do-over.  This would also be helpful if I could use it on myself to have a second crack at thinking that it would be untidy NOT to finish off the entire row of Oreo cookies.

4. Fast forward.  Sometimes you just want to jump forward a month.  You know, those phases the kids are in.  You know it won't last forever. It feels like forever and you want to jump to next month this time to see if we can get through one day without the kids arguing who gets in the van first or through one bedtime without it feeling like a hostage negotiation.  I have thought this would also be helpful at work when faced with a deadline and I can't possibly imagine how I will meet it (but always do).  Wouldn't it be nice to just jump forward to the minute I meet the deadline and the sweet sense of relief?

5. Picture in picture.  Our family life really is a family life. Sometimes, I wish I could just hive off a little time for a grown up life, but not forget the family life.  So if I could keep an eye on things with the picture in picture (I am the consummate multi-tasker) I could have my own parallel, alternate life but could switch back at the press of a button.  I think the kids might use this one to switch to a universe where green gummy worms counted as "something green that is healthy".

6.  Sleep button.  With the day light hours extending, no school and allergy congestion, Jackson is sometimes up very late.  Honestly, this June has been MUCH BETTER than the last two Junes. But he still comes into our room late to read us something funny in a book. Or more likely, to tell us that he is bored and declare that he has done absolutely everything fun and could we please come up with a new list of suggestions.  After he has exasperated us and we tell him to leave our room NOW, he'll encamp just outside our bedroom door and twitch for about an hour.  A 30 minute sleep button would be come in very handy.  Or an off button for that matter.  And since I suffer from the same I-can't-sleep-until-my-brain-stops-running syndrome, I could use a sleep button myself.

7. And finally, freeze frame.  For all the work, exasperation and challenge of raising kids, there are so many moments in every day when I just want to freeze and remember how cute they are.  Like when I find them cuddled on the couch watching TV together.  Or Sydney is upset that she can't find her monkey "Vines" and Jackson offers to help her look for it.  Or Sydney gives up her turn on the computer for her brother. It's why I'm a bit of a camera freak.  If I take enough pictures I won't forget the million moments a day when my heart bursts with pride. Or melts with love.

Oh Canada!

The Olympic-induced resurgance of Canadian pride added a little to Canada Day this year. 
We dusted off our house flag.
Had some friends over. For food and games.
If there is one thing I have learned from my girlfriend C,
 it's organize a few games for the kids,
and give them some candy prizes,
 and they will let you drink your wine in peace:
To another great year, Canada!
p.s. the "Canada-ware" is actually the reason we had people over. 
I saw it, bought it and then had to invent an occasion to use it.