Tag Archives: family vacation

One Thing To Rule Them All

I had planned to blog last week during our holiday. Not cause I have to. Because I really want to.

I envisioned myself writing deep thoughts about God and life in my brand new notebook as our mini-van winds its way through the Rocky Mountains. Or perhaps curled up with a pen and paper in front of the fireplace, trying to recapture the hilarity and wonder of a new family adventure. At the very least, I would have time, away from chores and telephones and teetering piles of laundry, to polish up one of the many half-finished posts in my drafts folder.

But no more whiney posts about parenting. Not again. I’ve done way too much of that.

This holiday week was chock-full of inspiration.

  • Easter week… bringing one of the greatest showdowns of these modern times – Jesus Christ vs. Chocolate. Who will capture the heart of our generation?
  • The Rocky Mountains – my very favourite place ON EARTH. Ten thousand Japanese tourists can’t be wrong.
  • Spending time, real memory-making, road trip taking, in each other’s pockets until you want to scream, time as a family.
  • Glen’s Grandma’s 90th birthday – bringing in cousins and uncles and one incredibly beloved nephew from far and wide; showing off our new addition for the first time; celebrating a woman who isn’t Great because of her many years on earth, but because of who she is and how she loves.
  • Finally introducing the boy to MY Grandma (clearly we have an embarrassment of riches in the Great-Grandma department) – by the time we left he had decided she was his favourite adult, ignoring the rest of us and dragging her away when the rest of us tried to talk to her.
  • My brother-in-law changed his FaceBook profile picture to a red equal sign (the internet is awash in the gay rights and the bible debate). I wanted to “like” it, but I wanted to explain that to everyone who might not understand why I do.

So I started about a dozen different posts, in my head and on paper. I tried. I really did. To write something touching or eloquent or provocative or even readable.

But the voice in my head sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher.

Wah-wa-wah-wa-wah.

I was defeated by the one thing that trumps inspiration. It puts basic intelligence in a headlock and flushes all my emotional energy right down the toilet. It squeezes my physical body like a dish rag, until I am literally begging for relief. It is the one thing that rules them all.

Sleep.

Specifically, a desperate lack of sleep.

430amThe boy has discovered that he can escape his play pen at nap and bedtime. So he does. Over and over and over again. Apparently, this is so much more fun than actually sleeping. He cruises right past tired (which is a sweet time of eye rubbing and snuggling and big yawns) right into over-tired (which involves frantic hyperactivity, screeching at the top of his lungs and dramatic tantrums).

We tried everything. Rocking, singing, cuddling, co-sleeping, absolute quiet, ignoring him, gentle discipline, cough syrup, putting him down early, staying up late, skipping nap, liquid melatonin, begging, yelling, praying… we asked for ideas on Facebook. We even drove into the city to buy a tent to put over his playpen (which he broke in about 5 minutes). In the end, we spent hours and hours holding him in his bed until he fell asleep. Every nap. And every bedtime.

One night we played this game until 4:30 am. By that time, both he and I were crying.

I am barely human after 3 am.

Naturally, he wakes up at 7 am. Every morning. No matter what.

This changed the trajectory of our family holiday. Glen and I barely saw each other. I barely had time to shower, much less think or write or create. We didn’t tackle nearly as many activities as we had planned. We weren’t as witty or interesting or wow-look-how-cool-they-still-are-even-though-they-have-such-a-chaotic-brood-of-children as we had planned.

I’m not going to lie. These are the times I wonder… what have we gotten ourselves into? I’m not nearly as calm and patient and put-together as I hoped I’d be. I’m not the Mom I should be. I rely on DVDs and iPhone games and counting down the minutes until nap time.

And the selfish part of me resents all those people relaxing in the Banff Hot Springs while we usher two screaming, poopy children back out after the least relaxing 3 minutes of our day. And I wonder if I’ll ever finish a conversation at a family gathering without darting away to rescue someone’s purse or flower arrangement or too-close-to-the-edge-of-the-table drink. And I’m tired. So incredibly tired. All the time.

But.

And here’s the part that matters, even though it’s not all that touching or eloquent or provocative.

For every miserable, smelly, irritating, exhausting challenge they bring into our life, there is a heart warming, sweet, wonderful, life affirming moment that makes it all worthwhile.

At 4:30 am, I cried tears of frustration as the boy screamed and fussed. In his thrashing he managed to twist himself out of my arms and smash his head against the wall on the way down. The sound just makes me feel sick. It was a low point.

He immediately stopped screaming and fighting and scrambled into my arms. “Mama! Mama! Mama!” Rubbing his face into my neck while I checked for a lump and kissed it better. He stroked my hair and wrapped his legs around my waist and his eyes finally, FINALLY closed.

I guess I’m easy to please. Because that little cuddle made the whole wretched night worth it.

He’s still my favourite boy in the whole world.

So here’s us, home to recover from our “vacation” and not a moment too soon.

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Nothing Hurts Like Family

Writing is a funny thing. There are times when it bubbles up pure and fresh, almost effortless. It feels like magic, and the blank page fills with words. A gift, not for readers, but for myself.

There are other times when I squeeze it out, a few recycled words. Predictable. Mundane. And I dress them up with a garnish and a little paper umbrella, pretending that no one was really thirsty after all.

I sat down to write about our family holiday. Something sweet and palatable about lazy beach days and toasting s’mores in the flickering firelight. We had a wonderful vacation! Idyllic moments punctuated by the exhaustion and chaos of our newly expanded family. The past few weeks we have connected with cousins and siblings and parents. We have laughed and reminisced and made several more “remember when” stories for the dinner table.

But no amount of garnish can dress up the bad writing I’ve produced on the topic. I can’t make it work. It’s a cheesy tourism brochure.

The truth is, I am consumed by the turmoil of family politics. Somehow it seems to overshadow all of the Norman Rockwell we’ve experienced. Like the fog that rolled in on our last day at the beach house, obscuring the spectacular view we had already begun to take for granted.

So this post is not what I intended. It is messy and vague and somewhat depressing. But honest.

Nothing hurts like family.

I write this with the sad comfort that I am not singling out any family member or particular conflict. On every side of both our families is a complex web of hurt feelings and disrespect and misunderstanding. I’m beginning to think it is normal, though it feels very unnatural. Most of the time we sit on the periphery and try our best to play peace-maker. But we’ve played a few rounds ourselves lately.

You don’t need the details to know the story. Over and over again in a thousand little ways and in the big ones too: nothing hurts like family.

Normally, I prefer the irritation and necessary pain of honest interaction. My advice to others almost always involves gentle confrontation. It’s not fair to be angry with someone and not tell them. Words. Words. Words.

Yet in reality they aren’t the magic fix I imagine. Some things are more complicated than diplomacy and amateur psychology can address. And let’s face it, the walking wounded make terrible diplomats. In my own life it is absurdly easy to settle for a thin veneer of civility atop a bubbling cesspool of resentment. I hate to admit that. It makes me a terrible hypocrite.

My husband reminds me to let things go, to be kind and forgiving, to do good, even when others don’t. Even when others don’t notice, which is the most annoying of all. For him, the relationship is more important than the fight. He is the master of conflict avoidance. But sometimes this peace feels like a lumpy rug. Eventually we’re bound to trip on all that skillfully concealed debris.

So we vacillate between conflict and cover-up. And I don’t know which is better. And I don’t have any more answers. And I don’t know what to do next.

But I love my family. All of them. Even the ones who hurt me. Even the ones whom I’ve hurt.

I don’t have a great insight about this subject, not yet. No pithy conclusion. No 10 simple steps to fix what ails us. Just a prayer for wisdom and hope that my words, and actions, and inactions will make things better, not worse.

So here’s me, trying to figure out how we imperfect jerks can love each better.


Modern Day Torture, aka The Timeshare Presentation

This time last week, we were on holiday, in Hawaii, but not anywhere we wanted to be. This time last week, the sun was shining, the beach was calling, but we were stuck indoors. This time last week, we experienced one of the unique tortures of modern society:

The timeshare presentation.

Reeling us in

They’re so friendly. Pushy, but friendly. First they butter you up with free chocolates and gifts for the kids. Then they pull out the big guns. The “no obligation whatsoever cause we’re not pushy and high pressure like those other guys” FREE gift that they are just dying to give you.

Sailboat ride.

For the whole family.

At sunset.

With a baby whale.

And dolphins.

And food. Free food.

We did that super secret, silent discussion that evolves sometime after the first decade of marriage. The eyebrow raise. Half shrug. Wink… no wait, he’s got something in his eye. Ah yes, the slight nod.

Okay, we’re in. But we are absolutely NOT going to buy anything. In fact, we felt better making that clear from the outset. “We don’t want to waste your time. We are absolutely not in any position to buy a timeshare right now, but yes, we’d like the free gift. Thank you for mentioning this trip to see the whales in front of our children, by the way. Okay, fine, sign us up.”

But just to be polite. And thrifty. Because free stuff is even better than baby whales. But we are absolutely NOT going to buy anything.

Setting the mood

And this is how we find ourselves setting the alarm insanely early ON OUR VACATION for a 90-minute sales pitch. Blech.

Now, to be honest, the only other time we did this, we ended up buying in. Perhaps we were just excited to finally have the salary level to make it into the “free stuff so we can woo you” club. And it’s been better than we expected. We’ve gotten our money’s worth and then some. We are timeshare believers.

In fact, without timeshare, we would never have been able to take this super-cheap vacation to Hawaii. The timeshare week was free (a limited time bonus, because we were a pretty hard sell). The airmiles paid for car rental and a few extra nights in the hotel. Cheap airfare came in the form of red eye flights with absurd layovers – 3 different flights to find our way home.

But we are absolutely NOT going to buy anything, this time.

So, here we wait with our cups of free cocoa. Neither of us drink coffee, which is a shame because the snazzy machine makes everything under the sun. The doughnuts aren’t half bad. Fresh fruit plate – breakfast of champions. There’s a popcorn machine in the corner. It’s like sample day at Costco. Be still my frugal little heart!

I shamelessly eavesdrop on the tables near us. What do you know, all the salespeople are just hitting it off with their new customers. They draw out the small talk and act disappointed by the need to broach the subject of the day.

“Cause, gee, I’m just having such a fabulous time yakking with you about your 14 grandchildren and your cat’s bursitis, but my slave driving boss insists that I go through this material with you. Did I mention that I have a cat too? Now that we’re such good buddies, I’m sure you won’t mind helping me out with it.”

Ya, I’m onto them. This is the “building rapport” part of the spiel. But they don’t fool me. No. I’m cool. I’m detatched. I’m a rock, I’m an iiiiiis-land… And I’ve got plenty of friends already. Bring it on.

That worked for about 2 1/2 minutes. When he asked about my kids, I chatted. I appreciated that he laughed at my jokes. I pulled out a picture. I’ll be honest, I gushed. What! Can I help it if my children are incredibly interesting and engaging?

It was like a really weird date, with me, my husband and some strange guy who was determined to befriend us.

The spiel

He shook his head. Acted very concerned about the timeshare situation we were already in. He didn’t want to alarm us. It wasn’t his place to trash talk the competition. Obviously, we are very giving and trusting people, without the keen business insight that is needed to navigate the treacherous timeshare game. Good thing we now have our brand new friend to help us.

As he proceeded to tell us about the company, there just HAPPENED to be pictures of his family there. And his dogs.

Now, I’m not much of an animal person, but I’ll tell you, those sad canine eyes were accusing me. Of wasting his time. Of denying him the commission he so desperately needs. You know, to feed his sad dogs. And his family. How could I do this to my new FRIEND? Why the heck are his dogs so pathetically depressed anyway?

The pressure

This is the part where you hear ALL about the amazing life that you will lead if you buy in (no prices shared of course, no matter how many times we asked). Apparently, the world is my oyster if I sign up. My children will have the wedding of their dreams. Paris will become my home away from home. And I will OWN a piece of paradise. My children will rise up and call me blessed. My children’s children will be brilliant and well-travelled because of our investment in their future.

Strongly implied is the fact that non-timeshare holders (or those like us who are with another company and are destined to be cheated, extorted and ultimately disappointed) will lead lives of sad desperation. There will never be time or money for a real holiday. The best we can hope for is quiet days spent huddled in a dank basement, braiding armpit hair into a scarf.

The deal

Eventually even the slickest salesman must put a price on it. Also the various comparisons and mental gymnastics we are put through to convince us that $50,000 is a ridiculous steal! Oh, and the $2000 yearly fee. If that is not exciting enough, they are generously offering to finance our investment at only 17%!

Now, I’m not much of a math girl, but my husband tells me that 17% of $50,000 will be $8,500 in interest that first year. With that much money, I’m pretty sure I could HIRE someone to braid me an armpit hair scarf.

Until they invent teleportation (after 3 red eye flights with a head cold I am deeply invested in this possibility) and food pellets for children (like for a fish: a week’s nutrition in one cheap, easy to serve patty), accomodation is only one small piece of the holiday puzzle. If we spend all our money on this timeshare, taking on additional debt (and, as a result, jobs and possibly bankruptcy), I’m not sure our vacation prospects will look up, no matter what our new friend and his shiny brochure promise.

In the end, I had to walk out. After 2 hours, my kids needed me and we were done with it all. I came back to sign the refusal paper and talk to yet another sales person about an even better deal (tip: be a hard sell and they will offer you something better). We were almost there a few times, but as we said many times throughout the whole process we are absolutely NOT going to buy anything.

So here’s me, timeshare presentation survivor and as rich (read: solidly middle class) as ever! And YES, the baby whale was totally worth it!


Friday Favourites 12: On Vacation

Today is that last day I will be posting for a couple weeks. No, I haven’t given up on my slightly weird and time-consuming hobby. But, I will be terribly, terribly busy. Doing nothing. On the beach. In Hawaii. With my kids.

Except for the last part, it sounds pretty relaxing. Whether it is or not, it will be a fun spring break! So, here’s a few random favourites to tide you over…

Quote

A vacation frequently means that the family goes away for a rest, accompanied by a mother who sees that the others get it. Marcelene Cox

Poem in honour of the teachers

The teachers in our school district went on strike this week. I am no longer a home-school mom so this is decidedly INCONVENIENT.

I must admit that I haven’t given a lot of time or effort towards understanding the issues and figuring out where I stand. My redneck Alberta upbringing whispers that unions are just another kind of bully and I recall our own frustrations with policies which favour seniority over merit. BUT I have felt the cuts in government funding, especially for my special needs daughter. AND I think teachers do an incredibly difficult and important job and are worth their weight in gold (except for the really skinny ones who are worth more).

So my official position on on the teacher’s strike may be expressed in one of my most common mom lectures: “I want you two to work it out. Sit down right now and use your words. I don’t need to hear about it, just find a way to make it right.”

Amen!

Vacation Inspired App

Since we are heading out on vacation, my app of the week is in honour of our favourite vacation destination. The sad part is, this was true long before we had kids…

We’re pretty cliche when it comes to amusement parks, especially Disneyland. We love it – hook, line and overpriced, Mickey-shaped sinker! My parents gave Glen the nickname “Disney Nazi” on one trip to LA., because he is not willing to waste a single “magical” moment.

We’ve been a number of times (don’t hate us because we have family who live in LA), but have no plans to go again right now. With so many great memories of Disney, there is a lot of sadness and whining that we won’t be visiting it anytime soon. The kids are a bit disappointed too.

This is why the newest Disney app is perfect for us. They call Disneyland Explorer: the Happiest App on earth. The price makes me happy (free!) and there are all kinds of fun little games and videos as you poke around virtual Disneyland. It’s the kind of holiday that really works in this economy (I say as I gleefully pack for Hawaii).

B likes to wind up “It’s a Small World” then watch the international dolls dance across the screen. Sidebar: the song is every bit as annoying looping over and over and over again in the comfort of my own home as it is in the Magical Kingdom (and that includes the time the ride broke down and we were stuck by the mermaids for an extra 1/2 hour). C’s favourite is Mickey’s house in toon town. When you click on a photo on the wall, it plays one of the original Mickey toons. I’ve even seen Glen pushing the Thunder Mountain Express back and forth across the screen (we can’t figure out what it’s supposed to do – it’s kind of a bust).

If you’ve been to Disneyland and love it, or if you plan to go sometime, or if you think it’s overrated and lame, but are a sucker for free things, it’s definitely worth the $0!

Song that just begs to be spoofed

A few months ago friends told us how their son got in trouble at school for singing this song in class. They went through the 5 stages of parental reaction: shocked, horrified, relieved (that he hadn’t learned it at home), amused and committing the story to memory (to be told to family, friends, facebook aquaintances and at his wedding reception someday). Because it’s not everyday your first grader is sexy and he knows it.

Despite it’s not-remotely-appropriate-for-6-year-olds content, I get why it is being bandied around the schoolyard. It’s catchy. And vile. And totally absurd. And uses the “s” word (hee hee). Not since Right Said Fred informed us that he was Too Sexy For This Blog has there been a song so deeply, deeply stupid, that I nevertheless find myself humming from time to time.

The only version of “I’m Sexy and I Know It” that I don’t like is the real one, but the spinoffs make me laugh, so I decided to include a few. The best is definitely Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young doing an acoustic version (okay, fine, it’s Jimmy Fallon dressed as Neil Young, but still all kinds of awesome).

Sexy and I Know It Unplugged

Here is one that my kids LOVE. Apparently they saw it at school. Really? I’m trying to figure out what kind of lesson that fit into… social media A-B-C’s?

Elmo and I know it

The line up would be incomplete without a cheesy Christian version. As much as it pains me to admit it, these pastors are rocking it. I’ll take “Tithing and I Know It” over “Shine, Jesus, Shine” anyday.

Tithing and I know it

So here’s me, OUTTA HERE! Aloha!


Holidays = Holy Days?

Right now I am watching a man named Captain FeatherSword dancing around in a lacey shirt singing “Ring-a-ding-a-ding! Ring-a-ding-a-dong!”

Some sort of nerd-girl Christmas porn? No. It is, however, the soundtrack to our Christmas vacation. We are watching “Santa’s Rockin’ Special” for the 3,463rd time. All so B won’t wake up her big sisters in the next room.

Someone should get some sleep. Sharing a room/bed/oxygen with B at night has not gone completely smoothly. Sure, it’s cute when she pokes the soles of my feet, giggles and then quickly pretends to sleep… At 10:00 it’s freaking adorable, at 11:00 it is mildly amusing, around midnight it begins to lose its charm. By 4:00 a.m. it is the most annoying torture known to man. I’m considering petitioning the Hague to add a special addendum to the Geneva convention to that affect.

Daddy to the rescue! Of course he managed to get her to sleep in only 15 minutes. Plus, he’s hardly ticklish at all. Totally unfair.

Since he also let me sleep in, even though he is still working all day long from the hotel room while we do fun holiday things, he is pretty much my hero! I shall call him Captain and he can ring-a-ding-a-dong anytime he wants.

Everyone has a role to play in the family holiday, like our own bizarre pageant played out year after year. This year’s cast also includes:

L as the oldest child and cousin. She is the babysitter, helper and all around gal Friday.

C bringing some teenage-like angst to every situation. Catching a smile on camera is the Holy Grail of holiday photographs.

My 90-year-old Grandma who naps most of the day, then apologizes profusely for being such a burden to us all. Mostly I’m jealous of her ability to doze off with impunity.

My Mom who dotes on all the grandchildren and expects others to do the same. She is deeply offended when waiters and store clerks do not respond appropriately to her questions. “Isn’t this the most adorable child you have ever seen?”

My Dad who provides the ice cream. Anywhere, anytime is a good time for ice cream. Also, the first real food for 2 of my 3 children thanks to Grandpa.

My Aunt who remembers all the old stories. Out loud. Especially the ones you may want to forget.

My baby sister, a younger, cooler version of myself (although equally dorky about all things sci-fi), who had the nerve to grow up. Now she is a mom. I only forgive her for making me feel so old because my nephew is the snuggliest, smiliest baby in the world.

My brother-in-law who brings some Latino flair and energy to our staid, polite Canadian family. Plus, he provided the aforementioned nephew for me to enjoy. He can stay.

My nephew who spends his time eating, sleeping, eating, pooping, eating and posing for pictures. I may be even more envious of him than Grandma.

As for me, when everyone asks “what’s the plan?” their heads all turn to look at me. So, I guess that makes me The Boss. As it should be…

So it’s not exactly perfect. Our car just broke down and we are now arranging to have it towed, first to the Canadian border and then home. Glen is dealing with some work drama and taking a lot of important calls in the bathroom while we frantically shush the kids. Grandma is having some health problems “down below” – I’m not sure what that means, but I’m sure she’ll tell me in excruciating detail.

This may seem like an excellent time for a meltdown (and I have considered it), but it’s actually the perfect setup for Christmas. Cause it doesn’t need to be a Silent Night to be a Holy one. That’s the beauty of the story. All is not calm and all is not bright, but that’s exactly where Jesus shows up. In the middle of the crazy: God With Us.

So here’s me, hoping to sleep in heavenly peace tonight!

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