SUMMER!!!

Coffee on the veranda Summer is totally the boss. She’s the queen bee, the head honcho, the top dog. The boss of all the seasons. And why, you ask? Because I am sitting on my step in shorts and a tank top, sheltering my face from the gorgeous sun while writing this post. A breeze gently rustles the tree branches and birds can be heard chirping off in the distance. And I am not cold at all. AT ALL. Would I be brave enough to face the brutal elements in fall or spring? Probably NOT seeing as we still had snow in JUNE this year. Did you catch that…JUNE. Don’t even get me started on the insanity of winter.

There is very little bad I can say about summer. There are bad things that accompany summer like mosquitoes, ants, spiders, june bugs and ear wigs, flash rain showers and drought.  Heat rash. But they are all forgiven because, well…SUMMER!!!
Last night, I was chopping onions and green pepper for supper. I had chopped for fifteen minutes and then took my cutting board with the veggies over to my frying pan to scrape into my already sizzling hamburger. As I did, an earwig crawled out of the crack in the board and scurried upwards (ARGH!!!! don’t even get me started). I was immediately TOTALLY grossed out, but then I remembered: SUMMER!!!
Summer is the boss, and if summer means a few earwigs which I will chase out of my washcloths, cupboards and sink (bringing out my attractive MURDEROUS bent), so be it. Summer rules on this one.
Two nights ago, I was working on my Master’s thesis when out of no where, mosquitoes started to fly into my computer screen and hit me in the head. They appeared insane…I have no idea what they’ve been into, but they are just plain weird this year Of course, I wanted to scream (and MAYBE I did), but then I remembered….SUMMER!!
Three nights ago, a spark flew out of the fire pit and landed inside my shirt in some nether-region leaving an attractive inch long burn mark. I guess I was having too much fun to realize it at the time, having noticed the attractive camping souvenir two mornings later whilst in the shower. I guess if we are going to play with fire, we are going to get burned. At least that’s what the motto is in SUMMER. Summer this year also brought two weeks of cloud and rain. Whatevs, people. Is it cold out? Snowing? Is there ice on the driveway? AM I WEARING A SNOWSUIT?
I rest my case. Summer trumps everything.
BOOM
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Precious times, these years…

The other day, I left Alberton with four belligerent children and three others (people who were, incidentally, astonished by the commotion going on in our van). I departed the area absolutely stunned by the severity with which we battle it out over here in the Gard Household: it matters not where we find ourselves. Mill River, Florida, Dominican Republic- you name it. We fought there. Actually, we no sooner hover a toe over the threshold of the van and it is like a switch is turned on inside our brains that releases our inner warrior/dark side. Darth Vader has nothing on this family. We fight about seat positions. Fight about farting. Fight about burping. Fight about whether or not the sun sets in the west and rises in the east (maybe it does/maybe it doesn’t). Fight about music, about books, about universities that ten year olds wish to attend when they are 20.

We fight- and we do so incessantly. And because of this marvelous fun family fact, I can attest to our permanent membership in the infamous FightClub as members in good standing, with our family having the most experience tearing one another’s heads off/emotional collateral.

When I arrived home that particular day of which I write, I literally fell out if the van, a dazed expression on my face and asked my Husband, above the cacophony of noise, if he had missed us all that morning. His reply:

“Like the plague.”

He was not joking. Not even a little bit.

As I was a Kid Vid Cinema leader at DVBS all week, I had the extreme pleasure of waking my children up at what appeared to be twelve hours before daylight (hard to tell as we had no sun at all this week), coaxing them out of their warm, cozy beds (where in sleeping, they could not make any sound of retaliation/noise) and then driving my children plus three to programming at eight (or whenever) every morning- programming which I must admit that I personally enjoyed almost more than the children as I was able to exercise/hone my dance skills each and every day (to the absolute horror/disgust of my two oldest).

The best part of this experience was that this four hour stretch was a glorious time of no fighting. For four hours, my four children were not clawing each other’s eyes out, were not tearing one another apart. And even better, for most of that time, they were someone elses’ responsibility (so even if they did happen to fight, I could feign ignorance and complete unawareness of what was happening). You cannot even imagine what this opportunity meant to a mother like me who has permanent damage in her ear drums from shrill, ear-splitting screams.

DVBS, while similar to real school, is a wonderful opportunity for mothers such as myself to release their precious offspring into the wild, I mean world, for a few brief and precious hours; handing off the responsibility of breaking up their fights, following them around like a hawk, rescuing them from imminent danger, feeding them snacks, protecting them from injury and in general, basking in their presence. They also get to learn, discover and grow spiritually while there. Bonus! And in doing such (that is, releasing them/freeing yourself), they come to find themselves in the extremely competent and capable hands of other adults who do this kind of stuff for free. For any mother, it is a no-brainer.

Next summer, if our numbers haven’t quadrupled by word-of-mouth advertising I will personally sign on for therapy due to stress incurred from shock and surprise.

The fighting unfortunately does resume once the troops have landed back on home soil. I am sorry to say. We have taken to playing a particular hymn called “They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love” at meal time. Thankfully there are different versions of the song because for quite a while (until we found an electronic version), Brian just sang it himself. He also has been working on “You Picked A Fine Time To Leave Me Lucille” for those days when even the hymn won’t work.

He is learning extra lines of that one.

Interestingly, at bedtime- at the very last possible moment before the kiddos lay their heads on their pillows, there is a brief interlude of peace in which my mind goes blank and I forget any and all bad things that might have happened during the previous fourteen hours. This glorious experience is known as parental amnesia and it is vital to the proper functioning of any mother/father wishing to hang tight for twenty-five or so years of steady parenting and live to talk about it. (Relax: this extended time frame only applies if you have as many kids as me!) Parental amnesia has saved my sanity. It is the reason I poke my head into their rooms each night and say to myself:

“It really wasn’t all that bad of a day”…

…before waking up again the next morning to the precious sounds of kids yelling for their brother/sister to “get out of the bathroom- you’re taking too long!!!!”

Precious times, these years

A Post {written on behalf of my “friend”}

Okay. I saw tonight that a big-time blogger (Jen Hatmaker) was asking questions of her readers as it concerned her “yet-on-display” Christmas decorations still being up past the New Year- all on behalf of her “friend” who wanted to know. Which got me thinking about a few questions that my own dear “friend” would like to know. So here goes, (in no order of importance):

So I will just up and ask this one first: is it normal for children to fight with one another in the midst of praying bedtime prayers? My “friend” was just wondering…and here is what she said to me- for the record…

“I am not questioning that kids cannot have conflict. Goodness KNOWS I understand that concept. But can we not FOR THE LOVE just get along while we are PRAYING, PEOPLE!!!!!! Okay, so I’ll admit it- we have laughed at one another during prayers (see my status on Daughter calling her cousin by the wrong name), we have interrupted one another to “fix” statements that weren’t true, I have run out of the room on several occasions—and yes, we have broken out in fights with crying- just because. But seriously??? Must we fight ALL THE TIME??  I guess I will plead my case as one of insanity….”

Poor wench, bless her heart. What she really needs is a Valium. Would someone provide some insight for that wretched soul on how to pray properly?

Are there any experts out there?

Okay. So she was also wondering. In exactly how much poor taste would it be to leave your Christmas decorations up all year- never mind only until January? Because last year she did just that (Dickens village) and this year she is wondering if she might get away with it again?

And while we are on the topic of organization- she wondered this as well: exactly what is wrong with finding baby food (peas and yellow beans) in your cupboard even though your youngest baby is now almost eight. And who says twenty-year old tea bags from your honeymoon might not come in handy some day when company come over and you run out of the fresh stuff?

Hmmm?

Look, these are HER questions- not mine. So don’t judge.

She is also wondering if buying twelve chocolate bars in one evening as supper for her family is really that great an evil. Not that even SHE would ever have done this. She is just defending the other poor wretches that might consider the possibility.  I think she has a friend of her own that was asking…

Anyways. All information you might proffer to help her answer these and other life-or-death dilemmas would be ever so helpful. For now, I will try to break it down to her: even though she thought she lost her cell phone yesterday and thought someone even might have stolen it so that she had to ask people to borrow their phones and then she ended up losing a child for a short period of time because of it- only to find the darned phone today safely in her purse twenty-four hours later- even though.  And notwithstanding this information: does this mean she is one step closer to losing every last marble she was ever gifted with at birth?  She is dying to know.

Here’s what I think: there still might be one or two left.

Bless her heart.

Ten Ways Storm Days Bring Me to Insanity

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(please read the following with a sense of humor!!!)

You know how ten minutes prior to eating the entire bag of potato chips it seems like a good idea? Or two minutes prior to inhaling your Big Mac Combo meal- you feel weak in the knees and ravenous because you think it is going to taste SO GOOD. This, my friends, is me- every night prior to a possible delay/cancellation which might bring about a storm day. It just seems like it will be a sweet slice of heaven. A day full of joy and goodwill, marshmallows and cupcakes.

BUT PEOPLE- storm days are a trick. A ploy. And I think they just might be God’s gentle way of reminding us why real-life and routine and everyday hustle and bustle are really not that bad. Please bear in mind that I would LOVE storm days if I was stormed inside my house with four children wired with remote control silencers. Or if I was home by myself and my dear offspring, by some stroke of luck, were at storm-day school. Would absolutely LOVE them. But as I am not home alone and the children have no “off-button”, here are TEN ways storm days reduce me to a burned-out pile of frazzled nerves. Bear in mind, this is all in good fun people. If a storm were predicted for next week, I would probably again feel like a five-year old child waiting for Santa on Christmas Eve.

10. Houses in storms are like hamster cages. I have such pity for my furry little rodent friends after having gone through a storm day. But then again, who is worse off? Hamsters just get to sit there- eat, do their business and sleep. Not so for mothers. And we don’t even have a wheel to pretend we are going somewhere.

9. People still think they have to eat. What is with that? And they think about food a lot. Probably more than they would think about it otherwise- like on a day with nary a snowflake in the sky.

8. Since everyone is holed up together, the odds are things are not going to be smooth sailing. This is the understatement of the century. I will not let on that I had two nervous breakdowns today. I won’t mention that part. I will just let you believe that I was slightly cranky. And that’s enough ’bout that.

7. When things are seemingly going swimmingly, someone will inevitably find something to say/do to someone else that will cause a World War to erupt. Which is to say, we will no longer be playing “Who-noo” in this family.

6. You never quite get done what you thought you would get done- too many expectations and sadly too many mouths to feed/lost items to retrieve/jobs to do/laundry to fold/toilets to wipe.

5. Sadly, you never actually sit down and read that book you said you were going to read. (a.k.a. laundry/toilets)

4. You do end up getting yourself into a project that causes the house to look like an avalanche hit it- something you won’t be able to rectify until it is far too late in the day. And by that time, you don’t care anymore.

3. Your children- who were so delightful when the radio announcements were made early on in the day aren’t quite so cute and charming and sweet as you first found them. At least they are not from about 4:00 p.m. on.

2. But then again. While the evening prior you had the grace and patience of an angel, by 8:00 p.m. on the eve of a storm night, you become a cross between Godzilla and the Wicked Witch of the West. Which is putting it rather nicely.

1. Storm days, while nice, are like candy- too much of a good thing can give you a pain in the gut. And that again is the nicest, sweetest possible way of putting it.

Here’s to regular Fridays!! Have a great evening everyone!!

The joy of field trips…

Retrieved from Johnston’s Schools website

I came home tonight after watching a killer last set in my daughter’s volleyball game (please do not ask a whole lot of questions about the first four sets, ‘cause that score was kind of private) to which I heard the following anguished cry from Youngest not even five minutes after lighting the home fires:

“Mooooooooommmmmm….(heave, heave, sob, sob)…..I just….(sobbing) burned down my house on Minecraft…accidentally. And it was my favoritest house ever. And I just had made it…..(sobbing).”

It’s interesting how these funny little things follow me around- just begging for me to write about them. We were at the dentist today about a permanent tooth that Daughter had broken two weekends ago on a Saturday afternoon. How do you tell the inquiring dentist that your child broke said tooth playing “Abduct the Baby” with her little sister? It’s just not the normal excuse. And just for the record, the dentist did ask. (I was very vague). I mentioned this all to a friend at the store and she said that her child had also had a similar catastrophe, only to another part of the body while straddling the black bin in their driveway, singing at the top of her lungs.

I could just totally relate- neither one of us thought either occurrence was less than normal. But I guess the average person does not live this way.

So what this story is REALLY about is our school field trip today. Wow, just wow. Where do I begin…? For the record, the above stories were just my warm-up.

How does one frame a blog article about a field trip adventure in which a bus full of three kindergarten classes of children ages 4-5 is pulled off the road for an hour and a half because its crisis exits are screaming “Emergency! Emergency!” in a language all their own? How do you even start discussing bathroom issues? Or temporary bushes with prickles that can serve as the restroom when all else fails? Thank goodness for Kleenex.

All I have to say is this: to those passer-bys that saw a woman jumping up and down, touching her derriere, rubbing her belly and then doing scissors jumps/jumping jacks, you try entertaining 35 youngsters for an hour and a half on the side of the road. I dare you. It’s a game called Simon Says and kids love it. Maybe you’ve heard of it.

Okay, seriously. I am just so thankful for the neighbors who saw me (obscurely, I swear) hiding in the bush with one Little Person and then kindly offered their “facilities” to the rest of the kiddos on the bus. Thank you. Words cannot express… I am sure I looked like a wild woman because at the time I was also trying to protect said child from the dog that kept barking at us from across the road. I was sincerely concerned for everyone’s safety, not the least of which was my own.

Back to the woman across the road. She was simply the best. And what she did was humbling, it was simply just too kind. (Now that I think about it, were we doing them a favor by removing ourselves from the bushes on the sides of their road?) At any rate, that woman deserves a Good Neighbor/Good Citizen award- she was amazing. Simply above and beyond amazing. She turned her television on, offered us her washroom (which we paraded in steadily for the better part of an hour, boots, dirt and all) along with water to drink from her kitchen faucet. And she trusted us enough that she left and drove off with all of us still on her lawn. I mean, really: where but the country would this ever happen. We then continued to enjoy the property, playing numerous games of Duck, Duck Goose and the afore-mentioned Simon Says until the Department of Transportation showed up in all their glory after having got lost a time or two on the back-roads of P.E.I. and generously fixed the bus

It was a time. A TIME I say. I sure had fun.

Needless to say, I had planned a full slate of activities for the day. I am nothing if not a glutton for punishment. I had invited a professional chef to come into the school and bake apple pies with each of my students as a surprise for their parents. Boo hoo, ’cause that unfortunately never happened. But then again: the apples were not ‘all there’, shall we say, by the end of the day anyway (became the snack); even if they had been, cooking pies in a half of an hour would have been even an absolute miracle even for her and she’s one of the most amazing chefs I know.

So, it’s been a slice. A slice of every kind of apple I know, including Honeycrisp (which the bus driver ended up finding and picking for me after I had run all over the orchard looking for them during my five minute break (or I could call it my ‘break your neck’ as that’s my kind of luck), I spent my time aimlessly running around the orchard only to find these beauties were growing in the row marked “Jona Gold”. So that’s how they keep ’em a secret. Who knew.

Can’t wait for the next field trip.

The Thing About Toddlers…

Toddlers, pre-schoolers and kindergartners are so amazingly cute and adorable. Wise and witty. They are funny and insightful and precocious and downright wonderful, really. But when it comes to some things, I just have to shake my head in absolute perplexity. For one thing: why are toddlers/kindergartners/kids so distracted when you want them to do something (like eat their supper); but when they want you to do something, they cannot think about anything else for the next four hours, talking about that one thing INCESSANTLY so that you want to pull every strand of hair from your head and wind it around your ears to form makeshift ear plugs. WHY IS THIS (this unfair reality of life with a toddler)?

For another thing: why do these Delights of our Hearts have such selective hearing… when their young eardrums are at the prime of their life?  It doesn’t seemingly get any better with age, right?  So why in tarnation can’t they hear anything? WHY???  Let’s get real: I know they hear everything, I am positive they do. But I still must say everything at least TEN TIMES so as to get the desired result.  WHY, WHY, WHY???

And why in the name of time do toddlers/kindergarteners/kids up to age 7 know how to ask a bazillion questions at the absolute worst time- to which you have no answer and to which there may BE no answer (but to give them your i-phone and tell them to ask Siri); but when it comes time to pose a question to someone in a formal way, under pressure and on-the-spot, they draw a blank?
WHY IS THAT???? What is up with all this confusion, I ask you? WHAT???!!

The thing about kids and kindergarteners (and toddlers, for that matter) BLESS THEIR PRECIOUS HEARTS is they don’t yet know the rules.  They haven’t learned how to do things formally. They know how to do things informally- when the pressures is off. But when pressed to perform, everything breaks down.

Case in point.

So, we had a meet-the-new-RCMP-liasion PLUS Hallowe’en safety talk the other day in the library.  One month before the big day (don’t ask- it’s just when it was scheduled, okay?). Right off the get-go, one little girl took a quick first-glance at the “6’ plus many other inches” constable and promptly started crying. Shaky start. I don’t think the uniform/gun holster helped matters any, but everyone was really starting to warm up after we got Little Miss moved to the back. Phew. So, we got that all under control and started in on the safety talk.

Everything was going along swimmingly until the question and answer time. We explained that the children could now ask a question- which is to say, it was now OKAY for them to continue waving their hands like flags at a Canada Day celebration (which they had already been doing for the last 15 minutes anyway). So, the first little hand got picked to ask a question and she promptly said, “Don’t run across the road.”

Nice safety rule, but not a question.

So we tried another little waving hand.  Hand was up- that hand was picked…and then this (in a sweet little voice):

“Hold your mother’s hand.”

Okay…this isn’t working.


So, after a few of these more-than-valid insights, I stopped the show and explained what a question was, along with help from my cohort of other kindergarten teachers. We explained ‘who, what, when and where…” Gave examples. And then picked another hand.

“Always look both ways before crossing the road.”

So that was the end of that. No more question and answer with Constable Dave.  No more hand-picking.

Bless that poor man’s heart, I hope he will come back again in time for our Christmas safety lesson.

And in the meanwhile, we’ll be working on the 5 W’s.  Just in time for our next Q & A.

Best End of Summer Parent Ever

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I apologize to anyone who is still not on summer vacation.  As well as to anyone reading this who has returned to school.  I am Canadian and our summer vacation starts basically in July.  So forgive me for still holding on to summer until the bitter end.

The other morning, I had Youngest to the Doctor. When it came to the eye/ear exam, the good physician peered into my child’s unshowered/unbathed/unwashed ear and exclaimed: “Oh, good. She has two grains of sand in her ears. All children should have at least some sand in their ears in the summer.”

Huh. I had no idea.

And if that were not reason enough to love summer- c’mon, it is the one time of the year we are awarded brownie points at the doctor’s office for uncleanliness, my child’s pediatrician also had this to say about Daughter’s bruised/scabby legs: “I see someone has been playing outside a lot this summer.”

{Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.}

So I guess that’s a score for Your’s Truly. I might have a child that looks like a prisoner of war/child soldier, but it doesn’t even matter. It’s summer. And the dirty, wounded, scabbed look is all the rage during this optimum time of year.

I am sorry to say this, Dear Girlfriends of mine who are chomping at the bit for school to arrive.  I know you love the routine of September and its glorious, blissful seven-hour school days, but… it is still summer people. It might be August. The days might be longer. The weather changing. The wardrobe needing of a little warmish fall apparel.  The sun moving farther from our northerly parts. But it is still summer. And I will hold to that sentiment until 6:45 a.m. the morning I am scheduled to be back at work. I read Jen Hatmaker’s tribute to being the ‘worst end of summer parent’, and I confess: I am just not ready to get off this train. The caboose may be headed down a crash course to oblivion but I am holding on tight. I will ride it until the bitter end.

What’s not to love about summer, my dear people? The long days, the endless options, the sun. The SUN. I mean, seriously?!  Lest we forget the power outages due to record snowfall/ice storms back in far-away, far-off February/March, the snowsuits, winter boots, frozen car interiors and the like.  Let me remind you: THERE IS NO SNOW IN SUMMER. 

Hello. Best.reason.ever. (to love summer).

But that said, there are so many other reasons to love this fair time of year. Oh, let me count the ways:

1. It is the one time of year I can bar-b-q breakfast, lunch and supper. You think I am kidding. I am not. Well, maybe about breakfast, but that is only because we have a toaster.
2. My kids are tired, whiny, cranky, exhausted- you name it, but I am not even losing  (all of my) marbles. Because it’s summer- and I know that tomorrow there is the very good chance that they will sleep in. And maybe so will I.
3. I can get away with wearing a bathing suit as an outfit (as unpleasant an image as that might conjure up in some of your minds).
4. It is the one time of the year I survive on a steady intake of iced coffee, milkshakes and smoothies as my dairy supplement.
5. Camping. There are not enough words to describe my adoration for camping.  I absolutely adore campgrounds with pools, other peoples’ children (serving as a distraction for my own Four Dear Ones), sewer hook-up, water and electricity. I would sell all I own and take up waterfront residence at KOA Cornwall, PEI in a heartbeat (if it meant never needing to vacuum again).
6. Smores. Best supper alternative ever.
7. Flip-flops.  Slip on, slip off.  Ingenious.
8. Warm, balmy evening air- there are no words to describe this amazing natural wonder.  I love leaving the house in anything less than a parka.
9. Summer relaxation- is there anything like it? Is there anything quite like an evening sitting out by a campground with friends, watching the wood in the fire pit smoulder and burn?  Anything quite like an afternoon spent on the water?  Or a quiet morning whittled away on the porch swing? I should say not. You can take that pleasant memory with you to the cold, frigid days of late January and let it sit there and shiver.
10. Last but not least- water. Water in the summer is paradise. I love looking at it, touching it, drinking it, pouring it over my flowers, boating on it, swimming in it, canoeing over it, diving under it, splashing it on unsuspecting people. I can even tolerate small portions of time spent cleaning with it (particularly if I am at a campground- see #5) Water in summer is at it’s best. Throwing ice at people when the temperature is -26 with the windchill just doesn’t have the same effect.

Look, I understand. We are all burn-out right about now. My children cry over nothing. Nothing! If someone looks at them the wrong way there are noises emanating from them that could break the sound barrier. But I will put up with this minor inconvenience if it means summer will stay.

Keep your piece of mind- I will have my blissful slice of summer lovin’.