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.

Best End of Summer Parent Ever


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’.

On Boredom and Wonder

It’s a day to be filled with wonder and gratitude.

The water is absolutely crystal clear- so clear I can see the lines along the sandy floor of the ocean bed where little hermit crabs have dragged their hard-shelled home along for the ride. It is one of those blissful summer days and we are spending it, more or less, here at a little piece of P.E.I. paradise called Canoe Cove. My daughter remarks, “I don’t know why they call it Canoe Cove- nobody canoes there.” No, but they do search for bar clams, and skim board, and throw Frisbees and build sand castles and make fairy forts and carve out time for seal sightings. Oh, and swim. The swimming here is glorious. If you catch it at low or high tide- any time at all really, it is worth a swim. The pools of water just perfect for families with young children. Later in the summer, we’ll be back to swim again in warm August waters and then we’ll climb out dripping wet, ready for a rest on shore before combing through low-lying blueberry bushes just for a taste of that juicy summer sweetness on our eager tongues.

One summer, the daisies grew so plentifully, I plaited them into winding crowns and placed them on my daughter’s heads before posing them (safely) along the edge of a cliff so as to take their picture.  They obliged- as long as I promised to have a swim with them as soon as our photo-shoot had ended. We have had family reunions here in this place: birthday parties and rehearsal suppers the night before the wedding day. This place is home to me and my family.

It is a little bit of God’s glorious heaven here on earth.

Later on, we change out of sandy bathing suits and pack up our faded sheet and books and all the other beach trappings we’ve brought with us to whittle away the day. We pack it all in, and then we bid a wistful fond adieu to those we’ve left behind. Two grandparents, an aunt and a family friend. Beaches are the best places to re-connect. And then we drive the winding dirt lane, past the country church with noble steeple reaching high to the sky, so as to cross the bridge over waters lined with bulrushes. We then turn down towards farm country.

As we drive past the first field green with summer grasses, I notice a whole herd of Brown Swiss and Angus moving quickly towards the corner of one fence. It is the fence closest to the road, thus why I noticed this strange convoy. I can’t imagine what the commotion is all about as this is not milking nor feeding time, nor is this the well-worn path to the barn. What I do catch lying there on the ground, something I just happen to notice out of the corner of my eye as we drive quickly by, is a bright, red balloon sitting motionless on the grass at that particular corner of the fence- wayward remnant from a birthday party next door. The cows move toward it in frenzied furore. Their sole focus- the object of their intent driving this processional is the perplexing thing which has landed just inside the perimeter of their territory, an area they know is clearly marked for them. They stand back a distance, but every one of their soft muzzles points expectantly toward that bright colored, mysterious object.

They appear transfixed. With wonder, and awe and curiosity.

If animals can exhibit this beautiful combination of attributes and character, how much more then should we too be in wondrous awe at the beauty and miracle of the life we are living. And yet, twice this past week, I have heard school-aged children speak the ill-fated words: “I’m bored.” I wonder myself, what dis-service are we doing to our children that this little word has even become part of their vocabulary?

There is so much to wonder in, gaze at, fix our attention upon.

Life is too interesting to be boring.

William Ayers had this to say about teaching:

“Teaching is hard work, tougher than learning, because you must find an infinite number of ways to let students learn. And teaching is all that much tougher when you retreat from the spotlight, redirect the focus of attention to the students themselves, now at center stage. You place yourself to the side and become something new: the guide and the mentor, the coach and the conductor. You notice modes of energy everywhere, life and effort in a thousand directions. You need to summon new courage to teach in this place, a keener attentiveness, a more responsive style. One new challenge will be to create an environment for learning and living that is rich enough, deep enough, and wide enough to embrace and challenge the students who actually walk through the door (Ayers, 2003, p. 27-28)

The challenge: to summon the courage to teach in this way and to be ready to rise to the occasion for learning that is deep and soul-changing.

Recently, I took my students on a listening walk. Run down emotionally from constantly asking them all to settle their inside voices and classroom energies to a dull roar, it was a move done initially in desperation.  Rather than sound like a broken record, we took that excitement and passion and channelled it into an exercise in concentration. We walked as a community of learners on a dusty dirt road with the sole purpose of noticing things- both with our eyes and ears. With our hands and feet. We saw so much that we came back and wrote about it as a class, compiling our findings in a classroom book about bugs, and birds and flowers. About a farmer driving his tractor as he ploughed a field in preparation for planting. About cars whizzing by. Things we’d otherwise have missed had we not taken the time to be present in those precious moments of learning and discovery.

I never heard the words, “I’m bored.”

Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory…

Mine eyes have seen the glory.  And it kind of looks like the splendid months of July and August.  Let me be the teacher to say it out loud: summer can’t come fast enough.  And not just for the hot, sunny weather, Netflix and Freezies.

You know how all you parents out there can’t wait until you can stop packing kid lunches that simultaneously ‘contain and avoid’ any and all toxins, allergens, vegetables, peel-able fruit that children won’t eat (such as oranges and apples), along with any and all generally gross, yucky kid-hating stuff?

Like flakes-of-ham sandwiches?   Akin to it’s sister- food group, ‘cat food’?

You know how you detest the nightly signing of fourteen different pieces of paper (not-including your kid’s homework agendas) and how you all loathe bi-weekly paying in installments for end-of-the-year field trips?  The latter of which has dipped into your retirement savings, forcing you to consider whether or not you might also need to pick up a second job?  You know how your child’s jean collection is now down to one good pair (which is still shredded beyond any means of repair in key areas like the knees, bum and crotch)?  And you know how you are all just desperately praying that the duct tape holding your kid’s backpacks together won’t let go until your child’s report card is safely in your hands?

Don’t get me started on indoor sneakers.

You know what I’m talking about.  About how we parents are holding out hope that we won’t lose our last thread of sanity to some June-madness/end-of-school function or poorly devised make-work project conniving-ly scheduled for the last month of the school calendar?

I feel your pain.  And then some.

Because I am teacher and I am losing my marbles at an alarming rate these days.  These crazy, fun-filled last days of the school year.    Aren’t they bliss?  The world likes to refer to it as the month of June, but we all in the school-system (kids and teachers alike) know it is really called ‘the countdown to holidays’.  A time of the year when the finish line is deceivingly close, yet still far enough away to warrant in-class work and out of class assignments.  And we teachers/students know this month of June countdown is solely a figment of our imagination fooling us into believing we have made it to the end when we still have one whole month left.   But then again, you do what you have to do to get by.

And then some.

If that feeling of exasperation and frustration we all feel as parents were a number.  Multiply that number by twenty to the power of 45 and that kind of would sum up where a teacher’s mental status is right about now.  In other words.  Certifiable and ready for the looney bin, if you are like myself  and find even math at this time of the year too hard to grasp.

I found myself the other day trying to add up change that I owed a fellow co-worker, and this little exercise in mathematics cut ten minutes into my lunch break because I could not, I tell you, figure out even the simplest of math equations- using a pen and paper and the original receipt, no less.  That’s how bad it is.

And we teachers are barely holding on to that dwindling reserve of common sense and good judgment we are getting paid to exhibit.  Let alone, our ability to perform and function in an educational, institutional environment as normal, adult-like figures.  I find myself yawning at the drop of a hat.  Speechless, and then slurring my words together at any given moment.  Unable to read the words in a book correctly, so much so that my avid Kindergarten readers are now correcting me.  On simple words like ‘the’, nonetheless.    I am forgetful.  Absent-minded.  I spill things.  I fall up the steps.  I forget meetings.  I am late for meetings.  I am still late for school.

I have even killed the classroom plants.  Twice.

In my view, the month of June calls for drastic emergency measures to be taken in the form of extended recess and end of the day games, such as ‘duck-duck-goose’.   Or at the very least.    It calls for a few good books and a picnic blanket on which to rest while whittling the afternoon away reading a great book.  Or the sale flyer.  I am open minded and ready for suggestions.  But please just let it be an outside activity.  Because an outdoor education is severely under-rated.  And I can’t think of a better time than June to examine the results of which.

And in closing, homework in June should be just a suggestion.  If you are bored, it is raining, you already filed you toenails and all your bikes have flat tires, you can then justify and endure the forty-five painful minutes it takes to complete the Easy Reader sent home on worms to read with your child.  Not that I don’t love reading.  Because you all know I do.   But let’s get real.  And believe me when I say this, as I am being completely transparent here: I am sadly guilty of assigning nightly homework for my child and then not even cracking open the masking tape holding that reading bag together.  It just didn’t get done.  We were too busy playing.

So cut me some slack, and I most certainly will return the favor.    Back ‘atcha.

What I won’t miss: the insanely late nights and wicked early mornings.  The long meetings and crazy hectic schedule.   Eating while standing close to the door as I simultaneously supervise and try to keep from choking on my apple.  Trying to find ways to bribe children into eating the food their parent’s packed for them.   Trying to bribe my own child to eat the food her father packed her, and not my own hastily packed lunch which I am eating in front of her, on the fly.   And I won’t miss telling children for the umpteenth time to either pull their fingers out of the nose, out of their pants or out of their friend’s sandwich.

But then again, there are a few things I will miss.  The hugs.  The smiles.  The precious voices and laughter.  And the hilariously funny things I get to hear each and every day from the mouths of the students I see and teach.  Kid humor.  There’s nothing like it.

I’m really gonna miss the kids.

So, bring on the July heat-wave.  The beach strolls and the sand in my hair.  And bring on the super-reasonable passes to the local Fun Park.  And then, let the games begin.

Can’t wait to see all my favorite kids at the pool.  All 200 of them.

On life and hummingbirds…

Summer heat, haze of humidity presses down.  I am sitting on the porch swing.  It is August, and I have escaped to get a break from the children, from the craziness going inside the house.  I settle in with a good read, or so I hope.  And occasionally, I look up from my book to gaze down at the blue of the water, at the river traffic.  Sailboats, kayaks, speedboats, catamarans.  It appears somewhat peaceful out there.  While the veranda is still only a scream away from the hubbub inside our home.

As I am reading, a blur appears before my eyes.  An apparition.   It comes directly between my eyes as if to attack me while I peacefully recline.  In an instant, I recognize it as a hummingbird.  It comes close enough to my face that I can feel the beating of its wings.   All seventy-five beats per second from what I have read.   It remains suspended before me, a blur of feathers, wings and motion.  And then it moves to the side of my head, toward my ear, as if to feed.

I wear a bright fuschia t-shirt, comfy and well-worn.  And to this small creature, I appear to be food.  A source of nourishment.  I am flower, provider of nectar-life to a hummingbird.  For a brief second, creature and human are transfixed with one another.  A meeting of a supernatural kind occurs.   And I am left spell bound.

All for the life and wonder- indeed the miracle, that is a tiny hummingbird.

Life.  Such a vague, abstract concept.  For many years I have wondered when my ‘real-life’ will begin.  When the dreams I had as a child will be realized in a final, ultimate sort of life plan.  When the exciting life I envisioned for myself will kick in and set into motion everything I have ever dreamed my time here on earth might be, unfolding in some kind of providential way.  Like in the movies.  Or in a good book.  Or as I see it happening in some people’s lives- famous or otherwise.

And sometimes I think this: maybe there is an ultimate plan that God has for me which will soon begin- a plan to be a change-maker, a difference.  To make history.  To be part of something bigger.  Anything bigger and better than this- my ordinary, everyday life.  Lived in the hum-drum of work, after-school activities and housework.  Lived in the often monotonous hamster-wheel of duty, responsibility and commitment.    Seriously.   I dream of more than this.  And if we all were honest, we do have dreams, some bigger than others.  But dreams nonetheless.  And there is a little part inside us all that dreams or imagines that someday- one day, those dreams will be realized in a climatic fashion.  As can be the case.


But what of life that plods along, never to become that ultimate plan of realization?  Is that life lived up to its utmost potential?  Is it life well lived?  Is there always an ultimate plan awaiting us all?

Or is everyday life itself the plan.

Some online reflections written by friends and family this week have given me pause for thoughtful deliberation of my own.  On the subject of life.  Or Life.  Or is that LIFE.  With ‘life’, being that which is lived behind closed doors- in private,  ‘Life’ being that which is lived in public and ‘LIFE’, which I would submit is all-encompassing.  LIFE in its entirety- the quiet moments of obscurity to those very larger than life moments of recognition and acknowledgment.

Do we live our life as the public persona or the private self?  Or do we live equally as both?  Is the life we live in the day-to-day enough to carry our dreams or do we dare dream of more than this?  Why is thinking about life so important anyway?  If the public life is going well and the private life is not, have we still a claim to have lived well?  What is more important- the relationships we hold closest to our heart, but which bring us the most pain and trial; or are the most important relationships those that are held at a distance, shared with colleagues and acquaintances that might support us in our biggest dreams, but which are not forced to deal with the inner struggles?

And where is God in all of this- this stuff of mortals, time and distance?

I am uncertain of what lies beyond today.  Beyond this moment I am in.  Right now.  If there is an ultimate plan, it must be this: to be all that I can be right now.  To live large in this moment.  To be honest and true in my writing.  To be kind and fair to my children.  To be patient and wise with my students.  To be compassionate and grace-filled with my relationships.  To make a difference in the lives of all whom I cross paths.  Today.  For today is all I can be held accountable for.  And if today has been well-lived, then my ultimate life plan will have been realized.

For being the best I can be, giving the most I can give, offering the most I can offer as I live moment by moment is all I can do right now.  I can only live what I have been given.  And the life I have been given for today is enough.

Who can put a value on a life?  Does life lived out quietly bear the weight of significance equally with that of the life lived visibly?  Who can tell which is worth more to the Father?   Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they? (Matthew 6:26, NIV)

A hummingbird is among the smallest of birds.  A vulnerable bird, with a relatively short life span.  One could say as birds go, it is rather insignificant.  Beautiful, but rather non-consequential as feathered creatures go.  And yet a chance encounter with a hummingbird on a mid-summer day was a pivotal moment for me.  Reminding me time and time again that life is not always about the biggest moments.  It is more about the beautiful moments lived out in the simplicity of everyday life.

And it is about the extraordinary miracles experienced in the otherwise ordinary here and now.

Joy in rest…

Drifting over salt water, as deep and blue as my daughter’s eyes, we spend a lazy summer afternoon on the water. The basin where we currently are set is past the North Port Harbour in western P.E.I., and we find ourselves tracing the shores of the sand hills, all while traveling alongside the protected shoreline of the Cascumpec Bay.  This place where boat touches the elusive deep is sacred, a place where one is close to nature and to God.  Where the regular hum of activity is but a distant memory.  And instead of rushing about, getting things done, we are at times just idling along.

The radiant sunlight, both brilliant and glaring, spreads its warmth over my skin.  The fishing boat that carries this animated crew is alive with activity of a different nature than its usual sort.  On board, there is lots of chatter and a few whom play silly games in the helm, free from the prying eyes of adults. Some hang feet over the side to catch the spray off the wake.  Other sink into lawn chairs and snooze.  One is getting sailing lessons inside the cuddy.

I am perched on the side board, looking out over the water.  It is glorious to be here, in this moment.  This day set aside for rest and unwinding the tightly bound muscles of the soul.  It’s a reunion day with family and friends; a day whittled away on the back of a boat going nowhere fast.  And time stands still, or though it seems, for in these precious moments I let go and breathe deeply the goodness of life.

I taste the salt water on my lips.

And I realize that whether or not I choose to embrace the calm, it is here.  There are pockets of time in life that we can choose to guard and shelter.  Schedules can sometimes wait, and so can commitments.  Sometimes it feels good to say “no;” or, “wait” or “I’ll do that later.”  Because all too often, I don’t put off until tomorrow what can be done just as well then.  I mostly do everything today, everything that is, but rest. And so, I push myself until I drop.  My flame flickers and threatens to burn out.  My cup empties.  I deplete myself of refreshment. I empty.

This summer, as usual, there are endless activities, practices, family commitments, appointments and birthday parties for which I am expected to show up.  Some of which, I am expected to host.  Some I organize.  And some I plan.  You would think the summer would be easier than the rest of the year, but it is like anything else.   It can be a hectic, busy time of the year.  If we allow ourselves to fill up our day planners, then we cannot expect life to be restful.  Those two do not generally go hand in hand: a full schedule and rest.

And so, I name them, those restful moments thus far when I read several books, slept in and stood in the crashing waves.  Those precious times when I walked barefoot on the beach, watched a brilliant sunset, enjoyed fireworks or ordered supper in.  Can there be more?  When I lounged on the couch, sat on our porch swing, and licked an ice cream cone- it was pure idleness.  When I held a child on my lap, pushed off on a swing and rode my son’s bike.  Joy in rest and relaxation.  And although life is busy and the days fill up with more than enough activity to keep me moving, I don’t want to regret a single moment.  I want to preserve in my day a few moments in which I can truly rest and savor the goodness of what it is to be human.  Which is to say, that I will attempt to do the following: savor the fragrant smell of wild summer roses.  And drink in the heady scent of summer rain.  And feel grass beneath my feet.  Touch hands. Embrace. Let go. Rest.

Joy in slices…

I do not believe in fairy tales, and neither do I believe in happy endings.  Life, as I see it, is a series of imperfections, unfortunate experiences, and hard times that follow one after the other.  People talk about life being beautiful, precious and wildly exciting, but I don’t see it.  I really don’t.  Life is just plain harsh, with a little break in the insanity once in a while which fools you into thinking life might not be so brutal as you once imagined it to be.  Well, guess what?   It is brutal, and then some.  But I would be remiss to fail to acknowledge that sandwiched in the middle of all this stuff that makes life so frustrating and hardly worth the while are little reminders that life can be a small slice of heaven.  Even if only once in a while.

We ate out with our extended family tonight, a happy, joyful bunch of revellers I might add, and I watched out of the corner of my eye as my aging father struggled to get his fork to his mouth and later to open up his package of crackers.  Let’s just forget the fact that he asked for crackers, and had failed to notice that the crackers which came with his soup were sitting on the side of his plate already.  His life can seem to me, harsh and unforgiving.  His Parkinson’s is disabling and debilitating.  If he were me, I would believe that life was not only harsh and brutal, but also unfair.  He who struggles to move limbs and propel his body forward.  We take motion for granted, as we do everything else in this life we live.  My father- an example of the life lived under duress and within constraint. Without freedom.   And yet, there is still that sliver of heaven.  There is always heaven.

I go out to visit them this evening, and the first thing he tells me is that they have been given a two-week, all-expense paid trip to Florida next spring courtesy of a long-time friend of their’s that owns a R.V. and whom has kindly offered it up for my parent’s vacationing pleasure.  A little sliver of heaven.  Will it cure Dad’s Parkinson’s?  No.  Will it lift them from their debts and enable them financially, to live the high life of well-off retirees? No.  Will they expect to do this every year, now that they have had a taste of a snow bird’s lifestyle?  Not a chance.  They will take it for what it is.  A little slice of heaven.

Here and now are slices of heaven in each and every day, found in moments few and far between, at times.   Take this moment, right now, for instance.

It is a moment transpiring on a beautiful moonlit night.  The moon shines full on the water, creating a circular reflection of light that gives the appearance of a golden bowl into which one could dive and swim clear to the bottom.  I am camping with the family on the lovely West River, a feeder waterway for the Charlottetown Harbour.  The air is balmy, and a slight bit damp as we head to the bathrooms to brush our teeth and make that last visit to the toilet.  These bathrooms are perpetually gross in every way, and my daughter almost slips on the slimy floors outside the showers as she pads towards the last bathroom stall her mother has deemed fit for use.  We must layer the seat with an inch of toilet paper before she is even allowed to lower her hiney onto the throne.  And even then, both of our noses are scrunched so as not to breathe in the putrid air conditions.  We make it out no worse for the wear, and Little One hops onto her bike and takes off into the darkness without me, humming as she goes.

As I walk, it is then that I notice the moon. It is beautiful, spellbinding.  Mesmerizing.   Hypnotic in its effect.  I want to drink from this golden bowl an elixir that will cure these joyless thoughts of mine.  Forever.

Could the beauty I see so far away be the remedy that I seek?

Now that teeth brushings and bedtime routines have commenced, I am sitting here on a bed in our aging tent trailer, parked smack in the middle of an upscale RV park.   My youngest child has slipped out of bed and is now hanging off the mattress that my husband and I share, all the while I am trying to collect what little of my sanity there is left so that I can function for the rest of the evening.  And that I have to concentrate to do so is not saying much.  There is so precious little sanity left for me to draw on.  We are here for a month in this blessed tent trailer- one step up from a tarp over a hole in the ground, and all because I booked this ‘dream’ vacation for our family so that I could get some rest and relaxation.  Fat chance of that.  The Littlest One is crying for help while I write these words.  She is looking for a book that her father threw back at her after she had been told for the umpteenth time to get back into her sleeping bag and go to sleep.  Earlier this evening, she pee’d on the floorboards surrounding the outdoor pool, coincidentally while standing directly outside the bathroom adjacent to the pool.  She lost control of her faculties in front of and in plain view of the other pool users, I might add.  And all while her mother was trying to undo the last button on her shirt so as to get her one-piece bathing suit down. Without any warning, there was a huge yellowish puddle on the deck of the pool, spreading out towards the ledge and back towards the washroom.   My husband had to mop up the puddle with Clorox while I sheepishly slunk into the toilets with child and urine drips in tow.

That was the breaking point of my evening.

However, right about now, I am considering this bedtime infraction to be a close second, challenging my earlier notions that it cannot get any worse.  It can and it will.  Never expect any better than your worst nightmare.  Because when things are going better than planned, you feel you struck a goldmine.  Which is how my father must have felt when he arrived home after supper, dribbles down the front of his buttoned dress shirt, perhaps; only to discover that he had been chosen to receive a delightful gift from a thoughtful giver.  It was a slice of heaven, in gigantic proportions.

And my slice of heaven tonight is the moon.  It is for me the heaven I am searching for.  I un-zip the canvas screen that serves as a window and drink it in: the moon.  In all its glory.

The joy of summer vacations….or better titled…

How Not to Have the Vacay of your Dreams…

I have had this recurring dreaming for the past couple of weeks .  The dream goes mostly like this:  I am finished work and school is out for the summer.  In the shade a brightly colored beach umbrella, I am relaxing poolside with my favorite book of the hour and a cold refreshing drink.  The mid-day sky is a brilliant blue, and there are white, fluffy clouds that look like exploding marshmallows dotting the picturesque backdrop.  The summer sun is shining brightly, and song birds can be heard in the distance faintly chirping a tune.  I tilt my head back and allow my drooping eyes to gently close, as my weary bones and muscles ease into an afternoon siesta.

Ah, this is the life…

Through the haze of my dream, something jars me awake.  Far, far away, I can hear this sound.  Piercing the calm of moments ago.  It is an irritating, fingers-on-chalkboard kind of scratching sound.  I try to ignore it, but it won’t go away.  What could be possibly making such a commotion?

“Moooommmmmmm, so-and so won’t let me get on the computer and it’s my tuuuurrrnnn.”

“No, it isn’t!”

“Yes, it is…you were already on for, like, an hour!”

“Gimme the mouse….”

(scuffle, scuffle, scuffle….)



Reality check.  I am no longer sleeping, although I still find myself drooling on the couch while the right side of my face has permanent pillow marks implanted along my jawbone.  I have fallen asleep in the fetal position on the sofa while all heck breaks loose around me.  I can hardly move from the dreadful pain shooting up from my legs through to my neck and shoulders.

Someone please tell me that it is not really summer vacation already?

Alas, summer dream vacations are not all they are cracked up to be.  But, if there were such a thing as an ideal summer vacation or fantasy trip to an exotic location in the works for me, here is what I would deem essential to making that vacay the stuff dreams are made of.

If you were going on a dream vacation, you probably will not be bringing along four cranky, over-tired  children.  Unfortunately, I cannot make the same claim.  What can I say?  You are smrtR than I am.  Can it really be considered a vacation, dream or otherwise, when you take children along?  After all, nothing really changes.  Reality still follows you to the ends of the earth.  You still have to clothe, feed, groom, discipline, console, growl, cuddle, bathe, snuggle, growl some more and potentially sleep with your children when you are on vacation.

My hubby and I took a vacation with our four children to Dominican Republic, and my youngest daughter threw up five times on the plane before we even touched down on tropical soil.  The plane we were on was a party-plane, and the Spring-Breakers that shared our aisle were understandably less than thrilled to be sitting in a section with our sickly clan as we made trip after trip to the postage stamp-sized washroom at the rear of the plane.  Not to mention the smells.  As this all happened right in the middle of the evening meal.

As if this was not enough to dampen our spirits and discourage us from vacationing with kiddos, another daughter decided to follow suit mid-week, just when we were all starting to unwind.  This time around, she had three days of all-you-can-eat buffets to enhance the senses.  Thank goodness for daily room service and balconies with railings (and that little spot at the bottom of the stairs just the right size for storing dirty, stinky bed sheets.)

Let’s be serious.  If you are really going to consider a dream vacation, take a little advice from me.  Leave the kiddos with Gramps and Grandma. ‘Nuff said.

As well, try not to sandwich your dream vacation in between back-to-back work/extra-curricular commitments, as I have made the mistake of doing in the past. I have literally worked up to the minute before I have left on a trip and found myself collapsed on a seat somewhere in a vehicle or on a plane, of absolutely no good value to anyone including myself for about 24 hours into the trip.  And likewise, I would suggest avoiding at all costs the red-eye flight home, particularly when you have an 8:00 a.m. appointment the following morning followed by your first day of a new job.  Can anyone say, ‘pass me the java and prop my eyes open with a two-by-four?’

Finally, as this list could go on ad nauseum, I will end with this.   Try not to make the dream vacation too much fun.  When you plan on having fun, nine times out of ten, something goes wrong and you end up feeling gyped and bummed about your dream vacay.  Set the bar really low, and then everything you do and see will look and seem stellar.  There is nothing quite like low expectations to brighten up a trip.  Dream or not.

Happy Summer, everyone!

Joy in the School Library…

Library day for Kindergarten A.  I, for one, am stoked.  Library day is every third Monday, and it is a twenty minute interlude from the hectic pace of life in the zoo. It is the gift that keeps on giving.  When library day comes, we all get to escape the confines of the classroom, head down the hall, single file- touching the wall as we go so that stragglers do not get side-tracked or lost in the corridors, then walk (no running! for goodness sake) directly towards the two sets of stairs that lead ever upwards to that greatest of rooms.  The Library.  Or as we say in Kindergarten, the Lie-berry.

I love the library.  And not just for its very special purpose of allowing teachers and students an escape (literally and figuratively).  The library is a place where dreams come alive and connections are made.  At least it is suppose to be that way in all the workshops on literacy and texts teachers read on the same.  The library experience opens doors and windows- allows students choice of text and freedom to take risks.  It helps students become independent readers.  It provides an opportunity for readers to discover books they might never stumble upon otherwise.  It is one of the most underrated time blocks in our schedule, but to all those who think it a waste I say this: What’s not to love?

Today, we are not allowed to check out books.  This is a bummer, but I am creatively (yet somewhat desperately) trying to figure out a way to extend our time block, as normally it takes twenty minutes to find everyone a book, re-shelve the dozens of books that everyone thought they wanted but now look too boring, then take the books that make it onto the interesting list and in turn, get these latter books checked out for home by Ms. O.  That’s Ms. Olscamp, our coolest of cool, school librarian.

Ms. O reads us a book after check-in and check-outs are over.  Today she is reading a very funny book that I selected from our classroom collection of ocean-life books, about a giant squid.  Everyone laughs hysterically at the little squid who thinks he is the biggest fish in the ocean.  I am wondering exactly how long is this book?  And who thought of such a ridiculous story line?  But it works, and the children are engaged.

After the story is over, Ms. O suggests that everyone take notice of her very colourful book display to promote summer reading, behind which she has carefully (perhaps painstakingly?) cut out and pasted the following slogan: Dive into Reading.  On it, there is a cut-out of very enthusiastic diver propelling himself into an invisible pool below the display which leaves much to the observer’s imagination.  And this folks, is exactly what reading is all about.  I am trying to get the students excited about the connotations that this display suggests and I ask them leading questions.  What do you think this means, boys and girls?  What is the diver DIVING into?  No one is really paying attention to me now that the giant squid story is over, and I make a last ditch effort to make a connection.

Who is going to read a book over the summer? I ask sweetly, thinking that Ms. O. will at the very least be encouraged by the many hands that will undoubtedly rise upwards in an affirmative to the prompt.

Instead, a little one says to me with as much swag as she can muster, “I’m NOT reading a book over the summer.”

Undeterred, I forge on.  If this is the last battle I win today, I will come out victorious.

Well then, who is going to try to make it to the library this summer to read some new books?” I say, plunging in over my head as does this little paper diver behind me on the presentation board promoting reading.  I look around pleadingly for one little hand to raise, one little voice to chime in that they will indeed be visiting our public library system even once this summer.

Nada.  Instead I get a look that insinuates I might have just grown a third head.  I must be dreaming this all up.  The two closest kindergarteners look me boldly right in the eye and then declare that the library is the last place on earth they are going to be heading in the upcoming two months of Island summer.

“I am NOT going to a library this summer.

Yeah, me neither.”

I am about to blow a gasket.  Meanwhile, the children head to line up at the door, and as I try to collect myself, I notice that the only thing the children are truly interested in right this very minute is securing a front position in our line-up: for two of them are nearly about to come to blows over who should stand first and who should follow.  I desperately try to resume decorum, and insist on the children thanking Ms. O. for her most generous spirit in allowing KA this memorable experience.

And to Ms. O, if she happens to be reading my blog tonight, I can assure you this.  When KA graces the hallowed walls of the library, know that it is for this very reason: We’re here for a good time, not a long time.  And I am sure that must be a relief.