Friday, May 17, 2013

One More Stop En Route - Scotland!

I have no idea why but I've wanted to go to Scotland my whole life. I must have read something very early in school or saw something in a book because it registered and stuck. I love all things royalty and castles, I do love that accent and I've had a lifelong love of Sean Connery.

I'm super excited to announce that we won't be flying home from London as planned. Thanks to a 'sale' (term used loosely, but it cut the cost coming home in half) we will be leaving Glasgow on Tuesday the 16th. We should still get two days in London, and then take the train for two days in Edinburgh. We'll touch down in Reykjavik and come home through Halifax. It'll be a nice looooong day...

Having said that - it's quite a relief to have those flights booked. We missed the last sale because we didn't have our itinerary set yet so we let it go. Since then the flights have NOT come down. But just this morning I found the pocket we needed. Phew!!!!

I get to see castles!!! YAY!!!!

Monday, May 13, 2013

A Mother's Day Reality (alternatively titled "Where the H*#$ is my Macaroni Pen Holder?!)

As a daughter, I think celebrating Mother’s Day is great! As a mother... I’m not so sure. I heard a lot of talk this weekend from friends about how they fully expected their Mother’s Day expectations to be dashed. Some knew they would be spending all of Mother’s Day prepping for a dinner to host their own mothers. Some had days full of kid’s dress rehearsals and activities while others had responsibilities at church or elsewhere. I had a missing husband and oldest child. The common denominator in all of the conversations was that the coming Sunday would NOT be the relaxing and pampering day that the commercial industry would like us to believe it will be. Full of happy moms getting breakfast in bed from tiny children, huge flower bouquets and sunny days, commercials lead you to a sense of false security in this alleged ‘day off’. The reality of the day is not on the fault of the family. It’s not a lazy husband or naughty kids that turn a commercially marketed ‘special day’ into just a regular ol’ day, it’s just reality. There is a little meme going around the internet that says “Moms, the only people who know the true meaning of 24-7”, and that is the simple truth. 

One of the things that strikes me about Mother’s Day is that it’s on Sunday. At one point in time Sunday was meant to be a day of rest. The aforementioned meme makes me wonder if there every was such a thing as a ‘day of rest’ for moms. If, in this day and age, we spent all of Saturday prepping for Sunday and then spent the day visiting, in fellowship, playing outside and eating pre-prepared food, then yes, what a delightful day it would be!!! Sundays over here are usually rushed and packed with activities. Plus you have to make sure everyone’s ready for the week. Homework done? Food for lunches? It’s anything but a day of rest - what happened? 

Yesterday started for me with the littlest jumping in bed and giving me a big hug and kiss and a “Happy Mother’s Day!” Then the second youngest did the same. With my husband at work I had heard talk the night before of attempting to make waffles for me. I would have been just as happy with a smoothie but they were determined. With the third youngest and veteran waffle maker still in bed, I had a feeling this might not goes as well as planned! After a few yells up the stairs of “Does t-s-p mean teaspoon?” and “How do you ‘separate an egg’”? I heard “OOoohhhh FAIL!” It’s time to get up. Bless their souls, my youngest had set the table and the waffle ingredients were all laid out on the counter. Our lazy morning turned into a lesson of egg separation and egg white folding, using muscles for whisking and wonderment at how the waffle iron knows when to switch the light to green. There was happy chatter of the previous night’s hockey game and a few practice bars of the song for the morning’s church performance. Breakfast in bed? Nah, this is better. 

Though there is always stuff to do at home, things like the dishes will always be there later (and left to the late arriving husband!) so let’s take off with good friends for frozen yogurt - and spot a moose! Value Village? Let’s go! Eventually we were back home, playing outside, gardening and the hubs came home with Chinese take out. The dishes were still there, the chores didn’t get done. But we did have a great day. 

I crawled into bed exhausted and wondered about where it all started. We know the origins of most of the popular holidays we celebrate and most involve an historic event or person. Which Mother was it? Was it Eve, the mother of all mothers? Or did the government just decide one day we needed to celebrate our moms. So I looked it up. 

Not in any way related to festivals, religious or cultural celebrations honouring mothers over the course of history, the present day Mother’s Day that we celebrate was started with an American woman named Anna Jarvis. She held a memorial for her late mother and then campaigned for 6 years to have it made an official holiday. She was successful in 1914 but by the 20s she was already working to boycott the commercialization of the holiday. She and her sister spent their family inheritance on their new cause, even being arrested while protesting. She was disgusted by the way the holiday had turned:

“A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment.
—Anna Jarvis.”

Ouch Anna!

Nearly 100 years later Mother’s Day remains one of the most commercially successful holidays in North America. 

Presents are a funny thing on Mother’s Day. Actually at any time, but maybe that’s another post. This year I got each of the kids a gift. They're the reason I'm a mom so I thought I'd give them each a little something! It was a fun twist. 

As a kid, I worked my butt off glueing slippery macaroni to small baby food jars and then spray painting them gold. They must have been awful to receive! I know now how proud kids are, how upset they are when you don’t keep stuff and how desperately they want you to use these items. I would have loved a macaroni pen holder this year. I received something much larger that I asked for because I knew we were getting it anyway and wanted a time line on it! But then realized that it’s really no fun asking for gifts. You want someone to show you they know you. To give you something big or small that says “I really know you!” or “I worked hard on this!” Not, “I threw this together” or “I ran out to get you a gift” or “I meant to get you something... but...” 

So really, instead of big gifts or asking for specific stuff I’m gonna leave next year well alone. I think I’d like to pull back a bit from the pressure of the day. The intense build up. The high expectations. I want hugs, macaroni jars and time to play with the kids. Keep it simple. Then get back to real life which is inevitable. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Friendship Dating (not travel related!)

Making friends as an adult is a funny thing. It’s like dating, but slower to develop and more awkward! Maybe you bump into this person a few times here or there, you’re always at the same kid’s activities or in the same meetings. Eventually you make a friendly comment, maybe you find something you have in common and after a painfully long time, one of you makes the suggestion to do something else. Meet for coffee? Walk the dogs? The kids? 

As a kid, it’s a lot easier. You steal someone’s juice box, chase each other around the school yard and you’re friends forever. Well, maybe not forever, kid’s friends may change over the school years but it remains fairly simple. As you get into your teens you might be more picky. Maybe it’s someone you knew before but hadn’t clicked with yet, maybe it’s a team mate now that you’re into competitive sports or maybe you got a job and you click with one of your fellow workmates. If you’re lucky one or two of those friendships will last a lifetime. 

When you’re older and your situation changes, it gets a lot harder. Now you’ve got kids in the mix - do they get along? Or you meet a fabulous new friend - will your spouses get along? Maybe you meet someone your age but your life situations are totally different so it just ends up being too difficult. I usually end up being the only one not working, or with kids totally different ages than those of the people I meet. Living here, I’m not a ‘local’ and that adds a whole other barrier - a post for another day. 

So, now in my mid thirties with kids of all age ranges it’s a very bizarre phenomenon. You are interested in being a friend with someone so you start making casual comments, try to find some common ground and not come off too strong. At a play group “You come here often?”, at the gym “I’ve seen you here before - those are some heavy weights you’re lifting!! Can I have your number?” “Wanna go for coffee?” If you friend them on Facebook, how soon is it acceptable to follow them on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram before they freak out? There’s a seriously thin line between acceptable and totally creepy! 

My husband goes for a mountain bike ride and meets the same guy biking for a second time. "Let’s go for a ride sometime! Give me your digits!" How soon do you call? How many times is acceptable?

We met an awesome couple in our early married years and the first few times we hung out we joked about it being just like dating. Do they like us as much as we like them? How soon can we call after hanging out? We don’t want to be clingy, so we act nonchalant. "A picnic? Sure, no biggy!" When your insides are going “They’re so cool!! I can’t wait!” It’s a lucky situation when all the people involved (and eventually kids) get along! 

I joked once that there should be an online ‘dating’ service for families looking for other families to befriend:

“Family of 6 (5-38) seeking other family for hikes, BBQs and playdates. Likes music, travel and mountain sports” 

Crazy? Maybe. Genius? I think so...

I think it’s rare at our age to find someone you truly click with. All of a sudden you have so many other factors. You’ve learned more about yourself, you care more about certain things, maybe kids are a factor. You’re also so busy and it’s hard to forge good friendships when weeks can go between visits, simply because of scheduling.

Sometimes people come and go in your life for certain reasons. I’ve had good friends that I’ve been close with through a common goal, but then have fallen out of touch. Others who have been there forever, just not necessarily at every moment. 

My parents recently had a picnic with friends who I don’t remember ever NOT being in our life. Whether they were close, or distant they just always were and it's like not a day goes by between visits. 

I can’t help but wonder who I will be picnicking with in 20 or 30 years. Is it someone I’ve known for years? Is it someone I haven’t met yet? So many people in my life I care about and don't want to lose!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Why NOT Mexico?

I was in a gathering place of women today and as one mentioned her Cuban tan the talk amongst those close by turned to comparing the usual all-inclusive destinations. I do find it amazing what people can complain about - but that might be a whole other post... this post is about what happened when I mentioned that we had been to Mexico. As has become the usual response to us taking our kids there, it was "Oh! I am definitely NOT that brave!"When I think of 'brave' in regards to travel, I don't necessarily think of an all-inclusive where we left the resort 4 or 5 times!!

I think back to when we initially booked the trip and how many people were aghast that we were willing to take our kids there. Parents of the year, apparently putting our children's lives at risk for the sake of some surf, sun and sand.

There's two ways to look at this issue. 1) Don't leave your house 2) Be realistic. Have you looked at the North American news lately? Bombings, mall shootings, victim-suicides, rape and the list goes on. We may not have some of the issues Mexico has, but really, our news reporting is one step above a game of telephone. We get the worst of the worst and it gets contorted with each retelling, full of speculation and "they won't confirm but" Even living here, our friends and family on the far west coast will call worried about the massive storm that's been reported, one we've never heard of.

I've been to Mexico twice, once on each coast, and I believe it will remain one of my favourite spots to visit and I can't wait to have the chance to go back. I love the people, the colours, the food, the scenery. We never once felt unsafe and the benefits of what we learned there outweighed the scoffs and condescending comments we received from others. Yes, some bad things have happened there, but there have also been thousand upon thousand of happy tourists who have visited, been changed forever and left safe and sound.

Maybe you believe it's a risk to go there, maybe it's a risk to go to New York or LA or Montreal. Maybe you believe you just have to be smart while you travel. But why Mexico? Because as these ladies talked about how they never would go there, Mattea piped up about all her favourite parts. Remember climbing those pyramids? Remember swimming with those big fish? Remember the clear blue waves? Remember that great ice cream shop?

That's why Mexico. Calgon - take me away. (do I need permission to say that?)

NOTE: I was behind on the blog when we travelled there so I still haven't updated my Mexico post. Stay tuned - eventually I will

Thursday, May 2, 2013

When Reality Kicks In!

6 weeks and 2 days! What? Yikes!!! How on earth did that creep up so fast?!

Last week we had a fun family outing to the travel clinic for... wait for it... Yellow Fever shots! That's right - how much fun did we have??? With that out of the way we only have one batch left; three Hep A shots. We'll wait a couple of weeks for those but really, we barely have a couple of weeks! Okay, time to really think about this.

- We have no accommodations booked yet for our stops on the way to Africa but a rough plan is in place for Dubai.
- We have no idea what our plan is for Iceland...
- and still don't have tickets home from London! (Not that I'd be terribly upset to stay on there!)
- 6 weeks of school left - time to crack down instead of let it all slide. Especially because we're leaving early.
- Still so many things in the house to finish up and hopefully find someone to stay here for a month!
- Figure out how to pack for all of us and I should probably start soon so it's not a mad dash at the end
- Sell the old house!!!!!
- Make sure there's no paper work stashed here and there
- Make a huge cake on Sunday for the band party Tuesday night
- Make a plan so that last week here isn't chaos and stressful

My plan is to set out our stuff that would appear to be 'packing light'. And then cut it all in half, and then probably half again. You know you're going to wear the same stuff all the time and we have access to laundry, plus you know you're going to buy a couple of things along the way ("I scaled the Burj like Tom Cruise" t-shirts). You NEVER use as much as you pack. Think I can keep it to 4 hockey bags? Plus one full of sports equipment for the campus kids which we'll be leaving there. I'm not sure I can...

Okay, just needed to see my to do list (as IF it's this short!) while I'm panicking that the trip is so soon!