The Official Summer Slurpee

Traditions start in a lot of different ways. Some of them are passed down to us – like Christmas trees and birthday cakes and making jack o’lanterns on Halloween. Others are started on purpose, like a picture you take of your child every year on their birthday or an annual visit to a special place. And others start sort of by accident. In my family, the official summer Slurpee is sort of like that.

I was a raging hippie when my children were small. For two years we had no TV. My daughter’s first birthday cake was sweetened with apple sauce. I joined a CSA that supplied locally-grown flour and used it to bake my own bread. Which I kneaded by hand. I canned and I sewed and I knitted and all of that good stuff. My friends and I visited farmers’ markets and attended La Leche League meetings and bought wooden toys.

It should not surprise you, then, that my daughter managed to reach kindergarten without having tasted a slushie of any kind.

During the last week of school that year she came home with a coupon for a free Slurpee. Her class had received them from a visiting police officer. She didn’t really know what a Slurpee was, but she knew it was a treat and she wanted one. I told her we would go on the last day of school. And we did.

Flash forward a year to my daughter’s last day of grade one. “Mama! Remember, today I get a Slurpee!”

I hadn’t been bargaining on that but I thought, why not? One Slurpee a year is hardly going to hurt anyone.

That summer my daughter and I had a funny conversation about what grade she was in. Do you know that conversation? Someone asks about your grade over summer vacation and you don’t really know how to answer because you’re not really in grade one anymore, but you’re also not in grade two yet. You’re in this sort of educational limbo. On a whim I stated that the moment you finish that end-of-school Slurpee, you are officially in the next grade.

And it has to be a Slurpee from 7-11. I don’t know why. It just does. I can’t even say that Slurpees are my favourite slushies but that’s not the point. Rules are rules.

On the last day of grade two of course we went for Slurpees, and my daughter coined the phrase “The Slurpee Test”. When she sees kids leaving the 7-11 with Slurpees in hand she declares that they are taking The Slurpee Test so that they can be in the next grade.

I have exactly one Slurpee a year with my children on the last day of school. I am happy to say that following this year’s Slurpee my kids are officially in grades six and three. They passed The Slurpee Test with flying colours.

Actually, that statement is both figuratively and literally true, as they both love to mix all the flavours together in this colourful monstrosity that looks cool but tastes terrible. Whatever. It’s not my end of year treat. I just smile and drink my pink cream soda Slurpee because I have taste buds.

Some traditions have been passed on for centuries. Some traditions are started on purpose. And some traditions evolve because your kid gets a coupon and you decide that even hippie children deserve a treat sometimes. I kind of think those are the best kind of traditions. They’re the little family jokes that remind everyone that you’re in this together, and you’re making memories that will last long after the annual Slurpee is finished.

To summer!

slurpee summer traditions

This post is not sponsored in any way, and I am not endorsing either 7-11 or Slurpees. It’s just one of those things that honestly happens in our family.

The Best Laid Summer Plans

My kids’ last day of school was yesterday, which makes today the first official day of summer vacation. We have nothing to look forward to but two months of fun in the sun. Or, at least, we did. But then my seven-year-old son Jacob fell off our bannister and broke his arm and all those plans to visit the waterslides and visit the lake were suddenly thrown into question.

summer vacationThe good news first: Jacob is fine and his arm is healing very well. The doctors and nurses in the ER were fabulous, and his follow-up visit to a specialist was promising. He’s a kid, he’s resilient, and he’ll be back to his old self in no time at all. In fact, his parents were far more traumatized by this experience than he was. Even his big sister was more traumatized than he was. At the moment he’s enjoying all the extra attention.

The bad news, though, is that a cast does throw a bit of a damper on any fun in the water. His cast needs to stay in place for the foreseeable future so that his arm can heal. He recently had a layer of fibreglass added on top of the original plaster cast, but the plaster is still there underneath, and plaster can’t get wet. We bought a special waterproof cover for the cast, and it works, but it has its limits. And swimming in a full-arm cast, even if you can immerse your arm in the water, isn’t exactly easy or graceful.

And there are other issues, too. Do you see the snow boots in that photo? He’s wearing them because they were the only shoes he could put on by himself before we got our hands on different running shoes. Tying shoelaces isn’t really something Jacob can manage at the moment. Neither is climbing, or sliding down fire poles at the playground, or doing pretty much anything that requires two hands.

So, where does this leave us? It leaves us here: there will still be summer fun, but less of it will happen outside or in the water. And more of it will happen at home. Which is why I am thanking my lucky stars for Netflix. Here is Jacob sharing the story of his broken arm and telling me what he’s looking forward to watching this summer.

I was inspired to write this post because I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team. The opinions in the post are my own, but take the fact that I receive cool promotional swag from Netflix as you will.

Poem for June: 100 Words About Environmental Education

Recently I re-embraced my adolescent love of writing poetry. Many of them are written just for me, but others are for sharing. And so, a blog series is born.

And now, here is my latest poem. I am finishing up my teacher training and my minor is in environmental education. I am completing my environmental education portfolio for a class retreat this weekend and I wrote this poem to include with the rest of my work. To feeling connected!

environmental education student teacher mossom creek poetry

100 Words About Environmental Education

I have lived in this place my whole life I
Walked in its forests waded in its waters my first
Bites taught me its flavours my first steps taught my
Feet the texture of its landscapes yet mostly I am
Removed seeing only glimpses through a minivan window as I
Rush to buy groceries (not even locally grown) now for
Six weeks I have been forced to slow down notice
Complexity smell green taste berries open my eyes again to
The wordless beauty I am so very fortunate to still
Be here to find myself connected, grounded, present, at home

Feeling all the Feels

My daughter Hannah is 11 years old now. She is increasingly responsible, increasingly independent, increasingly smart and increasingly tall. (Seriously! The kid grew a quarter inch in a week.) She is not a little girl anymore.

Hannah cooks now, and frequently makes Kraft Dinner for herself and her dad. Her dad feels like he’s got it made.

Hannah bakes now, and makes cookies for everyone. I feel like I’ve got it made.

feelings tweens growing up

Hannah and me

But growing up is hard. So hard. Anyone over the age of six can tell you so. Oh, how well I remember feeling conflicted and scared and just plain overwhelmed. 11 year old girls feel all the feels. My daughter is no different.

The good news is that having a tween is just plain awesome. Watching someone turn from a kid into a grown-up is really freaking cool. Knowing that I have had a hand in the creation of this fabulous person? Even cooler. Of course, Hannah is her own person, and I am just her mom. But still, I am her mom, and she is great, and that is amazing.

The other good news is that I love this age. I taught grade 6/7 during my student teaching practicum, and volunteered in a grade 6/7 classroom all of last year, and I enjoyed my students so much. They are energetic and thoughtful and constantly learning. They are becoming their own people and experimenting and testing their limits. I had the best conversations with my students, and now I am having the best conversations with my daughter.

One of the catalysts for great conversations is the things Hannah watches on TV. Often, after sitting down and watching a movie or TV show, Hannah will talk to me about what she saw and what she thinks. It’s a way for us to share our thoughts and for me to follow my daughter’s conversational lead. From emotions, to relationships, to puberty, to getting enough sleep, we have had a lot of great talks thanks to Netflix.

The best conversations, I think, have been inspired by Inside Out, which is all about feelings. It’s the perfect tween viewing. Hannah has also been watching old episodes of Once Upon a Time, which has led to some good conversations about fairness and whether people really are good and evil. Both are available on Netflix in Canada.

In my community, middle school starts in grade 6. In September, Hannah will be heading to a new school, making new friends and testing her wings a little further. She is excited and scared. So am I. But I have faith that she can figure this out, because she’s a pretty amazing person. And I know that I will be here to talk through it all, whatever happens.

I was inspired to write this post because I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team. The opinions in the post are my own, but take the fact that I receive cool promotional swag from Netflix as you will.

Me + 40

You guys, today I turned 40 years old.

40. Years. Old.

It sounds significant to me because I’m entering a new decade of my life. But also because I remember my mom turning 40. I remember my mother-in-law turning 40, for Pete’s sake. I had already been dating her son for two years at the time. Yes, Jon and I were young, but still.

birthday selfie 40Looking back over the past few years, it seems that I celebrated my birthdays by making lists of what I would do at 35, 36, 37 and 38. And then last year I marked the occasion by making a list of what I would not do at 39. Ironically, I did many of the things I said I would not. For instance my hair is significantly longer than it was at this time last year and I started writing in a journal when I said I would not grow my hair out or start journaling. So I’m not much better at honouring slacker non-goals than aspirational actual goals.

Luckily, I’m also old enough to not really care anymore.

I spent my 30s in the trenches of motherhood. On my 30th birthday I had a one-year-old. In the past 10 years I birthed a second baby, left my engineering job, changed a lot of diapers, worked at home as a freelance writer, agonized over childcare, and found my calling. There was a lot of soul-searching, a lot of time spent doing things for other people, and a lot of waiting for the right timing.

While I’m having some existential angst at being officially middle-aged, this birthday is also celebratory for me. I’m wrapping up my teaching degree and applying for jobs. I have an interview next week. If my 30s were about babies and laying groundwork, my 40s are shaping up to be about enjoying the fruits of all that labour. I worked hard. My kids are now two really cool people who can do lots of things for themselves. I have more time to do the things I want to do. And I am realizing my goal of becoming a teacher, which makes me so very happy.

It feels good to be able to look back on the past year – and the past decade – and see how far I’ve come. It also feels good to be excited about where I am going next.

This is me at 40. I am happy to be here.

Siblings: The Original Frenemies

The sibling relationship is something unique and special. I have a younger sister myself, so I understand the dynamic that can evolve, in which you both adore and are highly annoyed by your sibling. I also see it with my own two children. My daughter Hannah is 11 now and my son Jacob is seven and a half and they are simultaneously the best of friends and worst of enemies. The are each other’s biggest defenders and worst antagonists. Frenemies par excellence, as it were. I often say that the dynamic goes something like this:

“You’re not allowed to hit my sister/brother! Only I’m allowed to do that!”

I really do adore it. And I am so happy that my kids have each other.

siblings

All of this does present its challenges, however. Anytime that we’re deciding how to spend a Saturday afternoon, anytime we’re choosing what to have for lunch, and anytime that they’re trying to decide what to watch on TV there is a conflict. It’s inevitable. If you have more than one child, you are likely familiar with this.

I’ve actually written about my role as a peace negotiator before. Once again, if you have more than one child, you can probably relate. Of course I encourage my children to work together and solve their own problems, but this just doesn’t always happen. After all, children are just learning. They need support from adults when developing life skills, like choosing something to see on Netflix. My hope is that by learning how to manage these small (to me) conflicts now, they are developing skills that will serve them later in life when stuff gets real.

Fingers crossed.

siblings

I like to think that, beyond conflict negotiation, having a sibling who is different from you has a lot of benefits. With a daughter and a son we have a well-balanced variety of toys and dress-up clothes and so on. With three and a half years between my kids we also have an array of interests and activities happening in our lives. My children are exposed to things they otherwise might not be. My daughter and son have both enjoyed movies and TV shows and games and foods that they were initially forced to try to make the peace. It’s stressful in the moment, but in the long run everyone wins.

Again, fingers crossed.

This month Netflix is doing something to try to help parents out. They created Netflix Siblings Playlists that are meant to cater to a wide range of ages and interests. This is really helpful to me, because as I said my kids are two very different people. The Meet in the Middle playlist was most appealing to my kids. Of course, your mileage may vary, but any little thing you can do to keep the peace helps, right?

To siblings!

I was inspired to write this post because I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team. The opinions in the post are my own, but take the fact that I receive cool promotional swag from Netflix as you will.

Poem of the Month: 100 Words

Recently I re-embraced my adolescent love of writing poetry. Many of them are written just for me, but others are for sharing. And so, a blog series is born.

And now, here is this month’s poem. I realize it has been more than a month, but you know, that’s life. I wrote this one last year, and re-reading it just now it made me smile. To spring!

poetry dandelions spring

100 Words

My backyard is covered in dandelions and discarded playthings hardly
Elegant, barely tended but evidence of spring and childhood makes
Me smile I am content – would it were ever thus
Happy just to be alive, standing in the warm sunshine
Barefoot in unmowed grass while my kids race each other
Around on weather worn cars they both outgrew years ago
Afterwards they dust off the old yard sale picnic table
Make a feast of fruit and crackers on toy dishes
Enjoying the freedom of dining outdoors they call me back
Again asking for more juice or another silly smiling picture

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