Contingency Plan

July 4, 2013 § 1 Comment

We recently planned a mini vacation to our nation’s capital in Ottawa for Canada Day. This would be our first “big kid” trip, meaning no sippy cups, no diaper bags, and no strollers. Big milestone.

It also meant the possibility of losing our children. If you have ever been to Ottawa on Canada’s birthday, you will know what I mean – the crowds are widespread! We were clever enough to know not to dress our kids in the festive red and white of Canada’s colours, as they would blend into the fray far too easily and be difficult to spot. So the girls wore matching lime green dresses, and the boys wore brightly coloured (non red and white) t-shirts.

With four young children, and only two parents, we needed to create a contingency plan in case we got separated. They all know our home phone number, but that does little good when we are all in another location. Since our children are too young to know how to use a Blackberry beyond pictures and games, and walkie talkies lose range (and batteries), we decided to go with good old fashioned paper.

Before we ventured out into our day, I wrote Mommy and Daddy’s cell phone numbers on four separate pieces of paper from our hotel (you know the little notepads from the bedside stand that have the hotel’s contact info on them?) . I put one of these papers in each kid’s pocket and sat them down for the instructions: “in your pocket you have a piece of paper that has both Mommy and Daddy’s cell phone numbers, and the phone number of our hotel. If you get separated from Mommy and Daddy, stay put and wait for 5-10 minutes. This will give us a chance to realize you are separated and retrace our steps to find you. If after 5-10 minutes you still do not see us, take this piece of paper either to a police officer (there were several running security throughout the area) or into a store, and ask to use their phone to call us and we’ll come get you. Does everyone understand?”

All the kids nodded slowly and looked very seriously at the paper they’d been given.  I was grateful they understood and didn’t tap into the fear that getting lost in a crowd and separated from your parents could bring. Didn’t want to spoil the day, after all. Little did I realize, what one of them was really thinking.

Within a few minutes of entering the crowd, we got separated. There were so many things to look at, and so many people, and even though we made every attempt to hold the hands of the younger ones, it was easy to drift from our group of six. Our five year old was suddenly not with us.

We stayed put while Daddy went looking, and spotted him almost immediately. Instead of scooping him up right away, Daddy stayed back a bit to test our contingency plan’s effectiveness.  He watched as our little guy looked around him, a concerned look on his face, then slowly reached his small hand into the pocket of his jean shorts and withdrew the slip of paper. He opened it carefully, looked at the numbers on it, and considered his options. As he looked up from the paper, he spotted Daddy and was re-united.


We continued on, enjoying the day and the many amazing activities, shows and attractions. The Lego Play Vacation tent was a highlight, no question. We got to build pieces that were added to the construction of a very large Canada Flag, all made out of lego. They had stations of lego all around for the kids to build “Friends” (the girl lego), star wars, cars, you name it – terrific experience! We also had the pleasure of seeing Commander Chris Hadfield on stage performing his music and answering questions about his recent experience commanding the International Space Station.

IMG_00001254lego flag

(Lego Canada Flag picture courtesy of The Ottawa Citizen)

On the way to see Commander Hadfield’s presentation was when we got separated again. This time it was our 10 year old. As we were making our way up the path towards the park, the path split in two directions. The crowd was very thick at this fork in the road, and while most of went to the right, our eldest went to the left.  I realized right away that we had lost him and likely how (due to the fork in the road) so Daddy stayed with the other kids while I backtracked this time. I couldn’t find him at the fork in the road (where according to our plan, he should be, waiting the requisite 5-10 minutes for us to re-trace our steps), so I continued on the other path thinking he must not realize he is separated yet, and is continuing to walk. Wrong. He realized. And he was RUNNING.

I spotted a glimpse of his striped shirt moving quickly through the crowd. I sent up a small prayer of gratitude that he wasn’t wearing red and white and started shouting his name. With all the noise he couldn’t hear me, so I started running after him, dodging people and strollers, trying to catch up. Another small prayer of gratitude that jogging is my usual choice of exercise, as I quickly closed the gap on this rising track and field star, and ask him what the heck he was doing!

His very casual response, “I was on my way to lost child services, I saw them earlier!”.  Exasperated, I responded “you didn’t wait the 5-10 minutes! You wouldn’t need lost child services if you had stayed put and waited for me to find you!”

The real story: he had been waiting for just such an opportunity to add some adventure to our experience. The excitement of putting our “contingency plan” into action was just too tempting.

I was reminded of a conversation I had with some friends the previous night about birth order and personalities and how children with the same genes, same parents, and same home, could grow into such different individuals.

The lesson?  Never underestimate your children, and even the best laid plans are subject to unforeseen variables.

We rounded out the day with a breathtaking display of Canada Day fireworks on Parliament hill and celebrated that we were all still together!


(Fireworks display picture courtesy of The Ottawa Citizen)


Chocolate or Poop?

May 15, 2013 § 1 Comment

Don’t deny it, you’ve all had a moment just like it. When you discover a brown smear left behind by one of your children and you really can’t be sure which it is…chocolate or poop. Smelling it isn’t appealing and tasting it is out of the question. You don’t know where it came from, but you know your response is necessary.

I marvel at how many times in my parenting life I come across a situation with one of my kids for which this serves as the perfect metaphor:

  1. There is a troublesome behaviour/situation your children have exposed you to, aka. brown smear
  2. You aren’t sure if it’s a just a phase or something you need to nip in the bud (chocolate or poop?)
  3. You don’t know where the behaviour came from, but you know some sort of response from you is necessary

Let’s see if you can spot the difference in the following scenarios (completely hypothetical, of course 😉 ):

  1. Your 5 year old has decided that aside from chicken nuggets and fries, the only acceptable dinner option is a peanut butter sandwich. Chocolate or Poop?
  2. Your 10 year old has decided that bedtime means being *in* bed, but it is okay to read for another hour or two till he gets tired.  Chocolate or Poop?
  3. Your 3 year old feels empowered by choosing their own clothes to wear each day, but they are nowhere near matching. Chocolate or Poop?
  4. Your 8 year old hoards all cherished items in her bed like a sanctuary and sleeps among them each night. Chocolate or Poop?

Share your responses in the comment section below and let’s see what measuring stick we can come up with for distinguishing between Chocolate and Poop.

Why Ya Gotta Be So LOUD?

June 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

You may not know this about me, but I am a Taylor Swift fan. Not just because I have kids that enjoy her music, but because I enjoy her music! I enjoyed it long before they did. And I like Justin Bieber too, so there!

Ahem, so, point made, moving along…one of my favourite songs by Ms. Swift is from her Speak Now album, and it’s called “Mean”.  Those who know it, know it it is a terrific song, and very catchy. You can listen to it here if you’ve never heard it.

Anyways, the main line in the song is, “Why ya gotta be so mean?”.  I often hear myself saying, ironically quite loudly so as to be heard over the din, “WHY YA GOTTA BE SO LOUD?!” as one or all of my four children run screaming up and down the hallway, around the island in the kitchen and jump off the top of a short flight of stairs to pretend they can fly. It occurred to me recently how great it would be to modify the words of Taylor’s song, and who better to have the material for it than a stay-at-home mom with four kids! So I did it. And here it is. Enjoy!

You, with your piercing screams
And shouts and cries that you hurt my ears with
You have got me screamin louder than you
Just so I can be heard, now
You, with your voice like gulls on the beach
on a hot day in the summer
You, making me a deafer mom

You can take me down with just one single screech
But you don’t hear, no, you don’t hear…

Someday I’ll have ear plugs that really do work
And all you’re ever gonna be is LOUD
Someday silence will be my biggest job perk
And all you’re ever gonna be is LOUD
Why you gotta be so LOUD?

You, with your boisterousness,
And your bangs and thuds and your pandemonium
You have drawn me to the edge again
As if I don’t already teeter
I walk with my ears plugged
Trying to block you out ’cause I’ll never supress you
I just wanna feel the calm again

I bet you got pushed around
your siblings stole your toy
But the cryin’ ends right now
‘Cause you must stop this tidal flow
time out you go, time out you go…

Someday I’ll have ear plugs that really do work
And all you’re ever gonna be is LOUD
Someday silence will be my biggest job perk
And all you’re ever gonna be is LOUD
Why you gotta be so LOUD?

And I can see me moments from now in my room
Sneakin’ a chapter from my book
With that misconception that
I’m off duty for a bit
Wrung out and weak from all the racket and wailing
tired and grumbling on about how I can’t think
But all you are is LOUD

All you are is LOUD
And intense, and chaotic, and deafening

And LOUD, and LOUD, and LOUD, and LOUD

Someday I’ll have ear plugs that really do work
And all you’re ever gonna be is LOUD
Someday silence will be my biggest job perk
And all you’re ever gonna be is LOUD
Why you gotta be so LOUD?

Someday I’ll have ear plugs that really do work (Why you gotta be so?..)
And all you’re ever gonna be is LOUD (Why you gotta be so?..)
Someday silence will be my biggest job perk  (Why you gotta be so?..)
And all you’re ever gonna be is LOUD
Why you gotta be so LOUD?

Finding Funny

November 28, 2011 § 1 Comment

Ever laughed so hard you cried? Have you done it recently?

For me, it had been too long.

Oh, I’ve had some good chuckles recently, don’t get me wrong. Discovering once I was already out jogging that I had put my pants on inside out caused me to snigger. Listening to my four year old explain: “I was just tickling them!” when I found him with his hand in the Oreo cookie bag, caused me to chortle. Listening to my three year old niece respond to her first chocolate-covered almond experience with “Hey, these chocolates are good; I even like the pits!” sure made me giggle. Looking up words for “chuckle” in the thesaurus this morning set me a tittering <wink> .

But what I mean is when you’ve had a full out belly-originating, eyes-tearing, can’t-breath kind of laughter. One where you have to cover your face because it has become so involuntarily contorted with laughter. Once you’ve recovered, you catch your breath with a big smile on your face, followed by the residual “aaahhh, that was funny” as you finally exhale normally, and you realize how good that felt!

A peaceful, relaxed, refreshing kind of good. Those are the moments that for years in the future you could be anywhere, anytime and if you think of that moment, it will make you laugh out loud. Not LOL. But Laugh. Out. Loud.

I had one of those moments this morning. It was terrific. It was refreshing. It left me relaxed, and feeling peaceful. And grateful. Both for the person who provided the laugh, and for the moment of laughter that will stick with me for years to come. And as I tried to describe it to someone else, I started laughing so hard I couldn’t even get the words out. I was laughing so hard just re-telling the moment that the person I was sharing it with started laughing just watching me. That, is funny.

So go find some funny. It’s therapeutic. And when you’ve recovered from that belly-originating, eyes-tearing, can’t-breath kind of laughter, share it. With me, preferably, but anyone will do 🙂

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