50 Things to Do Outside

Have you seen the list of 50 Things to Do Before You Are 11 3/4 from England’s National Trust?  It’s brilliant.

I’m a big fan of the bucket-list approach to living.  (We are steadily working our way through 1001 Children’s Books to Read Before You Grow Up.  I plan never to be too old for anything in that book.  I love the whole series.)

Give me a list and I itch to get ticking.  Is it even possible to try 1001 Whiskeys Before You Die?  There’s only one way to find out!  It’s the journey and not the destination, right?

What I love about the National Trust List is that it is as much a starting point for infinite adventures as it is a finite list.  It works for the task-oriented, but also for those who like to wander off the beaten path.  It pushes you further into the wild, and it makes you open your eyes to the wilderness on your urban doorstep.

Middlest and I were walking through a ravine the other day, and he said, “People just see the danger in the wild.  They don’t see the good things.”  We started to name the good things.  We ran out of ravine before we ran out of ideas.

conkersI grew up playing conkers in England.  You tie a chestnut onto a string, and then you try to knock your opponent’s chestnut off of her string.  The enormous crispiness of those brown leaves, the prickle of the nut case, and the smell of weather cooling is forever part of my sensory memory.  I don’t know why conkers isn’t popular in Canada, but because it isn’t, chestnuts are just another tree to my boys, and they probably could not name it.  Chestnut, maple, oak: these are trees that I am confident I can identify in almost all seasons, but as Middlest and I were walking, I realized that I could not name nearly all of the trees we walked past.  It awoke in me a desire to learn to identify all of the trees in our neighbourhood.  They are so much a part of our lives, and yet we don’t know all of their names.

treeI’ve taken to carrying my tree guide to the park, to taking new routes with new trees, and while the kids play soccer, I wander around looking at the trees.  Then they wander over and have a peek and help me to identify the leaf shape and find the right name.

And, lo and behold, we all have a name for the fragrant tree that brings us so much joy when it’s in blossom in June and July.  Hello, Linden.  So nice to know your name.

4Mothers, 4 Years

hourglassFour years ago, where were you?  What were you, and how were you?  I asked myself these questions as 4Mothers closed the loop on its fourth year.  As whenever I engage this process, I am dumbfounded at the answers.

Four years ago, I had two children, not three.  They were 4 and 2 years old (so young! when I look back at their photos).  I was working as a lawyer, and my husband had quit his job to take care of our boys.  He was also playing around with part-time work options, and gearing up for a third major hip surgery in as many years.  We had just embarked on a mammoth (for us) investment decision.  We still had a beloved pussycat.  Our oldest son hadn’t started school yet.  Neither of us was 40.  Did I mention that I had two children, not three?

Four years ago, I decided to take a writing course about creating memoirs from the experiences of motherhood.  I met a group of women there and heard some remarkable writing and did some of my own.  Some of us decided to write a blog and get together, for the pleasure of writing company.

Four years later, we still do this.  We are no less busy that we were when we met; au contraire, mes amis, we have added two children to the already full bushel of boys.  Our lives are so blessedly full, but we make time for this.  We may not meet as often as we like, but we meet, and something in that regular rhythm, kind of like the daily-ness of this blog for me, is a comforting touchstone.

Four years.  What have they brought to you?

Mad Mums’ Martinis

I hosted a Mad Mums’ Martini afternoon for some other half-day Kindergarten kids and mums.  This is the aftermath:

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Note that the jello salad is almost all there, the spam is untouched and the vodka … well, not untouched.

One of us wore pearls and heels.  One of us wore a twin set.  One of us wore one of 200 dresses in her closet from the fifties.

All of us had fun.

Because sometimes in this crazy journey we call motherhood, we have to make a detour for the carnival.

 

Countdown

Sing to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands”

There are 14 days of school, shout hooray!

There are 14 days to go, shout hooray!

There are 14 days to go,

Tell everyone you know,

There are 14 days of school, shout hooray.

I happened to overhear a version of this from a Kindergarten room at my sons’ school the other day.  (There was something more earnest and learning-positive in the middle in the teacher’s version.  I just made up something that scanned for the purpose of story-telling.)  It’s been stuck in my head ever since.  Counting down, counting down, counting down….

It’s not quite clear to me why the JK and SK set need such precise knowledge (or, indeed, daily reminders) of when the last bell will ring, but I had mixed feelings when I heard that song.

June always wears me right out.  The final push, the dash to the finish line.  It’s so very difficult to keep everyone motivated, to keep the ship running tightly.

Eldest is half-heartedly studying for exams that his teachers and principal seem at pains to tell him are not all that important.  I guess the idea is to downplay things so that the kids don’t get anxious, but we could use just a touch more anxiety over here.

Middlest is working hard finishing work for his extra-curricular classes, but once that’s done this week, he’s off the hook until the last bell rings.  The classrooms get awfully hot and stuffy.  Great work does not get done in June.

Youngest is in SK, so he’s just waiting for the days when he can play soccer all day at soccer camp.  Summer Nirvana.

I am quite genuinely looking forward to the last bell, too.  We always have a pajama day on the first day of summer, with sugary cereal and unlimited screen time and no set bedtime.  In other words, feed yourself breakfast kids, and leave me alone with my books.  My summer nirvana.

I’d love to let the kids coast gently into that summertime bliss…

But wait!  Before the final bell rings, before we can laze around in our pjs, before we can spend full days at camp doing exactly what we love best, we have to get ready for a major renovation to the second floor of our house.  The renovation begins the very same week the kids finish school.

No rest for the weary.

So in this final dash to the finish line, we will be spending our evenings purging toys, packing up the bookshelves, storing away the hockey gear, and getting ready to seal off the playroom and the laundry room.  (Yikes!  Sealing off the laundry room is not high on my list of things to look forward to.)

I am genuinely looking forward to that purge, but, oh!, the energy it requires.

There are 14 days to go before the hammers fall….

 

A Trial Run with a Dog

photoA few weeks back, I pondered if I was ready for a dog.  Eldest had come back from a dog sledding trip positively bursting to get a dog.  I did not say no; I suggested some further investigation was in order.

When his uncle and aunt had a baby a few weeks ago, Eldest suggested that, as a shower gift, he would look after their dog for a week.  I thought it a great plan: a chance to help out and a chance for a trial run with a dog.

Well, I am thrilled to report that Eldest knocked it out of the park.  He got up at 6 every morning this week to walk the dog.  He came straight home from school to walk him.  He fed him dinner promptly at 6.  He took him for an abundance of walks.  He lavished him with attention.  The dog slept in his room each night, so none of the rest of us had a moment of disturbed sleep.

All three boys are so happy to share his company.   The dog herds the youngest two to school, and he is reluctant to leave them there, staring longingly at the doors after the bell has gone.  There is much joy and rejoicing on the occasion of every reunion.  We went for a lovely long walk with him after dinner last night, and when Middlest gave me a dandelion clock to make a wish on, I wished for more nights exactly like that one.  I am extraordinarily proud of Eldest, who demonstrated absolute readiness to take on the responsibility of a dog.

His mother, however…..  His mother is.  Just.  Not.  Ready.

Even with Eldest’s excellent performance, and the abundance of joy in our house, and a dog with the friendliest, most relaxed temperament, I have found it so very draining to have another dependent living being on my radar.  I am on edge.  I feel like I have not been able to recharge my batteries all week.  I cannot really account for it based on how low stress a dog this is, but there is no arguing with the spike in my anxiety.  I had no idea I was so close to the edge of my limit, but the dog has shown me that this whole time that I have been operating with the sense that I am on top of things, I’m still basically a hair’s breadth from a meltdown.

It has been a huge disappointment to discover my limits this week, especially since Eldest did all we could reasonably require (and more) in terms of demonstrating his maturity and responsibility.

But this is what trial runs are for: exploring, experimenting, testing our limits.

Shadow Eyes: Reflecting on Dementia

wbhi_silver_pendant4_grandeA few weeks ago I mentioned that I was researching my family tree and working on a keepsake book.  It’s a project that was intended to be a hobby, a brief diversion from the everyday, but it’s taken on a life of its own.  I have accumulated documentation and pictures galore, uncovered some family “scandals” and discovered babies who lived for such a short time that no one living knows they ever existed.

While I was scanning several photos onto my computer, my 6 year-old son offered to help.  He was keen to ask questions about the grainy black and whites that he gingerly passed to me.  He asked about the old-fashioned clothing, the dour backdrops and the sour expressions.  His comments, as they always do, caused me to laugh but also to reflect on how childhood has evolved over generations.

He passed me a square sepia photo; the edges soft and worn thin.  The year 1929 is scrawled in faded ink on the back. A baby, maybe 6 months old, is dressed for winter.  Tiny mittens covering tiny hands, a knitted cap pulled down low, and a blanket pulled up high exposing only pudgy cheeks that appear flush from the cold, a button nose and dancing eyes.

“Do you know who this is?” I asked him; sure that he wouldn’t have the faintest idea.

“It’s grandma,” he said with certainty, without pause, without even a moment to focus on the face of his great-grandmother.

It had taken me a few minutes to place my grandmother’s face.  I had to take care not to confuse her distinct features with those of her siblings, consulting the date to prove my guess.

“How did you know it’s her?”

“Because her eyes are the same.”  He says this as he scoots off the chair and races out of the room. Bored with scanning pictures and hearing about orphaned relatives.

Of course he’s right.  I stared at that picture and compared it with a more recent one of my grandmother, accurately representing her 86 years. I laid both pictures along side several others.

Pictures of her as a young woman with a page-boy and a clingy sweater, as a young mother cradling her third baby on the front porch in the spring of ’56, the undeniably 70’s era shot where she leans into the camera flashing a smile while holding my grandfather’s shoulder, another image of her holding his same shoulder but this time decades later at their 50th wedding anniversary celebration.  All of these photos are on the table, looking up at me.  The hairstyles, the fashions, the décor are different in each photo, telling a story of their own and yet her eyes remain the same.

But my son was only partly right.  Her eyes may be same shape, the same colour blue dotted with flecks of black, but they are not same.  They are shadowed now.

I come from a long line of octogenarians.  Most of my predecessors have lived well into their seventies, eighties and nineties – even back two hundred years ago.  I like to loom this over my husband’s head from time-to-time.  I like to remind him that when he finds me annoying after 10 years of marriage, I have the potential to give him at least another 40 more.  He likes to remind me that his genes don’t offer such promises.  Sometimes I wonder which of us is holding the winning hand.

Times are changing and people are living longer and more enriching lives.  For the most part people (who live in this country anyway) don’t die from diseases that their ancestors may have succumbed to.  It’s rare to hear of someone dying from tuberculosis or dysentery today just as it was less common to see people living well into old-age hundreds of years ago.

However, it is estimated today that 550,000 people living in Canada have Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia.  Like most diseases, the patient is ground zero and families feel the collateral damage.  Caregiver fatigue and the Sandwich Generation are hot topics with politicians, policy makers and employers, never mind the voice writers and researchers give to the thousands of people who identify themselves as such.

Lynn Posluns, a long time Toronto volunteer, philanthropist and activist, is one such voice and a powerful one at that.  She recently founded the Women’s Brain Health Initiative to raise awareness about the inequity in brain aging research funding for women.

Women are twice as likely as men as to suffer from brain aging illnesses, stroke and depression.  In fact, 70% of newly diagnosed Alzheimer’s patients are women.

The WBHI puts out an informative magazine (available online here) with articles written by leading researchers and doctors about how estrogen, stress, cortisol and pregnancy/motherhood may influence your overall brain health as well as simple lifestyle modifications that may have significant long-term benefits.

I have discovered that while my genes my have a ticket for longevity, I want to those years to be as fulfilling as possible.

More and more the research is showing that the choices we make while we are young and healthy directly affect how we age.

I see my grandmother in these pictures as a young woman, a wife, a sister, a mother.  I see how she changes with each passing decade.  I see how her role changes too. No longer is she the central hub of her family, mothering her four children.  No longer is she the grandmother called upon to host family dinners or arrange annual reunions.

Time is sneaky.  The photographs are all the proof that I need.  Generations pass in an instant leaving nothing more than a trail of pictures, and if you’re lucky, memories.

________________________________________________________________________________________

Visit the Women’s Brain Health Initiative.

The Hope-Knot designed by Mark Lash, to represent brain health, is available as sterling cufflinks, a pin or a sterling pendant and chain.  Prices start at $10.

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Packing it in

013We took ourselves off to the first Toronto Flower Market of 2014 as the first stop on my Day Before Mother’s Day Extravaganza.  The idea was to spend the whole day together in vacation mode.  I planned a full day of events with my beloved and our boys, stopping off at various places around the city:

  • the flower market
  • Type Books
  • (unplanned detour to) the ER at Sick Kids with Eldest who broke a bone in his hand the day before, the swelling of which I could no longer ignore, though I had managed to ridicule his claim that it was broken on Friday night.  (“Hell, no, I’m not taking you to the ER on a Friday night.  It will be packed.  If that hand was broken you’d be writhing in pain, child.  Put some ice on it.”)
  • ate falafel and humble pie for lunch
  • bought one-handed food for Eldest who is now sporting a cast (see above re: humble pie)
  • the Science Rendezvous at UofT, where the kids exploded gummie bears, crawled through the blood vessels of the heart, and made frothing toothpaste
  • street basketball
  • gelato
  • soccer in the park
  • dinner at Sports Café to watch the Habs game

It occurred to me that I was packing an enormous amount of fun into a single day, and that aside from ignoring my children’s broken bones, I am quite possibly the most amazing mother on earth, but then I realized that, minus the ER, some folks just call that an ordinary weekend day.  Some folks just head out the door in the morning, and don’t come home until the day is done.  These are People Who Know How to Have Fun.

I enjoyed being one of those people for a day, packing it in.  Not my usual speed at all, but that’s what holidays are for.

How to Cast, Rehearse and Perform a Play with 30 Preschoolers in Three Hours

kingYoungest celebrated his sixth birthday this weekend, and when I asked him what he wanted to do for his party, he said, “Put on a play with my friends.”

A full three years ago, Middlest had chosen to do a play for HIS sixth birthday, a fact that I had all but forgotten.  So what was surprising about Youngest’s request was not so much that he wanted to put on a play but that he remembered that such a thing could be done with friends at a birthday party.

I guided Youngest to the theme of medieval knights and castles because he loves to dress up and do sword fights, but also because I had a dozen copies of Castles: How They Work on hand from a previous party!  The book has since gone out of print, so I had to shop for the rest of the books that would go into the guests’ loot bag.  I found Marcia Williams’s retelling of the stories of King Arthur, which was perfect, but I couldn’t get enough copies of that book, either, so I also picked up her retelling of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

Now, The Canterbury Tales are not exactly every child’s cup of tea, so I read Williams’s version to make sure that this book would be a good pick to send home with the kids at the end of the party.  Not only was it a great pick, it became the foundation of the three plays that the kids performed on the day.

Youngest is mightily fond of farts.  Honestly, I have never met a boy who delights in the gas we pass more than he does.  The Canterbury Tales is well-stocked with stories with farts, but I stayed well away from those for the plays.  Instead, I adapted The Nuns’ Priest’s Tale, The Franklin’s Tale, and The Knight’s Tale to be performed by 6-10 kids in a 10-minute performance.  Thirty kids; three plays; thirty minutes.  That means stripping the story to its bare bones, making sure that there is plenty of action for the kids to perform, and including as much humour and audience participation as possible.

I learned this technique of performing plays with young kids from their fabulous playschool teacher, who regularly works with the kids to perform plays as part of her playschool programming.  Briefly, here’s how it works: the Narrator tells the story, and the kids act it out.  It’s that simple.  In this way, the Narrator has (theoretical) control of the action (this came in handy during the sword fighting scene), and the kids have close guidance of what to do and say.  The kids can create their own characters and story, which is what I did for the party three years ago, or you can narrate a story that you have prepared.

acnt

Here is how I stripped down and adapted The Nuns’ Priest’s Tale:

Chantecleer the Rockstar Rooster

Pertelote the Rockstar Hen

The Fox

The Chickens

In the courtyard of a castle there lived a rooster, Chantecleer, his wife Pertelote, and a brood of happy chickens. Chantecleer was very proud of his very fine voice, and the whole castle depended on his morning call. He and Pertelote would greet each day in perfect harmony, and at the end of the day, all of the birds would curl up to sleep.

One morning, before the sun rose, Chantecleer began to moan and groan in his sleep. The noise woke Pertelote, who then shook him awake. He had had a very bad dream. He dreamed that an orange monster with pointy ears, a long, pointy nose, white, sharp teeth and a bushy tail had chased him around and around and tried to eat him!

Ask Audience: What could it be?

He was sure that the dream had a meaning and that it meant that he should not sing his beautiful song that day.

Pertelote told him that was nonsense. She said his bad dream was because he had eaten too much the night before. She told him not to worry and to hurry up and get ready for their morning song. She gave him his microphone, and they both got ready to sing.

Ask Audience: Are you ready for their song? What will it sound like? Sing along if you know the words.

PLAY first verse and chorus of “What Does the Fox Say?” (heh heh)  Chickens dance and sing.

Well, the Fox did NOT like this song, not one little bit. So he hid behind a bush to watch for his chance to eat Chantecleer and put an end to this nonsense.

Chantecleer saw the fox hiding and was very afraid. Pertelote was afraid. The happy chickens were afraid, and they all crowded together. Chantecleer began to run away, but the clever Fox said,

Stop!

He told him he had come to make friends and to hear his singing, which was famous even all the way to the forest. Chantecleer was very proud of his voice, so he was easily tricked into trusting the fox.  The fox said that his voice would sound even better if he did one special trick. The Fox showed him exactly what to do: close his eyes and stretch his neck way, way up.  So Chantecleer closed his eyes and stretched his neck way, way up.

And the Fox snapped him up and carried him off to the forest. He ran this way and that. The chickens ran after him, trying to save Chantecleer, but they could not keep up.  They stopped to catch their breath.

Oh! Poor Chantecleer! It looked like his goose was cooked, but Chantecleer was not just any pretty chicken. He had brains and he planned to use them.

He said, “Stop, Fox! You have outrun them now. You can slow down and tell the chickens that they might as well go home.” The Fox, who was not the sharpest crayon in the box, was quite happy to boast of his success and he opened his mouth to reply.

FREEZE

Ask audience: what will happen next?

Chantecleer flew free and flew to the top of a tree.

Poor Fox. He tried to flatter the rooster back to ground, but Chantecleer was older and wiser now, and crowed triumphantly at the monster from his dream.

Actors take a bow.

Beautiful literature, it is not.  However, it was a whole lot of fun to rehearse and perform this story with a group of 4-6 year-olds.

Here is what we did to prepare:

Props and costumes: Chantecleer, egg carton chicken masks, toilet roll microphone, fox nose and ears.

Props and costumes: Chantecleer, egg carton chicken masks, toilet roll microphone, fox nose and ears.

1.  Invite guests to attend the party in costume and tell them that they will have a chance to perform in a play.  Have extra costumes on hand.  (We have years’ worth of Halloween costumes.)  Lots of knights and princesses came to this party.  One child came as a dragon, so I added a dragon to one of the plays.  I needed a brood of chickens, so Youngest and I made chicken masks from egg cartons ahead of time.  All of the chickens wore princess dresses.  No problem.  The play is large; it can contain multitudes.

2.  After all the guests arrive, gather them in a circle and tell them, very briefly, the story for each play.  Then ask for volunteers for the roles.  Kids can also choose to just watch the plays.  The first stage of casting is done.

3.  Work with groups of 6-10 kids at a time.  Rehearse in a space separate from the rest of the kids so that there are no distractions and so that the final production will be new to the kids in the audience.  Tell the story briefly again, and finish assigning the roles.

4.  Now begin rehearsing.  The Narrator stands “on stage” with the kids and narrates the action of the play from downstage, nearly in the wings; the kids act out what is being narrated.  As you go, elicit what their characters would say.  Some kids will be eager to say lines.  Some will not.  You can narrate for the kids who would prefer not to speak.  Some kids will decide that they don’t like the role they chose.  Switch roles.  Some kids will decide they don’t want to perform.  That’s fine, too.

5.  Rehearse each play separately, then assemble all the kids for the Final Performance.  I invited parents to return for the last hour of the party to watch the plays.  Each group takes a turn performing its play.

6.  Have fun.  Expect hiccups.  Roll with it.

The party was a three-hour whirlwind, and while I rehearsed with the kids, my husband and the parents who had stayed for the party supervised those who were not rehearsing.  They grazed at the food table, they played, they did not kill or maim each other with their toy swords.  I knew we would not have time for cake, so after the performance, we sang “Happy Birthday,” then each guest went home with a book, a bookmark made by the birthday boy, and a birthday cookie made by the amazingly talented Christy at DolceDesserts.

photo 1

And then I sat down and did not get up for a good, long time.

Guest Post: Roseanne Carrara on Ruins & Mezes: Touring the Eastern Mediterranean and Morocco

Each year, for March Break , I adapt a famous story for the kids, substituting animals for the title characters, and changing the settings as need be. Each tale sets us longing for travel. One dream: to trace the faces of Easter Island’s Moai statues beneath the moonlight, as do the bears in our version of the Bible’s Jacob & Esau story, The Coronation of the Easter Bunny Bear. Another: to visit the churches, greens, and pubs of Ireland frequented, secretly, by A Study in Emerald’s leading snake, Sir Lochrann Holmes and his buddy McUaitson. Three: an eco-tour of B.C.’s Great Bear Rainforest, whose funds would support the health of the wild salmon population while opposing the trophy hunting of bears, black, white, and grizzly. Maybe, we’d even glimpse a rare white mooksgm’ol, the inspiration for Ahma, the Spirit Bear, our treatment of Jane Austen’s Emma.

Nothing, however, has gotten me closer to phoning a travel agency or booking online than this year’s Bearicles, our take on Shakespeare’s Pericles, Prince of Tyre. The kids and I spent hours mapping the eastern cities of the Ancient Mediterranean (Tyre, Antioch, Ephesus, Tarsus), comparing them to a current map (Lebanon, Syria, Greece, Turkey), and plotting a long, eventful trip of our own! Forays into Mediterranean cooking inspired us all the more. To complement the story, we made Lebanese manakish (flatbreads), Syrian ma’amool cookies, Turkish pide (pizzas), lemony Greek calamari , and baklava! I even went “West” one evening by myself, making a complicated Moroccan tagine. For the kids and I, it was “ruins” and “mezes” (little tastes) all week.

So if money, vacation time, and social and political upheaval were nothing to worry about, my ideal family get-away would be a historical and culinary tour of the Eastern Mediterranean (Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and Jerusalem) with an extended lay-over in Morocco on the way back home!

1. First stop, Greece, for a view of the Acropolis  and an Epitourean experience in Athens. We’d have a taste of loukomades, a wind around the spice and seafood stalls of the Varvakeios market, and an Ancient Greek dinner. Our next sleep might be in Mytilini, Lesvos , where we’d tour the Medieval Castle, the Ouzo factories, and have a fish feast in the old harbor.

Ephesus

Ruins of Ephesus

2. Then, Turkey, where the perfect tour has already been planned for us by Truffle Pig. We’d get lost in the streets of Istanbul, visit the Blue Mosque and Topkapi palace, balloon around Capadocia, and visit the ruins of Ephesus, especially the Temple of Artemis, featured prominently in Bearicles. Then, off to Gaziantep for cooking lessons and lots of experimenting with Turkish flavours and food!

3. After a look at the Roman ruins of Apamea , Syria, we might tackle a week-long tour such as this : a taste of baklava and a visit to the souk al-Tanabel market in Damascus, a Bedouin dinner in the desert near the ruins of Palymyra, and dinner and a few cooking tips in the “gastronomic capital,” Aleppo.

4. Next up, Lebanon, with a sure stop at the Temple of Jupiter in the ruins at Ba’albeck. This Taste of Lebanon Culinary Journey offers what we’re after: a seven day journey in which we’d sample Lebanese cuisine, learn how to make sujuk sausage, kibbeh, and Arabic bread, and pay a visit to both a sweets castle and spice fields for za’atar.

5. Our last stop in the East is Israel. First, a glimpse of the ruins of the Knight’s Castle in Arsuf. We’d follow this up with a serious tour of Jeruslaem, including, of course, the Western Wall . We’d love to finish up with one of Tali Freidman’s culinary tours of Jersualem’s famous Mahane-Yehuda market.

Turkish Spices6. Last stop, a long lay-over in Morocco, North-Western Africa, where we’d visit the famous Casablanca, ride camels, explore the ancient medinas of Fes, get lost in the spice markets. This would be the ultimate place for a serious family culinary tour, hosted, ideally, by the inspiring Peggy Markel . In Marrakesch, the Atlas Mountains, and Essouaria, we’d learn to cook in the famed tagine, bake bread in wood-fired ovens, eat figs, and see how argan nuts are collected and used for oil.

I can just see us passing through customs after a few good months of travel: bags full of spice jars, pockets filled with sand and rocks, four sizes of tagine, a selection of metal tea pots and cups (for the bears, of course), bottles of ouzo and olive and argan oils, dried salted fish wrapped in paper, silk scarves, wicker hats, sketches of ruins and the sea, stretched waistbands, tanned, happy faces, yes, and hands, four pairs of them, blessed with the ability to re-create most everything we’d tasted in the Mediterranean we’d come to know.

::

Roseanne Carrara blogs at The Lunchbox Season  and Summer of Funner . These also have a Facebook Page. Her professional site is In Defense of Burning .

 

 

Vacation of our Dreams, Times Three

untitledEldest wants to go to Tanzania to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.  Middlest wants to go on an African safari.  Youngest wants to go to Disney.

Me?  Any and all of the above, with just one child at a time.

If time is a parent’s most precious resource, quality time alone with each child is even more hard to come by.  In the vacations of my dreams, I get to take one child on his own on a life-changing adventure.  And since I’d be more than happy to do all of the above, I’ll let the kids decide.

I am a traveller who is pretty well wed to her itinerary.  I like to plan carefully, cover as much ground as humanly possible, and leave with no regrets of opportunities missed or sights unseen.  One of my favourite passages from Jennifer Coburn’s We’ll Always Have Paris comes after she and her daughter have decided on a whim to do things out of order, swapping the days for museum visits.  After going through the Museum of Modern Art in Rome, she says to her daughter,

 “There isn’t a piece in here that I am not one hundred percent in love with….”

“Aren’t you glad we changed the days?” Katie asked.

“We didn’t change the days; we let the days change us.”

Days that change us is what I’m after.  I’m willing to step outside of my safety zone to do that.

I’d also love to step out of my usual roles.  I am the voice of Chores and Homework and The Almighty Clock.  I am the Referee.  I’d really like not to be The Referee.  Yes, a dream vacation would free me up from the roles that pin me down.

Aside from the benefit of not having to be on sibling rivalry duty, time alone with each boy would make the vacation our own special thing.  I love having our own special thing.  My boys all know that I love them, but there’s no substitute for a private joke, a special treat or an amazing memory for cementing that love.

Oh, I’m loving this dreaming so much I just want to go off and plan it!  Not Kilimanjaro, maybe, but local hike.  Not a safari, but a trip to the zoo.  Not Disney, but Canada’s Wonderland is on our doorstep.  Some in-our-own-back-yard special things.