I ran away from my life and came back calmer

August 20, 2010

I didn’t realize it had been the entire summer since I blogged. Shame on me. Ah well, we do the best we can, right? I’ll try to turn over a new leaf and blog more now that back to school is in sight.

I had a stressful summer. My half-time job has really ramped up, and the stress levels with it. I’m only supposed to put in two days in their offices, but it’s been at least three nearly every day this summer, and there is so much going on, I spend hours every weekend dealing with stuff.

And then there are the boys. My kids are adorable and loveable and I really enjoy them — some of the time. But there have been a lot of points this summer when I thought I would lose my mind, when I wanted to crawl into a hole, and I’m not ashamed to admit, when they drove me to tears. The worst was a two-week period when hubby went away. One or other of my kids was sick the whole time, which of course means extra whiny and hard to deal with. And both were cranky and ill-behaved. I thought our two weeks without dad would be extra fun, but instead when he fianlly came back I was burned out. Work didn’t help, of course (see above).

Anyhow, we had set aside a week for a family driving holiday, but hubby was jetlagged and behind at work and frankly, I wasn’t up to it. So we went away as a family for a weekend, and then on one week’s notice, I booked myself a getaway.

I knew I wanted something calming, and while I wanted to go alone, I didn’t want to be by myself. So I decided a tour group would be ideal, and something mildly athletic seemed the ticket. I found a wonderful kayaking trip with a cancellation in the week I wanted, and just like that, booked it. There were not-terribly-expensive flights to the island town that the tour went out of, and the tour company takes care of nearly everything. So I spent six days on Northern Vancouver Island and four days kayaking on Johnstone Strait.

I loved it. The people were nice but I had lots of time to myself. The campsite was lovely and we even had a hot tub overlooking the ocean. We saw whales (Orcas and humpback), a bear, seals, dolphins, porpoises, sea stars, anemones, and lots more I’m forgetting. The paddling was pretty easy, and I seemed to be one of the stronger paddlers anyhow. The whole experience was lovely and I felt so calm and under-stimulated (in a good way) while I was there.

While I thought the best part would be escaping my family, it turned out that the very best part was escaping work. There is no cell service where I was, so for six days, I was cut off and maintained radio silence. And you know what — nothing happened. The world went on without me, nothing bad happened, no clients quit or got mad. Sure, my kids didn’t see a vegetable the whole time that wasn’t covered with ketchup, and even they said they were tired of watching tv while in daddy’s care, they were all in one piece when I got back.

For five days after I returned I didn’t even yell at my kids. Of course, on the sixth day I did, and work is starting to stress me out again. But I try to recapture the calm I felt as often as I can.

Running away was the best thing I ever did for myself. I don’t know why I haven’t done it sooner. Where shall I run to next year?


Is it really a vacation if you take your laptop?

May 31, 2010

As I draft this, I’m on holiday. We are taking our annual trip to the island to enjoy an extended weekend at the seaside. And as usual, the weather sucks. We come here every year (my mother-in-law owns a cabin we get to pull out of the rental pool once a year before high season), and while we love it here, we almost always get so-so or bad weather. It’s not that the weather is bad here, it’s usually absolutely gorgeous. Just rarely the weekends we come. This year it’s raining and cool. Whoopee.

But we’re away, and that in itself is nice. It took us a ferry ride to get here (and thanks to bad planning, a two-hour wait for the next ferry when we missed our reserved ferry by 15 minutes), but the kids were in okay moods and I managed to feel a bit relaxed en route. Yet now I’m on my laptop, following up with work stuff, checking in with the baseball team I coach, and drafting blog entries to post next week. So is it a vacation if I fail to unplug?

I often with I had one of those careers or jobs where I could walk away for a week or two and not have it all fall apart without me. But I’m a consultant, and if I’m not in touch, I could easily have no work, or at least, no income. Plus, I think I’m just one of those type-a people who needs to stay on top of things, even if I’m not doing much work. I want to know that I’m not missing anything.

I have unplugged before. I turned off my email and didn’t even check it for five days when we went to Mexico. And our lakeside cabin last summer had no internet or cell service, so I didn’t have any emails for five days that holiday. And of course I survived, and so did my business. But I don’t know if it made me any more relaxed.

Taking a long weekend right now necessitates having my laptop to follow up on some work. It’s the only way I could get away. And I’m lucky that my work is this portable. Besides, having my laptop means the kids can play games, we can watch movies and listen to music, and I can get some writing in. Those are all things that help relax me.

Yeah, I’m justified staying plugged in, and it’s not all about work. Let’s go with that.

Tomorrow I’ll try to avoid the laptop and spend more time walking on the gorgeous beach. If the rain stops.

Life on the Wet Coast — enough with the rain!!

May 30, 2010

When I used to live back East, what I knew about the west coast and Vancouver was primarily that it rained a lot, they had almost no winter, and everyone was kind of hippy dippy.

Well, I moved to Vancouver in 1996 despite all that, and discovered that some of it was true. It did rain a lot, but it also got very sunny a lot, and summers and even springs and falls could be very lovely. I remember fondly rowing on the ocean in February in t-shirts and shorts on sunny days. And everything is almost always green, which makes up for a lot of the rain. And boy do we ever appreicate the sun. Back East, a sunny day when I had to work was no biggie. Out here, I really feel it if I let a sunny warm day go by being stuck in my office. I must get out and enjoy it.

Last summer was amazingly warm and sunny. So sunny we worried about water shortages and dying lawns. But so far this year, it’s nearly June and it feels like the last month has been all rain. I know we’ve had a couple weeks of sun, but it’s been chilly and rainy the entire last two weeks. And the forecast is for more rain next week. And we took a weekend at the seaside only to have rain and cold the entire weekend.

Plus, it’s baseball season, and we’re having a hard time playing games in the rain. We got rained out at the game on Wednesday, then rained out the next game on Saturday. We have makeups scheduled Sunday and Monday but the forecast is for rain then too. This weather is really putting a crimp into little league season.

Plus, frankly, I’m ready for more sun. It’s not like I suffer from SAD or anything, but after getting drenched walking on the beach this weekend, I’ve had enough.

Is it summer yet?

Notes from our Maui holiday

January 27, 2010

We went to Maui for a week in January. It was my first time, and other than last year’s Mexico vacation, only the second time ever that we’ve taken on our kids on a vacation that didn’t involve visiting family or driving and camping.

I have some advice if you’re thinking about taking your kids on this kind of trip, based on my lessons learned.

1. The satellite tvs on your seat back will only play for a couple hours of the flight. At best. Bring other entertainment.

2. Carry-on luggage bans suck (see #1).

3. Rent a jeep, not a car. It can cost more (although there were lots of deals to be had, if you shop around for them in advance), but it’s fun to drive, suits the climate, and has lots of room for all the stuff you need to move around, least of all your luggage from the airport.

4. Don’t pack so much. We had a condo and it had laundry. Plus it never got below 18 degrees Celsius. We didn’t need half the clothes we brought. I could have literally taken half the number of bags.

5. Stay in Kihei, not Lahaina. They are both lovely parts of the island, but Kihei is more central, the beaches are easier to get to, and all the shops and restaurants are equal.

6. Plan meals ahead. Eating out or cooking in takes planning, and food is more expensive on Maui than the mainland. Don’t make last-minute decisions because it’ll lead to hassles and more cost.

7. Rent cheap snorkel gear. We got talked into renting more expensive gear that was no better than the cheap stuff.

8. Drive to Hana. It’s a full day, but it’s the North side of the island with a climate very different from the beaches.

9. Snorkel. A lot. The fish are gorgeous and swimming with the turtles is out of hand. Even my non-swimmer kid snorkled. I took him out on a boogie board, which he kept strapped on his wrist, and he just ducked his snorkled-head under water to see. It was a huge thrill for him.

10. Go to a luau. They’re expensive and kinda kitchy, but it’s fun and it’s probably the only time your kids will learn anything about Hawaiian culture or history.

11. Drop into Hillo Hattie with the kids. They gave us shell leis when we entered and free samples of stuff. And their tourist junk is the same price as other tourist junk.

12. Go to the farmer’s markets. The food is cheaper, fresher, and much more fun. We bought a whole coconut, the farmer cut off the top and we drank the milk with a ┬ástraw, then he cut it open and later we ate the meat. Fabulous!

13. Divide and conquer. If dealing with your kids is seeming a bit much, take a day for yourself. Go kayaking, walk a lot, shop, sit on the beach and ride, or do like my husband and bike up the volcano (not kidding about that either!). But have at least one day where you can relax completely.

We’ve been back about a week now and my tan is starting to fade, but I still remember the wonderful feel of the sun on my face as I lay there reading my book on my day off. Ahhh, that was a relaxing oasis in the hectic vacation period.

Happy trails, and aloha.

Any advice on travelling with the kids in the no-carry-on-luggage era?

January 6, 2010

We are going to America soon, on a six+ hour flight. And the Canadian transport agency, in its infinate wisdom, hasn’t lifted the no carry-on luggage rule on all flights to the US. And I’m panicking.

Can you imagine eight or more hours (imagine the time from arriving at the airport until the plane lands) with your children with nothing for them to do? They can’t bring carry on luggage, so that means no books, no colouring books, no activity books, no markers, no lego, no toys, no stuffies, and did I mention, no snacks? I as a woman am allowed a small purse, and we can bring a laptop. but that’s it.

My “small” purse will have to contain not just my usual purse stuff (wallet, phone, tissues etc.), but also our three ipods chock full of books on tape for the kids. And our camera, which I won’t put in checked luggage for fear of theft or breakage. And my inhalers (what if the luggage got lost?). And can I fit in a paperback for myself? And one for my son the reader? The battery on our laptop only lasts a couple hours, and there’s no internet on a plane, so it might help a bit but not much.

Apparently I can buy newspapers and books once through security (what a boon for those stores!). And food, unless the strike they announced today by food service workers at the airport is real and ongoing while we fly, not that my airport choices are affordable or very healthy, but it’s better than nothing.

My sole relief is that I believe our flight will have on-board satellite tvs, so the kids will just have to veg out to Teletoon for six hours.

This is completely stressing me out and feeling like an absolute nightmare. I’d welcome any advice or inside information from any parents who have had to deal with this no-carry-on thing already.

The kids at my office — the internet is a great thing

December 30, 2009

We’ve been playing juggling games with child care for the last couple weeks while the boys are on winter holidays. We didn’t want to put them into a child care program, so have been very creative. A friend who was home with her one boy took my two for a whole day. She survived, but I think it reaffirmed her decision to stop at just one child. I’ve given up trying to get a lot of work done at the home office and have just been at home, and sometimes ready to tear my hair out. And we traded with another mom whose kids are usually in afterschool care with my two. One day she took my two so I could come to the office, and another day I took her two so she could go to work. That worked pretty well, since having a friend over is much more entertaining than just having a brother around.

But today, we did without mostly. Hubby took most of the day off to hang with the kids (tear his hair out? I hope not — not much left there to tear!), then mid-afternoon he drove them to my office, where they stayed for a couple hours. Yet I continued to work. I managed this with the magic of the internet. There aren’t a lot of people in at work this week, so it’s quiet to begin with. I warned my co-workers, but I almost needn’t have bothered. They were on the computer, surfing at Webkins or Club Penguin, and quiet as mice in the office next door to mine. There’s lot of food around the office for snacks, and at the end of the day, they bus home with me. All that gives hubby a few hours to catch up on work.

I won’t be doing this often, but it worked well this week.

Spontenaity and kids

July 16, 2009

I think I am a spontaneous person. At least, I used to be spontaneous. Summers were always great for last minute things. Heading to a patio because it was hot. Going camping because we had no plans and the weather was good.

Even after we had a baby we were still semi-spontaeous. Okay, we had to spend an hour or more packing the trunk with portable cribs, strollers, food, diapers, and on and on. But we went on last-minute excursions, I think.

Somewhere in the past few years though, I’ve lost my last-minute-ness. It’s too much effort planning food, clothes, schedules and activities for four people (since you know hubby leaves it all to me!), so I’d rather take fewer get aways, fewer outings. I prefer the comforts of home so I don’t have to worry about what the kids will do when we’re out.

Well now we have two school-aged kids, and I’m trying to regain some spontenaity (gee, I hope I’m spelling that word right since I’ve used it so much!). I recently proposed a weekend getaway on one day’s notice, and the rest of my family stared at me in shock that I was the one to suggest it.

I still have to plan food, activities and packing for all four of us, but with only clothes to pack and kids who can eat at regular restaurants, it’s a lot less of a hassle. And while I know the kids will be sleep-deprived and a getaway won’t be as unplanned as the olden days B.C. (before children), I am proud to be regaining some sense of my old last-minute self.