SCENES FROM OUR HOME – on a lazy afternoon

It’s a beautiful day in the neighbourhood. The sun is out and the kids are off school.

Cherry blossom, photo by C. Waschko

photo by C.Waschko

.Today is a lazy day; life offers you time, health and way too many possibilities to keep yourself busy with. And right here is the problem: if and when I face too many choices, I find it hard to get started with one thing only. This isn’t the first time I’m  facing this dilema – but fortunately, over the years, I found the perfect remedy: If in doubt, clean the bathroom! Currently we have five of them. That will keep me busy for a while and will give me enough time to decide on my plan of action for the rest of the day!

On my way up, cleaning supplies in hand, I ran into our youngest son Cruz. Cheerfully he greeted me with : “What can I ding-dong- diddledee-dooh for you?”

This one always cracks me up. He is such a witty one (our son that is) -unfortunately, in this instance he ‘stole’ the quote from The Simpsons.

When I asked him where his Korean brother is (our exchange student) he answered:

“You mean the new species in our house, whose natural habitat is the computer?”

photo by C. Waschko

Joey loves the computer, by C. Waschko

Does that even make sense? Where did he get that one from? Still, I am his mother, I think it’s cute!.

He may quote characters from tv or borrow sentences from “Animal Kingdom”, but if you put him in front of a blank piece of paper, pencil in hand, he can be original. Check these new Pokemon cards out, I am pretty sure they will become the next big thing in our neighbourhood:.

Attack Pokemon photo, C.Waschko2013-04-26 12.16.36

Don’t you just love random chitter-chatter by your children?  Their creativity? Their innocence? Their ability to be glued in front of a computer? Just kidding, this drives me bonkers. But to be fair, our junior can still get lost in real play time for hours on end!

C.Waschko

C.Waschko

I look at my son (on the right) and my heart fills with joy and pride. Not so long ago he was a baby, and in a few more years he will be off, just like his two older brothers are at this moment.

He reminds me of the fact that our time together is only short and borrowed. At the end, all we are left with are wonderful memories of our lazy days together.

Or at the times when he reprimanded me ‘Not to buy those pants anymore, because they are so 2 seconds ago.”

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BEER & FLOODS! OR better, FLOODS of BEER

Over the last three days we had torrential rain in our neck of the woods. I got so fed up with the water that I decided to write about it. But before I go any further, you need to know that we live on top of a hill. Dominic always wanted to live ‘on the top’ – I on the other hand would love to live next to the ocean. My husband granted himself his wish;  whereas I have to listen to Mick Jagger’s “You can’t always get what you want to.”

I decided to blog about the poor guys who live at the bottom of the hill and our wonderful morning spent at a local brewery to bottle 140 bottle of Dominic’s own signature beer. All I need to do is somehow connect these two:

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There are always three or four ways of dealing with a problem, or in our case, with an inconvenience!  By now you know that liquor prices in B.C. are ridiculously high. Like so many other men, my loved one feels an undeniable attraction to a cold bottle in the fridge. In order to keep his love affair going he is forced to do one of four things,

– To keep on buying beer and to keep on complaining,

– to keep on buying and stop complaining,

– to stop drinking beer, – yeah, as if this would ever happen,-

or, to become creative!

In Dominic’s case it meant to find a local brewery and design his own beer; Not only is this a tasty, slightly intoxicating way to make your dollars buy more, it is also a fun way to bond with your teenage son when it comes to bottling. This is what I call a creative mastermind!

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Do I hear you say 10.45 am is too early for your first glass? If you think so, then you most likely haven’t heard of the “It is 5 o’ çlock somewhere”- rule.

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When you live at the bottom of the hill and your frontyard has been flooded, you need to become creative too. Don’t just complain about the rain, have your alternative transportation ready, put your house on the market and move up to the top of our hill. You will be safe up here and the view is most likely much better!  2013-03-02 12.02.22

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Unlike the roads and unfortunate houses at the bottom, our house will never get flooded. On the contrary, we are getting ready for another force of nature: The force of attraction when the word hits the street that Dominic is in possession of 140 bottles of freshly brewed grain and yeast. Friends, our doors are always open, we welcome you!

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HELP! I NEED ANOTHER HUSBAND

Only dairy farmers or bakers need to apply!

The successful candidate must be able to supply an endless amount of dairy products – preferable milk – and baked goods; staked high to satisfy the ongoing hunger of four teenage boys.

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I honestly thought buying nappies, formula milk or baby food in jars was bad enough. Years later comes the rude awakening: Our children changed from the cute, chubby, helpless little creatures into independent, strong willed, still cute (but different cute) young men, with a huge appetite!

Our new house came with one fridge and skinny freezer only. The boys empty them at a faster rate than I can restock them!

Yesterday it was full, today it is empty!

These days you can find me either on the way to the grocery store, in the grocery store or on my way home. Once at home I get ready to bake muffins, cookies, brownies or pancakes. I even took up yoghurt making.

Joey, our Korean exchange student, can eat for three! Furthermore, he literally drinks our ketchup bottles empty; he fears Heinz will stop producing them shortly.  At first I thought he doesn’t like my cooking because he puts the sauce on everything. But even I have to admit,  my cooking isn’t that bad either;  Joey simply loves the taste of ketchup.

The two most common questions I have to answer on a regular basis are: “When are we eating dinner?” and “What are we eating later on?”  Of course, there is nothing wrong with being asked these questions, it’s just very frustrating to answer them right after the boys wolved down their afternoon meal of French toast or toasties (melted cheese).

If Dominic agrees to change our marital status from ‘couple’ to ‘quadruple’, I will search for a legitimate religious order which allows women to have three men. If the google search will be unsuccessful I need to settle this matter once and for all: I am sure there will be another mid-term sale coming up soon and I will get myself a bread maker, a waffle iron, an ice-cream maker, a second fridge and freezer, big sacks of flour and a cow for the backyard.

Right now a song pops into my head. The one where Marilyn Monroe sings about “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend”. Easy for her to sing, she never had children….

VACATION TIME

These are our last days of our school vacation.. What better reason is there to reflect upon holidays?

Dear Holiday,
I love you as an institution; I love you for what you stand for: A well deserved period of fun and relaxation after a period of hard work.

Memories of days long past come floating back; long, lazy days filled with sweet nothing. During our school holidays back in the days, when I was a young girl, we didn’t have a computer at home. My parents couldn’t afford to go away during each vacation. German TV at that time only had three channels, our kid’s entertainment started at 5.10pm, and ended at 7pm.

We had a big yard and my brother and I had enough willing neighbours to play with us. Time spent at home during school holidays is a pleasant blur. We read books, went on bike rides and later on a teenagers, we still went on bike rides, just a little bit further away.

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Did we drive my mom crazy?  I don’t think so. This lady has a talent to keep herself – and others, busy. Always has been, always will be. Obviously, I asked her this question, several times even. And always the same response: “Oh, I really don’t remember, that is so long ago!” Our dad was mostly at work’; we definately didn’t drive him crazy.

Dear Holiday, as a working woman I cherish you to charge up replenished batteries –  we all need a rest once in a while.

Dear Holiday, in my current state and carreer as a mother of four, you are driving me crazy!

Holiday time at home is luxury and fun during the first three days. The luxury of staying up late, getting up even later and slouching in ones PJ’s can’t be stressed enough. Holiday time frees me up from a demanding taxi service four nights a week to bring any one of the boys to soccer practise. At least now I can design my own evening entertainment.

Any longer than three days and anarchy takes over!

Mrs. Holiday, I hold you responsible to turn our life upside down, to let our well rehearsed, well established routine fall into pieces. Nothing makes sense anymore. If I don’t offer our boys a list of activities ( e.g. ice-skating, movies, skiing, trail walking), they are more than happy to roll out of their bed straight onto the comfy couch in our men den to start on the xbox.

We are getting up way too late, we don’t know if we should eat breakfast or lunch, our dishes are pilling up in the sink. It’s driving me crazy!

Dearest holiday, I appreciate you as a wonderful opportunity to experience daily life in a more extra-ordinary fashion these days. But as you know, all good things have to come to an end. This is what happens to all good or bad things, they have to end. The good thing about bad things coming to an end is that we have the chance to start fresh again.

The good things, like holidays, need to come to an end too; otherwise we wouldn’t enjoy and appreciate them so much!

Therefore, on Monday my children will be sad that you are over, but I will be happy! Life as I know it will be upon us-again!

WHEN IN SEATTLE, EAT!

Here is my account of our road trip to Seattle. On our quest to take the children places, to widen their horizon and to appreciate city life, we discovered that it is the simple thing that kept our boys happy!

Here we go again: During the recent long weekend we took the opportunity to spice up our‘daily life’ and took our boys across the border to visit Seattle.  We like to describe ourselves as ‘cosmopolitan parents’: “It is our duty to take them places and to let them explore other cultures ( I am not sure if Seattle qualifies)”

If it wouldn’t be for the border control, Seattle is only a hop and skip away from Vancouver (i.e. a two hour car ride).

Seattle, the birthplace of our modern, coffee drinking civilization (i.e. Starbucks)!

The first ever Starbucks store!

The first ever store!

Seattle, the home of one of the richest man in the world. The man, who made sure computers are a household item (Microsoft)!

Thanks to the invention of TV shows (in this case I – Carly), our boys were familiar with the city and the Space Needle way before we arrived.

During this recent trip we took the Sumas border-crossing, followed by a beautiful ride through winding, picturesque countryside through rural Washington State. I always ‘make sure’ that our children appreciate the beautiful surroundings they find themselves in. During this trip it somewhat back fired on me: “You always tell us to look at mountains, they all look the same.” Or a better one is: “Everything is beautiful here!”

Can I blame them? Not really. We moved to B.C., one of the greenest, most beautiful places on earth.                                                                                                                                                                               For 15 years now we are in the parent business and we discovered it is much easier to go with the flow and the ever changing times than to bang our head against the wall – wishing the ‘good old times back’. Gone are the days when our –now- teenager was happy to draw for hours, play with his Lego blogs or stare out of the window to count cows during a car trip. Nowadays it is the screen in front of them instead of the screen ahead of them which holds their attention. It is the 21th Century and hand held devices rule when it comes to entertaining children during a car trip!

We arrived, fought for a parking spot and started our adventure!

First stop: Pike Market at the Waterfront

A very crowded Saturday

It is Saturday and very crowded. We are six, only two of us have a mobile phone and we are all wearing dark jackets – in case of separation we will have a hard time relocation each other again! Needless to say, I love all this hassle and buzzing around me –  our boys couldn’t care less. 

If fish throwing, singing fish mongers can’t hold their attention, what can? And guess what? They didn’t appreciate some of the advertising either!

The simple solution to a complex dilemma?   An authentic Gyros Food stall:  Give the children food and they will be happy and contend!

Second stop: Space Needle

It is a 41 second elevator ride to the top of the Space Needle. Once at the top you are rewarded with a 360 – degree panoramic view. This trip alone set us back $120.00! I personally have no problem spending all day at the top to make sure I get enough ‘views for my money’. Unlike our boy. Money doesn’t mean anything to them. If this isn’t bad enough, five minutes upon arrival and a sprint around the platform we heard the first:”Can we go now?” Followed by a: “Are we done yet?”

Parents can only take so much nagging, so we followed our credo: Go with the flow and give the children what they really want: Food. This time we landed in the massive Food Hall next to the Children’s Museum:  It was MOD Pizza for four of us, Subway for our oldest and Big Food (aka a hot pork sandwich) for Dominic.

Third stop:

With a tummy full of food it is easy to enjoy The International Fountain. The fountain spouts  water to the backdrop of classical music and finishes with a grand finale.  It is simply put, Spectacular!

Fourth stop:

As young as our children are, the already know the universal truth: Goods in the USA are cheaper than in Canada and the choice you have here is much bigger! Therefore, it was enough sightseeing for the day and we headed for the next shopping mall and outlet stores! Let me rephrase this: A nirvana found for parents and kids alike. During the next few hours all we heard was the happy chatting of four happy boys comparing the newest Halo games while trying on Nike shirts or searching for the perfect winter sweat-shirt.

It doesn’t need to be complicated, educational or eye-opening: When it comes to children and being an extra-ordinary parent, we keep it simple: we offer them what they want! Food and outlet stores! Quite simple, really!

LOVE IS IN THE AIR

It is official: Our teenage son has a girl-friend! After weeks of speculation, casual remarks about her, several visits to her house and late night text-messaging I finally – officially – met Mystery Girl!

Good Lord, our son has taste! (He probably got that from his father…) She is gorgeous! Everything about her is long: her overall size, her hair and her legs! If this isn’t enough, she seems to be very nice, polite, fun, well brought up and well mannered! It seems to be too good to be true, but pretty and nice can go hand in hand together.

Here I am, home alone with our teenage son and his girl-friend. They went up to his room – and from then onwards, silence! What are they doing? Actually, I leave this to your imagination and mine! I did what (hopefully) every mother would have done: I avoided the upstairs – in fear of being accused to spy on them! Instead of sorting through our laundry upstairs I decided to spent a delightful afternoon on YouTube, searching for the songs which would bring back vivid memories of my first kiss, slow dance and the other innocent, but still slightly naughty things I did when I was a teenager!

What was I worried about? A stolen kiss? Or that little bit more? I don’t really know!  Our teenager is fully aware of the story with the bee and the flower (i.e. reproduction). He spent his first ten years in the Dutch school system. A system were they don’t shy away from graphic illustrations when it comes to sex education and STD.  This country has the lowest pregnancy rate among teenagers in all of Europe! Need I say more?  Honestly, I am pretty sure our son knows more about any of the dating do and don’ts than I ever knew. So if it’s not the S.. I was worried about what was it?

From now on I am the mother of a teenager who has a girl-friend! This is a new step into unknown territory for me!   Am I the only one or do you agree when I say, as a parent you have constantly new territories to conquer? On the other hand, this new job-description is another opportunity to shine as an “extra-ordinary” mother (e.g. don’t spy on them).

Finally, after I relived all my first time adventures, the laundry couldn’t wait any longer.  Hesitantly I went upstairs only to realize the couple wasn’t around after all!  At that moment I figured I had to avoid our den. But, I am only human and a woman and my curiosity got the better of me. I went downstairs.

I was prepared for hot flushes and embarrassed looks! But all I could hear was rapid gun fire (good decoy) and laughter. Here they are, in front of our TV screen:  The gorgeous girl-friend was kicking my son’s ass on the Xbox!

So much for my vivid imagination! When I was a teenager we didn’t have electronic devices! We had to entertain ourselves with different objects of desire…

Plan Ahead & Seize the Moment

 I love having a plan or spending time on making one! And since I became a mother I also like to have plan B and C in case plan A falls through.

It is Monday morning. After some strategic planning, the day was all accounted for.  The plan kept me moving and talking from 8.45 in the morning till 3pm in the afternoon.

By 9am, 15 minutes into my first appointment I realized there was no plan anymore: My lady friends stood me up! One due to flu and the other one due to miss-understanding!

I could have gone home, feeling sorry for myself and finish vacuuming the basement – the  Hoover was still out.                                                                                                                                                                

Instead, I thought “Sod it” and set off on my own (the basement will still be dusty when I come back). I did what I planned for the morning:  a brisk walk through our wonderful nature. This was a wonderful opportunity to have some ‘me’ time while trailing through rocky, muddy and wet terrain.  Ignoring the bear warning signs, I set off into unchartered territory.

If I have nobody to talk to, my brain has vivid conversations with itself. Marching through the morning mist, inspired by the colours and beauty around me, I couldn’t help but thinking:” How many meanings are there for the word “Snicker doodle?” (E.g. Have you been snicker doodled before?)  How will I celebrate when my book “Very Berry Extra-Ordinary” will hit the No.1 spot at Amazon .com?  What is the best strategy to get onto the Oprah Show? (I should get her phone number and call!)  If somebody will hand me one Million Dollars, what is the first thing I would buy?”(Pay off the house first or rather go on a cruise- or better still pay off our parents homes and then go on a cruise?) Ok, this is not mind blowing, world changing stuff, but these issues needed to be addressed anyway.

What am I saying?

Plans are good – but be prepared to have them changed!

And more importantly, seize the moment!

Like the previous Friday when I decided to reinvent myself as the next master chef!  The day started off with no plan, and all of a sudden there was one! The rainy morning was a perfect excuse to hang out at the library and stock up on weekend reads, i.e. cookbooks.

The Cauliflower Gratin caught my eye and after following the instructions step by step, the dish looked exactly like the picture in the cookbook.

Or on Saturday when I was forced to change my Saturday afternoon plan for our teenage son.  It involved a 45 minute car ride to pick him up from his soccer match.  He inconvenienced me – again- because he forgot one of our family rules: communicate with your parents if you need their help!  But, this trip turned out to be a blessing. Forty-five minutes alone in the car with your son can be turned into bonding time if you ask the right questions and keep the radio on low.  In Holland our children were always on their bikes and went everywhere on their own (much shorter distances, bicycle paths and street lights everywhere). Here, they still need us to get from A to B.

If we always wait for somebody else to join us, or if we need constant reassurance from somebody else, or if we ask permission to does something then will never get things done!

We don’t need to wait till the 31th of December to reinvent ourselves or to change a habit or to start something new. Let’s do it right now. The right moment, the right time, the right circumstance doesn’t exist! The right time is now!

We all should do what we planned for today – even if it means we have to do it alone!

To me, this is what being Extra-Ordinary is all about!