What I said and what I wanted to say…

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Two weeks ago we dropped our kids off at camp, three provinces away, for a month long stay. Today I received a letter from our son and it instantly reminded me of the feelings I had when we said our final goodbyes before leaving him with his cabin mates. Like many boys, he finds being away from home challenging, especially in the evenings. He’s honest and open with his emotions in the lead-up to camp and at the actual drop off (when extra hugs are never ending). I tried to provide a sense of strength and positivity by acknowledging his fears and reminding him of the good times ahead but deep inside, I’m a super softie.

 

 

20 Years of blissful reality

20 years

Twenty years ago we stood on a deck over-looking Manitowaning Bay and said “I do”. It has been an incredible ride so far filled with world travel, two fantastic kids, interesting careers, an overly shedding dog, a few tears and many more laughs. It hasn’t always been easy. Marriage takes work and gets messy from time to time. Finding the right partner to pick you up when you’re down, celebrate your successes and help you clean up those messes is what makes it worth living. I found mine and can proudly say we’ve made quite a life over the past 20 years. While today’s anniversary insisted that it should be filled with cortisone shots, orthotics and the inevitably late night packing, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

 

Crawling to the summer…

crawling

Is it just me or has this school year been the classic sprint marathon? As I stumble into the last day of June and the hopes and promises (and inevitable question “Dad, what should I do now?”) of summer, it feels like a good time for some self reflection.

September is always mental. It’s the true start of any year. School starts. Sport/art/community activities start and the malaise of summer days are quickly replaced with racing to an after school program (or two), the need to pack lunches, sign forms and plan and pay for winter activities. October was just as big a punch in the face, as was November. December offered a faint bit of hope – the calm before the holiday storm. January charged in and February and March were a blur. April offered a wee respite with winter activities ending and a week or two before summer activities began but it’s now a distant memory. May passed in a day and June has been the long painful crawl to the end.

I know it’s not just me as I’ve talked to other parents who’ve said they are “done”. We’ll use the next couple of months to recoup and refresh with days on the dock or hikes in the mountains depending on where we all live. G&T’s are not geographically specific. So let’s raise a glass of our favourite beverage and cheers our effort. We made it through another year of permission forms, sick kids, car pools, meal plans, laundry needs, project deadlines, homework dread and never ending cheque writing. Enjoy the summer and rest up. September is looming in the distance…

A painterly look at Maui

Over the extraordinarily long spring break in the Rocky Mountain School board system, we were lucky enough to pull together a family holiday in Maui. When I lived in Toronto Hawaii seemed like it was on a different planet it was so far away. It’s a popular destination for people here though so we were excited to make it happen. It is a stunning place and we were gifted with perfect weather which made for some nice painting opportunities. The following are some painted sketches from our time on the island.

pineapple

There was a funny incident right off the bat when the customs officer at the airport confiscated my apple. Why? I’d washed it and taken off the label. My kids had not washed theirs (no surprise) so the “Made in the USA” sticker was evident and they were able to bring them on the plane. So I was hungry and they got to rub in that cleaning one’s fruit isn’t good after all…

apples

We rented a condo in the Honua Kai Resort in Kaanapali through VRBO. It was a ground floor unit with two bedrooms and a pull-out couch and it was awesome. Friends advised us to hit up Costco but our late flight arrival didn’t allow for this so we visited the Safeway in Lahaina the next day. Here’s a tip, sign-up for a Safeway members card (they just need name and home address) and you get 10% off each shop! We hung out all day at the resort and were treated to incredibly high winds, breaching humpback whales with their calf and delicious SPAM flavoured macadamia nuts (mistakingly purchased despite the word SPAM being the largest font on the package… and is SPAM even a flavour?).

first day

Banana bread is all the rage in Hawaii. Julia’s is apparently the best in the world. To get there one must drive a beautiful but incredibly twisty road that slips unexpectedly into one lane roads at various times. When you do arrive at Julia’s you’re greeted by an incredibly sweet person in what is effectively a tree house. The bread was delicious (not sure yet if it’s the world’s best), but like everything on the island, was very pricey at $9 a loaf. We still came away with three.

Julias

On the way back to the condo we stopped at Nakalele blowhole, a person sized hole in the lava rock that spews out sea water. It was cool but my favourite part was the hand-painted sign warning people not to get too close (apparently it gets ignored as we were told people die here every year).

Nakalele

There were loads of birds that I’d never seen before but they looked really cool so I decided to paint a few.

birds

Hamoa beach in Hana has been voted as one of the top 10 beaches in the world. I’ll admit, it was beautiful. Even better were the constant and consistently awesome waves for body surfing. You have to endure the legendary Road to Hana complete with 601 turns and 56 single lane bridges to get there but it’s well worth it. The road is marked mile by mile and there are loads of neat stops along the way.

hamoa

Every day at 4:30 should be Mai Tai time.

mai tai

We saw loads of long, thin furry animals that we called pine weasels until we finally asked a local and found out they are mongoose. A walk underground in the Hana lava tube (well worth the visit) revealed the rare Hammerhead worm, no joke, that eats other worms. A quick trip to Costco on route from Kaanapali to Hana for snacks included pressed fruit which I loved but every one else thought looked like scat molded into a granola bar. Their loss.

threethings

I’m not a regular yoga guy, though I wish I was, but while staying at the Travaasa Hana there were regular morning yoga sessions which confirmed just how inflexible I am. During one session the instructor told us to “…bathe our eyes in the natural beauty”. I thought that was a quote worth remembering.

bathe

Happy Holidays!

merry-ho-ho-2016

From all of us to all of you, our very best of the holidays! May 2017 be filled with much merriment, health and success!

Not so secret Santa

secret-santa

My first reaction after he asked to go out and buy something else was to shut it down. I’d already taken time out of my day to go to two separate stores to buy the gifts and with dinner to make, skis to wax and driving to co-ordinate with other families, adding another trip to a store was non-negotiable. Heap on top of that the fact that I was the one pushing for this to be done ahead of the night before the exchange was to happen and I felt secure in my inflexibility. He pouted. I simmered.

After a short while he came back and explained how his secret Santa had “finally” told him what she wanted, and then it hit me. These secret Santa gift exchanges are nuts. As a kid, you’re assigned a person who you may or may not know and you’re given a limit on spending (it’s getting bigger every year as this year’s limit was $20. Twenty bucks?! I thought this was supposed to be a small thing, five bucks, tops.). I suppose the purpose of this activity is to enact thoughtful behaviour towards someone else. To take a moment to sereptiously inquire into your secret Santa recipient’s likes and interests and then search around for a worthy gift that will surprise and delight them. Here’s the reality though. It’s another thing to add to already the busiest time of the year. Kids (well my kid) are either disinterested in the melancholic notion of gift giving or blatant in assessing their recipients interests by asking them outright which eliminates the “secret” part of the giving anyway. At $20, I’m not asking my kid to take that out of his allowance and savings so now I’m on the hook for another whack of dollar store crap. Oh, and in return my kid is going to get something that ineveitably will wind up in the trash heap or the second hand store in two weeks anyway…

Ouch. Am I sounding Scrooge-like? Perhaps, but let me offer an alternative idea.

Let’s take the money we were going to spend on a kid in a privileged school who doesn’t need something else to begin with and allocate that to a charity within our town. Let’s create one of those giant fake cheques with the amount raised in the class and present that (and the actual cash) to the charity in question, take a photo and keep that in the classroom as a reminder of the value of giving to those in need. Secrets aren’t broken. Parents aren’t running around to find a gift. Kids are reinforced with the importance of helping others. Everyone wins. Isn’t that more in the spirt of the season?

And yes, I did got out with him to buy the thing she said she wanted. Sigh.

 

Lest we Forget.

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thank-you