Playing hooky

“Mom!! When are we going apple picking and pumpkin picking?”

“Soon kids. Soon.”

Time was running out. The last of apple picking season was upon us and I knew that first frost was days away and I had promised the kids we would fit in apple picking this year. But birthday party after birthday party. Family events. Weather. You name it, it probably happened over a four-week period preventing me from taking my three anxious budding apple pickers out to a local farm to participate in an annual event. To be honest, the throughout of facing the crowds, on my own, at one of the few pick-your-own places in our area was more than I could bare on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Then it was pumpkin choosing time. The weekend after Canadian Thanksgiving when the kids start dreaming of Halloween costumes and scary lit jack-o’-lanterns.

“Pumpkins! Mom, we have to get our pumpkins.”

“Soon kids. Soon.”

I started to panic. The clock was ticking and I was about to fail a major parenting moment in front of three increasingly vocal and aware children. No longer could I get away with, “They won’t remember the experience anyway.”

Now don’t get me wrong. I love doing this stuff with my kids. I do not love doing it by myself while dealing with crowds of people losing my voice as I should at Elizabeth to stop touching everything, manage Audrey’s emotional state and pull Jacob down from the fifteenth climb up onto the vintage tractors littering these farms all while trying to carry gear, water bottles, snacks all while trying to snap a few pictures as proof of my supermom powers.

Racking my brain I looked and re-fiddled with our family calendar. If we went this day right after morning activities, got back in time so Audrey could go to her party. Mr. L would be home so he could help. Dammit. Both girls have birthday parties and one is a sleepover. I need to have time to dig out the sleeping bags and help her get packed.

For two weeks these conversations rattled around in my brain as my kids started getting nervous we wouldn’t be going.

One night, after all kids were soundly asleep I beseeched in my sweetest voice to Mr. L., “Please…any possible way there is a date you don’t have to work on a Sunday and we can go together? Or you could come home early and we can go right after school? Rush hour up to the farm will be easier if there is two of us!”

Regretfully he shook his head. I know part of him wants to be at these things but his work is such that meetings, hosting duties and court dates set months ago are not easily changed because his wife wants him to go to the pumpkin patch. I also know how tired he is on the weekends and we try not to schedule too much.

Then it hits me. What’s stopping me from playing hooky with the kids? A weekday trip during school hours would ensure the apple picking farm is not busy, traffic would be better and the kids would get a kick out of being pulled out of school early.

So I plan it praying the weather cooperates. I plan a day where none of them have library, or a test to be missed. I write notes in agendas and pack larger lunches hoping it will buy me some time in the afternoon and remind each of them, “Remember, I’m picking you up right after lunch. Try to eat everything and we can go straight to pick apples and get pumpkins.”

The day arrives with cooler temperatures but sunny skies. I ensured they wore mittens, toque and boots thinking ahead to the damp rows of apple trees. I checked the farm’s website seeing that some apples were still available. Eureka!

Rushing through my morning’s scheduled activities I stopped to pat myself on the back for thinking ahead and packing extra warm clothes in my duffel bag and I  happily arrived at the first school pick-up right on time. Ten minutes later both my daughters sauntered into the school foyer, excited and carrying their lunch boxes.

“Did you eat?” I asked.

Guiltily they looked at each other. “Some.” They answered.

“No problem,” I say intent on keeping a cheery attitude. “We have a half hour drive, you can eat in the van.”

The final pick-up goes well too. Jacob is already outside at recess having ate all his lunch. We drove off to Chudleigh’s Apple Farm, due north away from the breeze of the lake and I noticed the temperatures warmed up slightly. Upon arriving the day was even more idyllic that I had dared hope. Cool but not cold.The last of the buses from the school field trips were leaving and my heart sang, it truly would be only a scattering of people there. No breeze in sight and the warm sun helped the kid’s arguments that mittens were not necessary so we left them in the van. As we plunged into the farm, our first stop was to climb aboard the relatively empty awaiting tractor hay ride to head out to the apple orchard.

“Only Ambrosia’s left.” The farmer said.

Grasping our plastic draw-string bags we didn’t care. We were happy to pick anything and enjoyed the ride around the farm viewing the spectacular picture show of reds, golds and oranges bordering the property. As the tractor jerked to a stop, we ran up and down the aisles finally finding a bountiful crop of delicious red apples. We filled each of our bags to the fullest when I realized. I had to carry four bags of apples. The kids being good sports offered to carry their own and after a bit of fiddling on the best position, we managed to make our way out of the orchard back to the farm to find a large, heavy wagon to carry our load.

From there it was easy. We viewed the petting zoo. Picked our pumpkins. Ran a hay stack maze and then to the kid’s thrill, had the slide areas all to ourselves. The bakery was still open so wanting to celebrate our successes, we ate cookies with chocolate milk with pride.

When you have three or more kids, sometimes the easiest solution is to break the schedule once in a while. Play hooky. Be smart. We had a much more relaxed time going mid-week than we would have fighting the line-ups and crowds on the weekend. Especially if you in the position that there is one caregiver for three children, the rule of the day, make it as stress-free as possible. The kids will have much better memories of a day spent outside with a mom not screeching at them to stay where she can see them and that is what is important.

 

 

 

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Discovering The Rainbow Bridge

Rainbow Bridge

 

Once upon a time there were two newly hitched people creating their first home together. After most of the boxes were unpacked the woman said, “Something is missing.”

It was around her birthday so her mother (who was visiting) took her on a trip to the local animal shelter where a gray tabby kitten stuck it’s paw out and claimed her as his new owner. When she brought home the kitten, the man (not a fan of cats) threw up his hands and said,   “If it makes you happy.”

The two then became three.

A little while later as the kitten, now named Wilhelm, grew and napped as only cats can do, the woman said, “He seems lonely. Something is still missing.”

“No!” the man cried. “We live in a one bedroom town home. There is no room for any more.” He was just finishing graduate school and the woman was working hard building her career.

“But you need a project. When will we have a chance where one of us is home again?”

“Fine. But we’re just looking.” The man conceded.

An ad in the newspaper caught their eye one weekend. Yellow lab puppies available it stated.

“Let’s just go and look.” The woman said with a twinkle in her eye.

So off in their new vehicle they went, outside the bright city lights to a farm where a lovely woman took them to a clean, warm barn. Two puppies were rolling around in their mother’s large kennel. The father stood in a separate kennel, large and muscular showing his teeth as the couple approached but with his tail wagging in greeting. The female lab was smaller, fine-boned and gentle.

“These are the parents.” The farmer’s wife smiled at the two dogs with love and nodded to the dad. “He’s a big baby, he just likes to show off.” She opened the kennel door and the two puppies came out with boundless energy.

The woman sat on the ground observing the two. One was chubby and after running over for a sniff proceeded to nip at her fingers and nibble her shirt. The other was smaller and jumped into her lap bouncing up licking her face before sitting for a moment in her lap.

“This one.” She said hugging the smaller one regarding his large brown gentle eyes.

“He’s the runt of the litter.” The farmer’s wife warned.

The woman shrugged scooping him up to present to her husband. “What do you think?”

She could see his eyes softening and he smiled. “Why not? What are we going to call him?”

The woman closed her eyes and a name drifted across her vision. “Jake. His name is Jake.”

From that day forward, Jake was theirs.

Wilhelm the cat was not happy but they learned to live together. Wilhelm would swat at his nose every once in a while to remind him he was there first and Jake never minded.

Jake was the cutest puppy and all that saw him cooed over the new addition. He never destroyed furniture. He potty trained with ease. He was never aggressive but, he hated being alone. He hated it so much so he would follow the woman everywhere, even to the bathroom.

So the couple got used to having him with them in all the places they went and if they couldn’t be with him, they had family members, dog walkers and sitters along the way to ensure he was never alone for long and the four of them lived happily together.

Jake grew up to be a gentle, quirky dog. Like most labs his nose was to the ground sniffing everything and he never turned down any food. Garbage, leftovers, his own food, other dog’s food, dead animals, he would eat anything except raw vegetables. He hated raw vegetables.  He loved chasing small animals and the family would never forget the time he found the rabbit’s nest in the backyard. He would carry huge tree branches on walks and loved heading to the lake to get his feet wet.

He rarely barked or growled only when the man was not at home it became his job to ensure that people knew he was there and the woman wasn’t alone. Although the couple would joke his big bark, similar to his dad’s bark, would cease the moment a robber patted his head or gave him a treat so he would never be a true guard dog. He just loved people too much and believed most people coming to the house, were there to see him. But his love of people was one of the reasons everyone loved him.

Time went on and the family grew. Wilhelm got sick one night and passed away. The woman was very sad so Jake made sure he stayed near her to let her know he was still there.  Over the next eight years, three human babies joined the family. Each one was a mystery of new smells and rules and Jake would sigh, “Another one?” But then he would accept the new addition, never complaining. He would bide his time trying to make life as easy as possible for the new parents who did not sleep and were cranky. He would still try to sneak on the bed to sleep but one by one the kids took over and his legs wouldn’t allow him to jump up any longer so instead he created a place beside the bed that was his alone. One day he got a brand new comfy bed that was only his and that made him happy. But every morning he would awaken the man or woman with his head laying near their faces waiting to go outside so they wouldn’t forget he was there too.

The kids got older and they started playing with his ears and accidentally poking his eyes and he never minded. He liked the extra attention. They helped feed and walk him and to his delight he realized they dropped food on the floor! Perhaps they weren’t all that bad and the woman was home a lot more to take him for walks which made him happy.

But like all animals, his body started slowing down and one day, after he had been on vacation at a sitter’s house while the family went on another trip where he couldn’t go, he got sick but he didn’t tell anyone. When the family came home, he was very ill and he couldn’t hide it any longer so the man and woman took him to the vet and after a while he got a little better. He had new food he didn’t like and pills to take but he felt well enough to go for walks with his family again. They even took him along on their next trip where he could explore a new grassy backyard and watch the deer outside the window. But he wasn’t the same and the hilly mountains were hard on his heart and legs and he had to go to a strange hospital twice but the man and woman stayed with him. Eventually they went back home and although he was very tired, he was very happy to be in his own backyard. The next few weeks he got used to the bi-weekly vet appointments where they poked him and took x-rays but afterwards he felt a whole lot better so he didn’t complain. He still made it up the stairs every night to sleep in his place beside their bed.

One weekend, the family went away again and this time he went to the vet hospital to stay. It was okay because by now he knew everyone who worked there and they treated him kindly. His family would be back in a few days.  On the third day he wasn’t feeling well again but he knew his family was coming soon. He always knew when they were on their way. So he held on telling his body to keep moving and waited patiently while the vet checked him again. She seemed sad giving him a gentle pat. Then the man came through the door and Jake was so excited to go home! The man seemed sad but smiled when he saw his eleven year old guy and he held out a treat. “Let’s go home boy.”

Jake trotted out to the van but the man said, “Potty first.” So off they went to the grassy patch and the next thing Jake knew, he was floating away and the man was crying. Jake followed him back into the vet where everyone seemed sad and quiet. Eventually the man went home and Jake followed where the whole family was crying. He tried to tell them not to be sad, he would wait for them, but they couldn’t hear him and eventually he fell asleep in the backyard under the warm sun with his favourite tennis ball beside him.

The next thing Jake knew, a gray tabby cat swatted his nose, “Hey, I’ve been waiting for you. Now I have someone to keep my company.”

“Where are we going?” Jake asked sniffing this cat who seemed familiar.

“To the rainbow bridge.” Wilhelm said. “We can wait for them there together.”

“But they’re so sad. I can’t leave.” Jake said.

“Yes you can. They’ll be sad for a while because they miss you. They still miss me. That’s just how humans work.”

“Are you sure?” Jake asked lifting his ears remembering the cat who would sniff his nose and then run away.

“Yep. We have to go because if we don’t no other pet will come into their lives and they have too much love not to pass it on. Come on. You can go swimming. You’ll see them again and while we wait we will have the best time.”

Jake pushed himself up expecting the usual strained effort but realized his body felt better. There was no discomfort and his legs didn’t creak. The idea of a good swim was a pleasant one.

“Can I take my tennis ball?”

“Yes.” Wilhelm said impatient to get going.

So into the blue sky they both flew without a backward glance. Over the marshmallow clouds to the rainbow bridge where a shimmering lake, piles of treats and soft beds await them. This is the place where they will wait until we are able to join them.

R.I.P. my dear friend.

Jake 2003-2014

Jake 2003-2014