Bear Paranoia?

There are times that I worry and I know that I am being ridiculous  – I know that worrying about coming face to beak with a loon when I am swimming underwater is highly irrational (feel free to laugh).  There are times that I know that my fears are well founded – my husband needs to go to Australia for two weeks (see a tale of two terrors).  Then there are those fears that hover somewhere in the middle.  The chance of me being attacked by a bear is very, very small.  The chance of me seeing a bear is not small at all.

Let me present four different events in my life.  The first; we are sitting around the breakfast table at our home and a 7 year old Seek says, “I think I just saw a bear in the back yard.”  I respond with a reasonable, “Maybe it was the neighbour’s cat.”  Seek counters with, “No Mom it was big.”  I then smile indulgently at him and say, sure it could be a bear all the while knowing that it’s the huge cat next door.  While getting the kids in the car for school a neighbour from two doors down passes by and asks “Did you see the bear run through the back yards this morning?”

Second time 5 years ago; I am going for a jog at the cottage while Destroy rides his bike ahead of me.  He rounds a corner and I can no longer see him.  Seconds later I hear a very excited Destroy yelling, “MOM, MOM, I just saw a bear and it was HUGE.  It’s body stretched all the way across the road!”  I quickly respond with “Come on, let’s go back to the cottage!”  Destroy answers me with one word, “Why?”

Third time 3 years ago; while driving around town doing errands I hear my children’s school announced on the radio.  It appears that a bear was sighted on school property so there is a request for all parents to come into the school to pick up all children, as they are not being released as normal.

Fourth time, this past fall; the Artiste has some camp friends out to our cottage for a long weekend. We are standing around on the deck and I hear one of the boys say, “Cool that’s a bear on top of the canoe.”  He then reaches into his pocket and pulls out his cell phone to snap a pic.  I calmly say, “If you see or hear the mother get inside fast, you know what? Let’s just go inside anyway.”

I guess my point is that seeing a bear is definitely a possibility where I live but it has not yet been a dangerous encounter and it may never be one.  Yet it is something that has given me many nightmares.  Years ago I purchased a can of bear spray.  Did you know that you have to register your driver’s license when you buy it?  I have stopped carrying it with me when I jog because I am sure that the wind will be blowing in the wrong direction and I will either blind myself making me an easier target or I will only enrage the bear when I only manage to get close enough to merely irritate it’s eyes.  I cannot tell you how many runs I have cut short because my imagination has gotten the better of me. I know that this fear is much greater than it needs to be (I will not say ridiculous) and that it will always mark me as someone who is not truly a northerner.  I know that I need to overcome it, some days I can, I’m just not sure how to do it permanently.

Someone once told me not to worry, ‘you’ll smell the bear before you see it’.  How is that supposed to be reassuring?  What does that even mean?  How will I recognize the smell?  How far does the smell travel?  Then what do I do?  Help!

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Cottage Games

I may have mentioned this before, but one of the things that I love most about the cottage is the amount of time that we spend together as a family.

We spend hours at the dock swimming, throwing each other in the water and just hanging out together.  We eat our dinners outside on the deck, which encourages long leisurely conversations until the mosquitoes eventually force us inside.  Once dinner is over this frequently means game time.  Games can be indoor or outdoor.  We play a mean game of SPUD.  I’m always thrilled when I’m not the first person out.  Deck Tag is a game of our own invention that is more fun than it sounds.  Inside the house we play Scrabble, Banangrams, Sorry, Scattergories and my favourite, Sardines. For those of you who don’t know the game it’s sort of the opposite of Hide and Seek.  One person hides while everyone else counts.  Everyone then goes off to find the hiding person, when you find him you have to join him in his hiding spot.  The last person to find him/everyone has to go and hide first next round.  It’s almost impossible for five people to hide together quietly in a shower stall, closet, under a bed or anywhere for that matter.  I love that I can surprise my kids by choosing a hiding place that they would not expect of me.  When hiding under a bed it’s so much fun to hear one of your kids say, “Don’t even bother to look under the beds she’d never be there.”  You have to laugh when on a whim you open a tiny broom closet and find someone crammed in there.  Now how am I supposed to join him?  So you open the door and know that even if you’re exposing the spot at least you’re not the last one there.  When you are the last one, there is a delicious spooky feeling as you wander around trying to locate your missing family.

I feel like a kid, what are we going to play tonight?

Summer Camp

Summer camp has been on my mind lately.  Usually at this time of year I’m thinking about my kids far away at camp, missing them and knowing that it’s all worth it because they’re having the time of their lives.  I lived for camp and always counted the days until I could get on that bumpy school bus, hopefully fight off my motion sickness for the entire trip and then arrive at paradise.

My camp was not a fancy camp.  We had washhouses with very poor plumbing, no bathrooms attached to our cabins.  Forget about horseback riding.  That was at the camp that we scorned the most.  The food was nothing to write home about, unless we wanted to give our mothers heart attacks. There was always a good chance that there would be mice in your cabin.  On the occasions that we got to watch a movie in the old barn we knew that the bats would swoop down on us, which turned every film into a horror movie.  It was terrifying, exciting and great fun.  Some counselors cared about the kids and many, not so much.  Your cabins were always made up of a mixture of kids you liked and those you did not.  The girls we didn’t like had a way of adding drama to our summers.  So did the boys in our co-ed section.

When I look back at those summers and try to figure out exactly what made them so special I think I have to say that the main thing, at least for me was just the freedom of it all. Laughing and just being with your friends all day and night, spending your days swimming, canoeing, joking around and being outdoors.  Adults were few and far between.  It was a world ruled by teenagers.  What’s not to love about that?  Rules were easy to obey.  Swim with a buddy; make your bed as best as you can and at the end of the day go to bed and stay there when the lights go off.  Best of all you got to do it all surrounded by friends.  Punishments don’t feel so bad when they’re endured in the company of friends.

Fast-forward roughly 30 years and now it’s time to send the Artiste off to camp.  There are a few differences now.  As we live in a northern community for our son to be welcome and accepted we were advised that he should attend a camp in Nova Scotia (around 2000km. away from where we live).  This means a car ride followed by a plane ride followed by a bus ride.  The concerns of distance aside there is another concern, I remember what a world run by teenagers is like.  As a parent it’s a very scary place.  We made it through that first summer and six more after that.  All of my kids love camp, which is almost too good to be true.  We have been out to the camp for many visitors’ days (my favourite day of the year) and I have come to the conclusion that as staff members, teenagers have greatly improved since my days at camp.  Or as my husband says, maybe it has to do with the camp’s philosophy.  Whatever the reason I love these young adults who make my children feel welcome and appreciated.  I also love seeing that they are making friendships that will last their entire lives.

Living here, I can’t help but notice that overnight summer camp does not seem to be the norm as it is amongst Jewish communities.  I’ve given it a lot of thought and have come up with different reasons as to why it’s so common for us to send our kids there but no one reason sticks out in my mind.  Maybe it is some form of survival instinct in which we want our kids to manage without us, learning to form tight bonds with others.  Maybe, because for the most part we are city dwellers we just appreciate what a summer of fresh air and activity can do for our children.  What do you think?

Yikes!

I love my parents.  I really love my parents, but I don’t want to be them.  I have always wanted to just be me.  It seems that inheriting some traits is unavoidable or, we look to connect certain traits to our families.

Green eyes: all of us.  Curly hair: dad and me.  Warped sense of humour: dad, one sister and me.  Blonde hair: sisters and mom(?).

Well it seems I’ve inherited a new trait and this one really disturbs me.  My mom has a bad memory.  Which is kind of like saying the Empire State Building is tall.  I have always been proud of my memory.  Although it pales in comparison to my eldest sister it has served me well.  I never needed shopping lists, if I met you once I could tell you where and when (although not the exact date).  I noticed this ability begin to leave me after the Artiste was born.  Everyone said, of course you’re forgetful you’re sleep deprived.  Then we moved away to a new city where every person I met became someone new to remember.  I no longer laughed at my husband’s constant list making.  He’ll now kindly ask me if I want him to enter something into his Blackberry along with a reminder.  I’ve learned to say thank you and appreciate this little technology.  I also keep a paper day timer in my purse as well as a calendar in the kitchen.  I am very aware that I will forget who is on what punishment.  “What do you mean I don’t get to use the computer today, what did I do?”  O.K. I get my limitations, but the other night at dinner during a heated discussion the Artiste looked at me and stated with great frustration, “You have the worst memory.  You always say things and then forget that you said them.”

Ouch.

I fear he’s right, but unless he reads this he’ll never hear it from me.

We Go To Town

When we are at the cottage we take part in a minimal amount of organized activities.  Apart from tennis lessons on my grocery days in town the kids have nothing scheduled.  This means all the free time in the world.  This is great except that ¾ of the kids miss the organized sports of summer camp.

Our local township has always run a great soccer program once a week.  It’s a pick up game coached by a crusty old British man who knows his soccer and has a great way with kids.

Sporty Girl was counting down the hours until game time, she even convinced Seek and Destroy to come out and play if there were other kids their age.  So on Wednesday we went over to the sports field/township office/library.  Much to our disappointment we discovered that soccer has run its course and can no longer be offered, as there aren’t enough kids.

We decided to make the best of it and check out the library.  Lo and Behold there were movies to borrow.  We walked out with one book and two movies.  Papa Bear and I did not think anything of it until the following conversation in the car:

Seek: “How much did this cost?”

Me: “Nothing it’s the library.”

Seek: “No I mean the movies.”

Me: “Nothing”

Destroy: “What?  Nothing?!  This would be like $30.00 at Blockbusters!”

Seek: “Well, what did they charge for the library card?”

Me: “Nothing they’re free.”

Seek: “How do they make their money?”
Destroy:  “It must be the late fines.”

Papa Bear: “Guys, they don’t make money.”

Seek and Destroy:  “They don’t make money?”

Me:  “It’s funded by the government.”

S & D:  “Oh, the government.”

We need to start visiting our Public Library more often.

But really, let’s hear it for the government.

A Few of My Favourite Israeli Things

In my last post I told you why I am feeling trepidatious about our trip to Israel so I thought that it is only fair if I tell you all the things that excite me about our trip.  Although there are hundreds of other things that I could add to it, here is my short list in no particular order:

-Seeing what has changed and what has remained the same in the last 25 years

-Sunsets in Jerusalem

-Going to the Kotel

-Seeing old friends

-Meeting new friends

-The Shuk

-Buying Seek and Destroy their first Tallis (prayer shawl) and Tefillim (phylacteries) in Jerusalem

-Just being in my homeland

-Conditurias

-Watching my kids take it all in

-Hearing Hebrew on the radio

-Rosh Hanikra

-Felafel with Chatzilim and Charif sauce

-Seeing my sister wearing Naot sandals

HEAT Part 2

On most days I imagine that our trip to Israel will be wonderful.  The last time I was in Israel was 1984-85 (over the winter) and when I left I was sure that I’d be making aliyah one day.  So I am thrilled to be going back after all of these years.  I can’t wait to experience it again with my husband and to get to watch my kids as they discover Israel for themselves.  I feel blessed to have my father and my father in law as well as the kids aunts, uncles and cousins on the trip with us.  I hope that this trip will give special meaning to Seek and Destroy’s B’nai Mitzvah.  I don’t see how it can’t.

Then there are those days when the heat is making me nuts and I think to myself, imagine it hotter and you’re climbing Masada.  This is when mentally our trip turns into a hybrid of Survivor and The Amazing Race with everyone wanting to vote me off.  Then there is the added pressure of being ‘The Mom’.  As you know this means being the person everyone can depend on.  Sometimes being The Mom is the toughest job.

Really, I want this trip to be the trip of a lifetime so I shall just buy some freezer packs, stick them in my pants and shirt and be The Mom with the smile on her face.