Top Five Ways to Have Summer Fun Without The Kids!

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My kids are going to camp this summer. For a week each. For most of that week, they will be at their respective camps at the same time.

What am I going to do without them?

Seriously, I had no idea.

I generally go to bed at 10PM, unless the spin cycle takes a little longer than normal and I have to wait for it to finish before starting the dryer.

Being a modern mother, I took my query about “Summer Fun Without the Kids” to Facebook and was reminded just how dumb I am really quickly.

Here is the top five list of how to fun without the kids in this summer:

  1. Sleep

Given that sleep is the third most important thing in my life (after the kids and the dog), it’s amazing that I did not see summer camp as an opportunity to sleep more. There will be no lunches to pack, no breakfasts to prepare, no days to organize except my own. I can probably lie around until 7:30 every single work day.

  1. Drinking

Alcohol can be part of a healthy lifestyle. Study after study confirms that a glass of red wine every evening, or a pint of vitamin-rich beer, can add years to one’s lifespan. And yet it’s often hard to fit in time to drink when you’re a parent. I don’t mean during those few, precious years when younger elementary school children are in bed by 9:00 and you have a full hour to sling back a glass while the washer is running. By the time kids are 9 or 10 years-old, getting them into bed is harder and harder. Not only is there the forgotten homework assignment, but the worried re-count of an argument with a friend, or tales of the brat in class who is disrupting everyone’s learning, can only be told immediately before it is time to close the book and shut off the light. And 12 to 14 year-olds with their constant campaigns to stay up until 11PM? They make you need that drink all the more while making it less likely that you will be awake and aware long enough to even find the corkscrew.

Plus, and this is the part that bothers me most, kids are so judgmental. One bottle of wine between four adults at the dinner table and suddenly you’re listening to a grade five health class lecture about the dangers of drinking, the importance of making healthy choices and the perils of peer pressure.

  1. Meeting friends

“We should do lunch,” and “we’ll meet for coffee” are both phrases that we throw about with the complete knowledge that we will never have time to actually act upon them. Except, I will have a whole week. It means, instead of sending a text or a Facebook message to my friends, I could actually call them.

Except, I might not because of point 4.

  1. Spend time alone

YOU WILL GET TO BE ALONE, was the all caps shout that appeared on my Facebook post.

“What do you think books were meant for?” several other friends asked.

I used to read. I used to be able to do all kinds of things by myself that aren’t the dishes or laundry.

  1. Enjoy the quiet

Time alone is such an impossible achievement for so many parents, that it is quite forgivable to forgot that it exists. As for this thing called quiet, there is something unicorn-like about it. I will report back this autumn to let you know if it is a myth or not.

Kate Baggott is a Canadian writer whose work spans from experimental fiction to technology journalism. She is the author of the short story collections Love from Planet Wine Cooler and Dry Stories.

Fathers’ Day Ties, Complexities & Hearts

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Ties? Still? Why are ties the go-to symbol for Fathers’ Day?

Most men of my generation go to work in funky t-shirts and jeans. Or, if they are very formal, khakis and button down shirts with no tie. And, on those rare occasions where I have seen men in ties, there have been jokes about choking and strangulation.

I know the tie harkens back to an old idea of fathers dressing up in suits for the office, to go to church and dressed down to a cardigan and collar only to cut the grass and do home repairs. A tie would have been a good gift for my grandfather. If he were still alive, he would be 90 this year.

But for my own late-father who came of age in the 1960s? For my children’s father whose life is cutting-edge technology and modern convenience personified?

It’s not that we’re completely without symbols for modern fatherhood. For dads who coach their kids’ sports team, teach their kids to play electric guitar and take their kids out fishing, there are plenty of coffee mugs, t-shirts, key chains and other forms of giftware to tell them that they’re number one. My own dad wanted notepads and pens, chocolates or caramels, a cup of coffee and a Sunday donut to celebrate any occasion, whether it was Fathers’ Day, Christmas or his birthday. My kids don’t have anything that simple to fall back on.

Like many families, ours is not perfect. Impending- divorce, distance and disagreement are still fresh wounds among us, but the kids get on with their daily lives with happy activity and comforting routines. Among their friends and broader family, there is no fathering standard for them to envy or admire or despise. Fatherhood is in a state of social flux and every man is doing it his own way in a way that meets his own needs. Or, to be fair, in a way that meets his children’s needs.

It makes for a greater sense of individuality in what it means to be a father, and to be fathered, in this day and age. My children’s father is theirs. His role in their lives, and their roles in his, are matters that pump through their own veins like the bloodlines they share. It’s rich and real and too complicated to be something any of us can tie up in a knot at our throats.

No, the tie is definitely not the right symbol for celebrating a modern Fathers’ Day. Like any other loving relationship, whether it’s easy or difficult, the best symbol for that is the heart.

Kate Baggott is a Canadian writer whose work spans from experimental fiction to technology journalism. She is the author of the short story collections Love from Planet Wine Cooler and Dry Stories.

Making Out Like Bandit: Mothers’ Day Presents

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Bean plants growing in cups as they wind their way up disposable chop sticks. Portraits done in oil pastel. Sculptures holding tea lights. Carefully printed testimonials to superior parenting skills both traditional (excellent cooking) and non-traditional (re-configuring the wireless router).

These, are true treasures and, every year since my children started school, I have made out like a bandit on Mothers’ Day.

But, here’s the confessional: I have not kept any of those presents. I will not have a portfolio of drawings, a collection of Number 1 Mom plaques, or painted ceramic molds made by my loving children to show my grandchildren. Although, if my grandchildren have the search skills I suspect they might need, they’ll find the pictures of the gifts I posted to Facebook for documentary purposes by the time they finish kindergarten.

As a family, we just accumulate too much stuff to keep it all. Without regular recycling and garbage pick-up, my family would be diagnosed as hoarders in week. There even came a time when the little container of milk teeth just seemed to take up too much valuable space in our crowded house (milk teeth are compostable, by the way).

Besides, I fear that if the presents from previous years were still around, the kids might not perform the ritual of Mothers’ Day present making and giving with the same sense of occasion. Keeping previous year’s gifts in view gives them the chance to say, “Oh look! See, I proved how much I love and appreciate you last year! I don’t need to do it again.”

Except, they do need to do it again. Every year, I want to hear rushing around in the kitchen that fine spring Sunday morning. I want to know the table is being decorated with the very best art projects Madame B and Mister L have been able to transport from the Pinterest screen to the elementary school classroom. I want proof that my children remember the small preferences and practices that mark out a unique personality in the many universal acts of parenting. Every child of a certain age should know if their mothers take strong steeped tea, with just a spot of milk, or coffee sweet and black. They should know if their mothers prefer toast dry, with butter, with jam, or with both jam and butter. They should know, when composing annual odes to their moms, to balance out the lines that’ll bring a tear to the eye with the charming memories that will bring laughter to their mothers’ lips.

Mothers’ Day, it’s true, is a test. It is not a test of how much children love their mothers, but of how well they know them. And they do not have to pass it every year. They just have to try. With mothers, all the points are for effort and the wonder inspired by the demonstration of that effort. And, when you’ve finally passed, children no longer have to write poems or draw portraits or make sculptures. My mother now makes it extremely easy for my sibs and I. She makes “helpful suggestions” for plants and flowers she wants from the local greenhouse for the spring garden beds. And, we can trust that list because we really know our mother and what she likes. Learning that lesson, really, is what Mothers’ Day is all about.

Kate Baggott is a Canadian writer whose work spans from experimental fiction to technology journalism. She is the author of the short story collections Love from Planet Wine Cooler and Dry Stories.

Rainy Days & Fashionable Adventures

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Technological innovation has made the indoors truly great. Between our fear of unhealthy rays of the sun and mosquitos, there are more reasons than ever to just stay home and read blogs. Except when it rains. There are always good reasons to go out in the rain.

First, and I am not basing this on any scientific facts, rain is good for your skin. Have you ever noticed that people who live in Vancouver or Seattle look younger than people who live in Texas or Arizona? There is clearly an elixir of youth in every drop that falls on your face.

Second, rain has become the weather that enables the maximum amount of style. The most fashionable among us venture out to dance in the puddles. Seriously, you might dress your five year-old in a yellow slicker with a nor’wester hat to keep them visible with some vintage appeal, but there is no reason for you to look like a fisherman (although a good cable knit sweater still has its place in any wardrobe). The rain-look is a classic one. You can pull any trench coat in a solid colour — with a belt that nips the waist just-so — on over your pajamas and be instantly ready to walk the kids to school through the April showers.

And rain boots, everyone’s second favorite rubber, have come so far in recent years. Tartan patterns are especially popular as you may have guessed from friends who were afraid you’d forget they are indeed Scottish for five minutes. Most important from the fashion perspective, however, are the rain boots with heels. They’re called wedge wellies and if you haven’t looked them up yet, you want to open up a new tab right now.

Saving the most controversial point for last, it’s time we talked about the effects of rain on hair. When I was a little girl, all the women my grandmother’s age and older wore clear plastic rain bonnets as soon as the first cloud appeared in the sky. They were the last of the generation who had their hair washed and set at the salon every week and, bless them all, that was probably the only hour of peace and quiet they got to themselves.

Now of course, most hair is protected during the dash from the house to the car with product of various kinds. Both product and hair, I suppose, are less predictable when exposed to rain. That’s especially true if air-drying is going to be a factor. Personally, while beauty and style editors might change their opinions from season to season, I am pro-unpredictability when it comes to hair. It’s the free your frizz and your mind will follow ethos. Besides, trying to control my temper takes so much of my energy that letting my hair go to the wind – or the rain – is the only way to have time for life.

Into every life a little rain must fall, the old saying goes. I think it unfairly suggests that rainy days are always unwelcome, even if venturing out into a challenge is exactly what we might need. Besides, where’s the pleasure in staying inside to look at wedge wellies online, if we never venture out to jump in puddles?

Kate Baggott is a Canadian writer whose work spans from experimental fiction to technology journalism. She is the author of the short story collections Love from Planet Wine Cooler and Dry Stories.

Give Me A “Spring” Break!

Give me a spring break!

What Ebenezer Scrooge is to Christmas, I am to spring break. Except, instead of being visited by three ghosts, I am haunted by the three stereotypes of spring break: Girls Gone Wild, that 80s movie set in Fort Lauderdale and reports from Cancun. Bad movies and even worse direct-to-DVD filmed product, these three stereotypes have taught me that where there’s a drunk young woman with breasts she’s still proud of, there is a predator with a camera waiting.

It bothers me now that I’m a parent. There must be, at some point in our lives, a happy medium between a road trip with the parents and the absolute expectations of bacchanalia when young “adults” have a week off college or university. These are among the seasonal musings of my late afternoon tea or coffee break. Imagine what a Debbie downer I’d be without caffeine. It sucks to be a mother who worries, but I find it helps me stay a step ahead of parenting problems.

Clearly, I have missed the happy medium—if it exists—and headed directly into dread. I blame this on the fact that children grow up too quickly. One minute, you’re at the pharmacy buying your new teenager his first tube of acne medicine, the next, he’s asking for a notarized letter of consent to go to Florida with his buddies. Well, mine hasn’t asked yet, but I know it’s imminent. And, when I say no, I just know the fact that I’ve never taken the kids to Disney will be thrown in my face. As if any group of 17 year-olds with drivers’ licenses are heading for Disney World. Or Cape Canaveral to see a rocket launch.

And really, I don’t have any faith that a spring break trip to the ski hills would be any more wholesome or intellectually enriching.

Yes, spring break is just another week off school. Yes, it is another child care issue when you have school age children and no vacation time. Yes, it is another thing to feel guilty about when the kids’ classmates hit the airports and the open highways while we might compromise with a night at a hotel at the extreme off-season rate. Not everyone has a snow-bird grandparent with a condo in the sun. Not everyone has a relative with a time-share in Tahoe they just must gift to someone else.

As much of a downer as I can be about spring break, I am not completely against it. Where I live, spring break can be a celebration of newly sprouted crocuses, or it can be a total snow-in hosting the last blizzard of the season. Our climate is as unfamiliar with happy mediums as I am.

There are day camps for the kids to go to. Local libraries, museums and swimming pools set special hours and programs during the week everyone is off school. Plus, we don’t always stay home. We’ve done our share of travelling and seen a lot of the world.

And, if we did have a grandparent with a condo or a time share, we probably would have joined the hoard of Canadian and Northern American families who invade Florida every March. And really, who doesn’t want to visit the Kennedy Space Centre? I even like the idea of visiting an all-inclusive resort with an open bar. As long as I don’t have to go there at the same time as a bunch of wild students with a week off…especially if those students are my own kids.

Kate Baggott is a Canadian writer whose work spans from experimental fiction to technology journalism. She is the author of the short story collections Love from Planet Wine Cooler and Dry Stories.

When It Is Not Five O’clock Anywhere: The Curvy Research Coordinator Takes On Skinnygirl At the Office

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“It’s 5 o’clock somewhere,” is the maxim for people who have no rules when it comes to alcohol consumption. For most of us, it’s often not 5 o’clock anywhere. And, depending on how frustrating your work day is, it often seems like it will never be 5 o’clock anywhere ever again.

Besides, if there was ever a time when managers kept a bottle of whiskey in the bottom desk drawer, if there was ever an era when workers kept flasks in their suit jacket pockets, if there was ever really a point in history when long liquid lunches were a time of deals and negotiations, that epoch is over. It is never, ever appropriate to drink at work.

Which is why I got excited about Skinny Girl’s Cocktail inspired teas. Peach Bellini for lunch, Cranberry Cosmo for giggles during meetings, Hibiscus Sangria for deadlines that stretch into the night, Mojito Mint for those afternoons under the sun that comes in through the office windows…sometimes. This, I thought, will be the solution for those days when we all feel like we need a cocktail, but can’t indulge…because we are professionals.

The Skinny Girl samples arrived and Voluptuous Boss Lady, her Curvy Research Coordinator (a/k/a me) and Vaguely Athletic Tech Guy set the Skinny Girl teas out in the kitchen for everyone to indulge….as innocently as possible. As expected, the Peach Bellini started disappearing around 10 a.m. old brunch habits die hard. Mint Mojitos were for post-lunch but no-time-to-lounge herbal hits.

A review note arrived from Vaguely Athletic Tech Guy. He thinks the Cranberry Cosmo has a nice flavor, but he is not familiar with the cocktail. This strikes me as tragic. Girl drinks need a broader audience because there are not enough giggles in the world. And I wonder, if it is time to change my alias to Curvy Cocktail Coordinator because after so many years in research, it is so seldom I am presented with a problem I know exactly how to solve. If only 4:59 was not the longest minute in the day.

Kate Baggott is a Canadian writer whose work spans from experimental fiction to technology journalism. She is the author of the short story collections Love from Planet Wine Cooler and Dry Stories.

Holidays in Pajamas

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My daughter needs some Christmas pajamas. She imagined these pajamas in great detail before making her request. The pajamas should be red. They should be of the thickest, softest flannel. They should be covered in bright snowflakes of various sizes.

She’s going to wear these pajamas to a party. A party outside our own home.

A few years ago, when my family returned to North America after living in Europe, I was shocked by how pajamas had become outerwear. Teenagers at the mall in drawstring plaid pants made me turn my head so quickly, it’s amazing I didn’t end up with whiplash. Parents pulling up to the school drop off in bathrobes and slippers? I looked away in embarrassment. Pre-school kids in shopping carts with fully-footed sleepers? Well, can you imagine!

Now?

Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Everyone should wear pajamas all the time. The world would be a happier, cozier, more relaxed place. Once, I would never have dreamt of even brewing my morning coffee until I was fully dressed and ready to take on the day. It was a mindset of preparing for battle rather than getting ready for a nice day. I’ve mellowed.

Obviously, I am not alone in my change of attitude. Baby sleepers for grown-ups have been all the rage for the last two autumn-winter fashion seasons. Onesies with animal or character hoods are all the rage. I think it’s a lasting trend. Using your sleeping partner as a source of inexpensive body heat, might be nice, but dressing them as teddy bears too? That’s beyond adorable. You can dress up the kids as bears too and have a whole fairy tale theme happening.

Much in our society is making the very idea of a long winter nap even more enticing. Which brings me to the seasonally-required advice for dealing with all the shopping stress, money worries, and concern about the potential for family conflict that arise with the approaching holiday season.

Just buy everyone pajamas. Look for “buy two get one free” deals. Choose the most ridiculous looking set for the relatives you are most likely to argue with. Your in-laws might not be any less annoying, but it’s hard to have a conflict with someone wearing Pikatchu or Hello Kitty pajamas with matching slippers.

I think we should call it a movement: Pajamas for Peace on Earth.

Kate Baggott is a Canadian writer whose work spans from experimental fiction to technology journalism. She is the author of the short story collections Love from Planet Wine Cooler and Dry Stories.