Tuesday, May 20, 2008

So How Did that Weekend Go, Anyway, Jill?

I'm so glad you asked. After a harried day of packing, shopping (note to self: never try buying food for 13 teenagers while toting two children under 4 on the Friday before a long weekend again. Not. Good. 'Nuff said.), and saying 'I'm sorry, Andrew but I can't play with you right now. Mommy has LOTS of things to do today. Yes, I know I"m leaving without you, but I have to get all kinds of things done before I go"about a million times, I finally got everything ready. Except the house was a disaster, since the boys had essentially been left to their own devices all day. Seriously, to their own devices. As in, I was saying, "Now, get the banana out of the fruit bowl. Yep. And get a butter knife out of the drawer. Okay, now cut little pieces for Aaron becuase he can't chew very well yet . . . then some for you too if you want . . ." and "NO, no, Aaron! Remember, we only throw soft things . . ". As you can imagine, this works well for a three and a half year old, but less well for a 16 month old.

So, the house was turned upside down, the youth kids decided to start showing up after school, around 3:45 instead of at 4:30, so I was trying to entertain them while printing final things up on the computer and calling the Laser tag place in Regina to change our booking so that I could get the schedule to work out okay and basically doing all the crazy last minute things you need to do while letting other people amuse my children and pack the vans and wouldn't you know it, I forgot to add flour to the stew I was leaving for Dave and Andrew. Now, I realize that this is not the worst thing possible, but it is a fact that while Dave considers soup to be thin and unfilling, he considers stew to be a hearty meal. The only difference, of course, if 1/3 c of flour, but none the less, he was caring for Andrew for the weekend so I thought I would humour him. So I run inside and go to pull down the flour bin and discover that the lid was not on quite right and that there is now flour all over the counter and the floor and me, and the teenagers are starting to pack the vans and I can't find the dustpan, and well, finally I get the mess half-cleaned up and get all my stuff and Aaron into the van and deal with Andrew's inevitable last minitue bout of ïts not fair"wails and get in the van and start driving.

Friday night was fine. We got to the hostel, which was great -- this old, big rambling historical house a block away from Wascana park and two blocks from downtown. It was clean, the staff and visitors were friendly, the youth kids were respectful, Aaron stayed asleep while I got the youth organized and gave them a snack and etc etc. Then, because I was feeling sick, I went to bed. I was sharing a room with 4 of the girls, and semi-slept as they went in and out getting this and that and going to bed, then not going to bed, then going outside, then getting locked on the balcony, and doing all the other sorts of things teenagers do when in a group in a new environment. Then they all decided to come to bed and were very loud while getting ready which of course woke up Aaron. He sat up and started pointing and declaiming about everything. There were bars above his head, "car? car?", a mysterious door öut!out!", his backpack "pack!pack", and strangest of all, a girl sleeping on the floor öh-oh. oh-oh. cat. oh-oh". It took me about 20 min. to get him to settle down and another 20 to get him back to sleep. So in the end, Aaron and I didn't get to sleep until midnight or so.

Which did not stop him from waking at 5:30 and attempting to feed me an endless stream of Fishermen's Friend cough drops. I got up with him at around 6ish, and the teens started waking a few moments later, giving me no chance to lie on the couch and half-watch Aaron play with Jenga blocks for half and hour.

Anway, I was tired, but the morning went well. The boys made us bacon and eggs, we all went and wandered around Wascana park (which is very lovely -- if you've ever taken the Trans-Canada through Regina you've seen it. It is on either side of the bridge with the cool carved columns that you cross in the middle of town, just after the two "skyscapers"that make up the tall buildings in downtown.) and did our little talk and reflection time, and the teens played on the swings and teetertotters and got all the upper-middle class OCD parents all grumpy for disrupting their precious progenies' perfect mornings with some noise and rowdy behavior. Aaron loved the park, especially when the girls showed him how to feed the geese. Unfortunately he wanted to climb into the water to get closer to the geese and I spent the rest of the time in the park chasing him away from the waterfront. He was also fascinated by the leaves, because Regina is 3 hrs due south, so they actually had leaves on the trees (green haze, Lisa). He was so cute in his little red windbreaker and blue track pants and blue and red shoes. Aaron is really too little to run, but he does it anyway, simply by pushing off on the balls of his feet, so he has this really funny little jog that he does when he's excited. It was very cute.

After this, things started getting a little blurry for me as I got sicker and sicker. We went to the Cathedral district, a kind of funky area of town with little specialty shops and resteraunts and stuff. I guess I must have looked pretty retched becuase the staff kept coming over to ask if I was doing all right. I had been carrying Aaron on my back on the walk there (about 5 or 6 city blocks), and he is probably close to 25 lbs, plus the 5 lbs of the hard frame backpack, so I was pretty tired. I did get to have a really tasty Jerk Chicken wrap and a good latte and get to Groovy Mama and get myself some underwear that fit (yay) and get back in time for our meeting time, and Aaron fell asleep in the backpack, which was perfect. He also slept all the way on our walk another 5 or 6 blocks to the mall.

The funny thing about the mall that is downtown Regina (I don't remember its name) is that it has all the shops that you would expect at the main mall in the city: Gap, American Eagle, the Bay, Roots, etc, all those things that make you think "big mall", but it doesn't have any of the big box stores so its not actually that big. And it has the pillars of the old bank in the centre of it, which is pretty funny. Our time at the mall was fine. The kids had mostly been on band tour all week and already been at malls all week, so they were kind of bored, but that was okay, becuase I had given them a big lecure on the fleeting nature of material things that morning anyway, so they all would have felt bad if they'd bought tons of stuff. I did get a new pair of shorts and another pair of my favoirte jeans (for $20 no less), and then I decided to sit down and wait for our mall time to be over.

I found a couch and set the still-sleeping Aaron down next to me. Then I sat and watched people go down the escalator for a while. I love doing this kind of thing, becuase its one of those circumstances where people aren't really doing anything, so they tend to let a bit of their character and relationship with the people around them peek through. Watching strangers body language fascinates me, especially the writer /actor part of me. Anyway, this kept me busy for a good half and hour or so. Then I started to get tired, so I decided to take a nap. No sooner do I get really settled into my nap when I hear a voice say, Ëxcuse me, mam". It was the security guard.
me: yes?
guard: um, what are you doing, mam?
me: I am chaperoning some teenagers and they are wandering around the mall. Since I'm waiting for them and I'm sick I was taking a nap.
guard: I can't let you do that. Sorry.
me: what?
guard: you're not allowed to sleep in the mall.
me: but I'm sick.
guard: sorry, mam. If we let you sleep in the mall, we have to let everyone sleep in the mall. No sleeping in the mall.
me: okay.
Does this sort of thing happen to anyone else, or just to me? Seriously.
Well, I guess I was getting pretty sick by this point, so maybe I did look a bit dishevelled. But I was obviously not drunk, I had a small child and a bag of purchases from one of the stores in the mall . . . it was a bit ridiculous.

The rest of the night was just a continuing story of Jill being really sick with one of those colds that only I get and continue to go about my day as if nothing is wrong. Everyone else sensibly cancels out of things and goes to bed for the day. I, on the other hand, galivant around Regina with 11 teenagers and one other chaperone while carrying a toddler on my back. So I don't actually remember much about dinner because I was too sick to concentrate on anything but breathing by then. After that we took the kids to a movie, but I didn't go in because I thought the big screens would be a bit much for Aaron. Instead I went and got some expectorant from the drugstore and sat in a half-daze, watching Aaron overturn chairs in the vacant food court. All I will say about this part of the trip is a) I'm glad one of the teens decided to come out of the movie and play with my son for a while and b) never guestimate how much 2 tsp of extra-strength Robitussen expectorat is. Under any circumstances. Really not a good idea at all. Effective, yes. Pleasant? No. Eventually, after a rather unpleasant clearing out of the mucous in my lungs and the food in my stomach, I took Aaron out to the van and nursed him to sleep, then fell asleep for the rest of the movie. I drove the kids to laser tag (crazy day, eh?) and the other chaperone went in and got them set up and they played while I slept in the van. Then we went back to our hostel and I crashed right away with only a "breakfast is at 8:30, don't be late".

The next morning I was feeling significantly better, and only had my normal barking cough and prolific mucous (If you have never seen me with a cold, you really should sometime. I'm very gifted at being outragously ill). It was still a kind of surreal morning for me. Here I was, supposedly leading this reatreat, and all the kids are by now doing everything for me becuase I'm so sick -- taking care of Aaron, reminding me of things, doing dishes, etc, etc. And then two of the girls pull out a pack of Tarot cards they had bought the day before, which of course I had to veto. Then we met this older Sri Lankan man who was a buddist and was in Regina to go somewhere else in Saskatchewan and meditate at the tomb of some famous Indian spiritualist. Then we went to the Catholic Cathedral in Regina, which is a really beautiful building with a huge pipe organ and the great ancient catholic choral music, sung from behind in the balcony and all the pomp and ceremony of the cathoic church. It was really quite a strange, spiritually intense morning, all said, especially when one is sick.

After that we went to McDonalds, where Aaron had the time of his life getting all the teenagers to feed him fries and take him into the playplace and feed him MORE fries. Then we drove the 3 hrs home. Everyone was really grumpy with each other by then, and I was in the sleepy van, so it was pretty mellow. We finally got home, everything was sorted out, and I was left to put the boys to bed, have a bath and go to sleep.

We have spent the last two days in recovery mode. I spent all day Monday cleaning the house up (this is always my pennance for leaving it a mess -I come back to it in exactly the same condition I left it in ) and all day today convincing our boys that they really did like it better having one parent split their attention between two children rather than each having a parent (plus whoever else happened to be around) at their beck and call. Aaron spent all day today disrupting all Andrew's games and nursing (he was on a sitting-down-to-eat strike) and Aaron spent all day screaming at Aaron for wanting to play with any of the toys in the house. Tonight I put them both to bed and they had a good pat and tickle and snuggle time before falling asleep, so they should be okay again tomorrow, I hope.

So thats how the weekend went. I was once more reminded of my need to ask for help rather than assuming that I"ll be able to handle everything on my own. And the kids learned how to be sensitive to the needs of others (well, of me anyway) and had fun playing laser tag and seeing Iron man, even if I wasn't with them. And both my children survived and will soon be back on their regular un-even keels.


Kristen said...

I've been to that mall Jilly...I got the best deal on some pants from the Gap there, and some PJ's from Reitman's...you really are truly gifted at both being sick and accurately discribing your illness

Jilly said...

Um, sorry was I too descriptive? Shall I add a disclaimer at the top? Warning: do not read while eating.