Wednesday, March 15, 2017

country mice visit the big city

We kicked off March Break with a trip to my sister's house near Ottawa. We ventured into the city to visit the Children's Museum at the Canadian Museum of History in Hull. 

I never intended to raise "country mice"; I always had grand plans of visiting the city often so my children were street smart and comfortable in crowds. I wanted them to see the diversity of people, architecture beyond the rafters of a barn, and experience the excitement and bustle of the urban rhythm. 

That hasn't happened. When we're nestled into our life on the farm the city is like a distant mirage; it's easy to forget it exists at all. I'll admit to some anxiety around navigating a van in the streets of Ottawa, finding parking, dealing with one-way streets. I'm comfortable driving in a village with one street light but I break into a sweat as soon as the highway switches to four lanes. I'm a country mouse. 

Luckily, my sister drove us all into Ottawa. The kids thought the Chateau Laurier was a castle and couldn't believe the beauty of our Parliament Buildings. They oohed and aahed like tourists from afar, which I suppose they are. 

It turns out that of all the wonders at the amazing Children's Museum, the escalators were the biggest attraction. Faced with the magnificence of totem poles from Canada's west coast, they begged, "Can we go on the escalavator again?"

I'm setting a goal for myself to get out with them more. There are so many great attractions in Ottawa, and it can be done on the cheap thanks to our local libraries which carry family passes to many museums and galleries. 

I'll just have to make sure to include attractions that have escalators.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

a new season

We live on a corner so we have three choices of which direction to take when we go for a walk. We took the sunniest path. The kids climbed the snowbanks, chased each other, wandered back to hold my hand or my husband's, slingshotting back and forth, away from us then back in ever-widening circles.

This is what life feels like right now. Our kids, once so small and busy and demanding of everything we could provide, now get dressed for outside play in the wink of an eye. Sometimes I don't even know they've gone outside till they come back in all full of laughter and high spirits. They create snow-board trains and crash into fences, have adventures in the winter-dark, and then hang their own stuff up so it's dry for the next wander. 

We find ourselves looking around again, seeing our life changing and seeing each other for what feels like the first time in years. The whirlwind that picked us up and tossed us around when we became parents is losing strength and I can see us stumbling a bit as we're set back down on our feet in this new normal of being parents, not of infants and toddlers, but of school-aged kids.

We stood by the road as they wandered into our neighbour's field (we swear, we didn't notice the No Trespassing sign until they'd come back out) and watched them play, and marveled at the fun of having an uninterrupted conversation. We posed for a rare picture together. The littlest one trotted across the crust on top of the snow in her running shoes (she insisted) and returned to fetch her big brother's Adventure Bag. There were no tears and no bickering.

Getting through the early years of parenting is a lot like getting through the winter. Beautiful, exhausting, hard, satisfying. You get into the next season and feel a sense of pride at what you've survived, of gratitude for the lessons learned, for the many joys, and for the fact that it has inevitably come to an end (though at times it felt like it would never end). 

I don't feel the melancholy I thought I'd feel when I no longer had babies in my arms because I'm enjoying this phase of parenting so much. The kids are bigger and louder, and have personalities diverse and beautiful. I'm told again and again of how kind and compassionate they are. They can be mean to each other but always come out on the other side knowing they've got each others' backs.

Here's to a new season!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

2017: A Good Year

Winter brings the stoking of the fires, the plowing of the driveway, the chipping of ice and snow off the front porch. Winter brings a different kind of work for us. The animals need water, lots of it, carried in buckets from the house to the barn. The mild temperatures we've had so far have been a blessing for all of us. 

We've had a few snow days with a few more to come, no doubt. Christmas came and went in a blur of delicious food, good company, and happy kids living the traditions we've created as a family. 

We're working as always but I'm finding a calm and a balance I haven't experienced before. A combination of changing my diet (limiting/eliminating gluten, sugar, dairy, and alcohol), getting more sleep, committing to yoga and counselling, and just a focus on being mindful means I'm a much more patient and calm mother. It's really good to feel my mood stabilize. 

I'm using this journal to commit 30 days to various goals. January is almost over and I've managed to stick to good dietary changes for the most part. February's goal is going to be committing to 20-30 minutes a day to gentle exercise. I have neglected self care for so long I'm almost giddy at the idea of feeling GOOD in myself!

I'm spinning and knitting as much as I can. I read an essay from Simple Abundance every early morning before the kids get up and write a bit in my journal.

All in all, 2017 feels like a year of positive growth. I'd like to blog about it all. I'm out of practice but know it'll be like riding a bike once I get back into the habit!

Thank you all for checking in!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

finding summer

We always look forward to summer as a time of rest and reconnection. The school year is like a runaway train that we board in September, with brief stops at Christmas and in March. It takes weeks of nothing for me to remember myself.

It starts with that first walk down a shady lane, through old deciduous trees and Canadian Shield to our favourite hidden beach. Visits with friends where there is no reason to look at a clock, sharing snacks and towels, wet bums on the quilts we've spread across the sand, sun and wind, red pines and the sound of waves and our children's voices calling to one another. A layer of stress falls away.

Finding myself onstage once more, stepping out of the self I have become (wife/mother/teacher/farmer) and into a role. I get to put on makeup, wear costumes, pretend, boss people around, flirt, argue, fight, and fall in love on stage once a week with this year's production of Mark Crawford's Stag and Doe

Another layer of stress falls away, to reveal a part of myself that sits quietly through the year where I meet the needs and demands of so many others. It's, quite simply, FUN. It's fun that I haven't orchestrated for my kids, that I don't have to manage or supervise. It's just joyful, pure fun, for me.

I sat at my spinning wheel yesterday for the first time in months, and felt more stress fall away as my feet worked the treadles and my hands played out lengths of merino and silk. I'm in love with green these days and am so happy with this multi-hued three-ply that resulted from a day of spinning-wheel play.

We've chosen not to raise any meat-animals this year and have welcomed the break this has given us. We've had our share of farm-drama, caring for a ewe with mastitis and a pony with an abrasion on his pastern. We also have a young chicken named Gonzo who either got pounced on by a cat or suffered from a nerve-damaging virus. He hobbles and flaps his way around the farm when he's not being catered to by the kids.

We keep busy taming our little fur-babies. I had almost forgotten the joy of timelessness, of lying on a quilt with my kids, scratching tiny ribs to elicit a tiny purr, with no deadlines to meet or places to be. Jude laughs with delight at my kitty-baby-talk and thinks I'm funny. That feels awesome.

And with our humidity and heat, we watch the storms. Our power inevitably goes out, so storms are always spent on the front porch watching the sky, counting the beats between lightning and thunder, having thumb wars, and just being together. 

I'm slowly shedding a school-year's worth of stress and coming back into myself. 

Sweet summer.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Violet's Room, Before and After

Violet will turn nine in May and needed an update to her room (which hadn't been repainted since it was Jude's room years ago). This girl loves to be alone in her room, cuddled up under the covers and reading. She specifies that she doesn't want "stuff" in her room, that a bookshelf and a bed are enough, thank you. I call it her nun's cell and admit to envying her her quiet, private sanctuary!

A few coats of bright yellow paint on the walls, a custom colour on her desk (mixed from Annie Sloan's Chalk Paint in Provence and Fat Paint's Warm White), a little chair covered with a bed sheet to create a reading nook, and a rearrangement of the furniture were all it took. 

On a budget? For me that speaks of budgeting money as well as time. I was off for a week for our Spring Break, and knew I could dedicate a few days to this project. For under $100, I think the redo was a success! I had purchased fabric for curtains, but after seeing it all put together (and fighting the usual power struggle with my mom's sewing machine ~ it hates me), I decided that white eyelet curtains will be better suited than a zany animal pattern. 

As you can see, she's all settled in. Yes, we need to add crown molding and some baseboard. Yes, the artwork is all made by her or her siblings. Every piece of the furniture in the room is second-hand and/or free. She loves it.  I love it. I love the newly-finished feeling of a room that has been emptied and repainted. Everything that is brought back into the new-feeling space is intentional and much gets handed down to little sisters or thrown away. The new space feels cleaner, more sparse, lighter.

At any given moment she will be found in her little book nook, oblivious to all noise and distraction ~ even a pouting little sister! 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Winter Days

I changed my blog header to a summer theme in the dead of winter. We've had two snow days in a row because of inclement weather: lots of snow, freezing rain, and slush/ice on the roads. Yuck! This is the time of year when I'm ready for Spring.

The kids have had two days off school and spent their first night altogether at Nanny's without a parent to help out. 

I'd like to say that we made the most of our unexpected night alone. For parents of four children, sometimes "making the most of it" means eating a bagel or a grilled cheese for dinner and watching a movie while folding piles (and piles and piles) of laundry. "Song of the Sea" is the movie we're watching over and over again these days. If you haven't seen it, please do! It's on Netflix.

We're getting through the winter on a wing and a prayer. All the gates are snowed in so visiting the ponies, sheep, and cats involved a climb over a gate. The chickens are surviving the winter. In February I imagine the Tomten travelling the little paths of the farm, visiting everyone and reassuring them that Spring will come.

Our community sponsorship group succeeded in bringing a family of Syrian refugees to settle in our village. This is the result of hard work, enthusiasm, optimism, prayer, and hope. I am involved with teaching ESL to the adults of the family and it is a pleasure to visit with them every week. My kids run off with their kids, and we can hear the happy sounds of children playing from other rooms. We have found an easy comfort in the spaces between the words we share and Google Translate has been a huge help along with copious amounts of dark, strong coffee! I managed to convey that yes, we do have rain and sun in Canada in addition to snow and I could see the relief clearly etched on the faces of this family who so recently lived in a hot, desert climate!

Norah goes to a beautiful home-based preschool every day. This is her usual attire, basket in hand. My goodness, she's sweet. She's a-norah-ble, to borrow a term from her caregiver's daughter! This was a Little Grey Rabbit phase, where I was Mrs. Hedgehog, daddy was Wise Owl, and her siblings were Hare, Squirrel, and Fuzzypeg. We treasure our Alison Utley books and videos! 

How to wrap up this random update? Maybe I won't.

Thursday, December 17, 2015


Yes, we're still alive and well.

Life is busy. Head-spinningly busy. But I call it "rich" to reassure myself that all is well.

The laundry piles up, and when washed, sits unsorted for weeks. A lot of kitchen clutter was swept into boxes to allow for some space to decorate for Christmas.

We are slowly preparing for the holidays with Advent gifts and decorating store-bought gingerbread people. Jude was in a play with his grandma, and Norah turned three.

We survived our Christmas concert, cancelled fiddle lessons this week, and are going to a potluck karaoke party tonight.

We're looking forward to being OFF for two weeks!

Will try to check in over the holidays if the spirit grabs me.