A Bubble Staycation in a Tiny House

Sounds like a toddler’s picture book;-)

I’m lying here with my knees 14 inches from the ceiling. I can almost touch the bed on the other side of the loft and my entire family is less than 6 feet from me. I literally had no idea tiny houses were this tiny! My family thought I was crazy to book this, but they always look so big in social media pics. Anyway, I like it.

It’s throwing me back to the one hotel room we all shared in Edinburgh, the little trailer in Italy, the countless hours spent crammed in a car together. I’m feeling so nostalgic right now for that togetherness. I’ve blogged before about how space creates space…literally and figuratively. When everyone has their own room and there are three levels and three bathrooms in the house, you can go all day without seeing each other. Sometimes that’s nice, but sometimes I don’t love it.

COVID-19 has pretty much shut down travel, but the Atlantic provinces have next to no cases, so we are allowed to roam freely. Ish. So we are roaming!

The pandemic, despite our fortunate situation, has been hard on everyone. And it will be for some time. I think we all feel a bit trapped. I mean, we may not have travelled very far anyway in the last 6 months, but there’s something about not being able to travel that feels different. It’s restrictive.

So even though we are not roadschooling with our three littles, I feel so fortunate to be on a Cape Breton weekend vacation with our three young adults. And not much has changed to be honest. The youngest is complaining, the oldest is reading and the other ones are trying to find a way to get Netflix to appear on the tv with no wifi.

Space is tight. It’s raining. The tiny house is shaking just a little in the gale-force winds. But I love it. All of it.

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Growing Up Girls

20130326-195803.jpgYou know, I try my best to actively encourage my girls to see themselves as strong and independent – equal to boys in every way. We talk about being smart, working hard, being kind, and standing up for yourself.
We don’t talk about weight loss. In fact, even though I have struggled with weight issues since my teens, I have never said the word “diet” in front of my children. We talk about making healthy food choices, trying to eat more foods that are good choices, and being active.
We have looked at advertisements together, and talked about the persuasive techniques companies use to get you to believe something that is not true. We have discussed models, and airbrushing. We have talked about fashion, and dressing in a way that reflects the respect you have for yourself.
Of course, we are not perfect, and as I have told my girls on several occasions, this is my first crack at being a mother of  teenagers, and I’m a work in progress;-). I am making mistakes – some that I recognize, and can try to fix, or at least apologize for, and many I am yet dangerously unaware of (that will, no doubt, be identified in the future).

But lately, I feel like I’m fighting a losing battle. They are all tweens and teens now, so the influences of school, friends, and media are becoming stronger. I have less control, and they are trying to navigate their growing independence. And I am trying – often unsuccessfully – to back off a bit. Not easy for a person who likes to be in control. I worry.

Here’s the thing – I always thought that by the time my girls reached adulthood, they would have it easier than we did as young women. I thought there might be less pressure to look perfect, and more emphasis on accomplishments. I thought there would be less of a sexual double-standard, and more societal respect for women. I thought this generation of boys would be raised differently. I thought the world would be safer for my teenage daughters.
I thought there would be more emphasis on women’s strength and savvy through popular culture, that they would be inspired by the adventurous spirit of girl “heroes”. And I guess they are, in many ways, more exposed to those ideas than I would have been at their age. I’m just disappointed that things haven’t changed quickly or enough…
To illustrate my point, a few months ago, my middle daughter asked me to listen to a song she really liked – a  country song one of her friends had told her about. The video started with a girl, outdoors, so I thought it was going to be some kind of adventurous cowgirl kind of thing. Not so much – this is what it was instead:

Somebody’s gotta wear a pretty skirt,
Somebody’s gotta be the one to flirt,
Somebody’s gotta wanna hold his hand so God Made Girls

Somebody’s gotta make him get dressed up,
Give him a reason to wash that truck,
Somebody’s gotta teach him how to dance,
So God made girls.

He needed something soft and loud and sweet and proud
But tough enough to break a heart
Something beautiful, unbreakable, that lights up in the dark

Somebody’s gotta be the one to cry
Somebody’s gotta let him drive
Give him a reason to hold that door so God made girls

Somebody’s gotta put up a fight,
Make him wait on a Saturday night
To walk downstairs and blow his mind,
So God made girls.

Something that can wake him up and call his bluff and drag his butt to church
Something that is hard to handle
Somethin’ fragile to hold him when he hurts

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Baking for Nepal: Real-Life Learning

epaselect epa04729942 A picture made available 02 May shows a woman carrying her baby through what is left of Barpak village, epicenter of the devastating earthquake that hit the country on 25 April 2015, Nepal, 01 May 2015. The confirmed official death toll increased to 6,621, with more than 14,000 injured, an Interior Ministry spokesman said. The 7.8-magnitude earthquake was the deadliest in the country for more than 80 years, destroying an estimated 300,000 houses across northern Nepal.  EPA/DIEGO AZUBEL

A picture made available 02 May shows a woman carrying her baby through what is left of Barpak village, epicenter of the devastating earthquake that hit the country on 25 April 2015, Nepal, 01 May 2015. The confirmed official death toll increased to 6,621, with more than 14,000 injured, an Interior Ministry spokesman said. The 7.8-magnitude earthquake was the deadliest in the country for more than 80 years, destroying an estimated 300,000 houses across northern Nepal. EPA/DIEGO AZUBEL

As we chatted at the dinner table the other night about the devastating earthquake in Nepal, I challenged our girls to do something to help. We talked about the possibilities, and suggested they try to organize something with classmates. The youngest one asked how you spell Nepal, and wrote it in her agenda.

The next day, she came home jubilant – her teacher had seen the little note in her agenda, asked her what it was for, and she had pitched the idea of their class doing a bake sale to raise money for those affected by the earthquake. Not only did her class think it was a great idea, but they ALL said they would bring something in to sell, and they ALL wanted to make posters to advertise their sale. She was thrilled that there was so much interest – “I didn’t think people would want to do it,” she said, “but even the boys wanted to!”

The teacher sent home an email to parents that night, planning the sale for the following week, and asking for donations of baked goods. Yesterday was the big day. Every child in the class brought baked goods to sell, they set themselves up with their wares and in one lunch-time, made $633! Amazing.

There has been a lot of talk lately about lost instructional days due to weather, and not allowing other activities to interfere with our instructional time, but that doesn’t mean we have to stick with textbooks, and not be creative in the ways we teach and learn.

I’m so pleased that my daughter’s teacher supported that activity, and not just because of the confidence boost it gave her, but because of the important learning opportunities it provided for her, and the rest of her class. The teacher emailed the parents after the sale and let them know how much money was raised, and the learning that had happened through this event. Each student spent their lunch break selling their own baked goods individually from their desk, so they were making change and being responsible for the money they collected. After they had finished, they collectively counted and rolled the money and delivered it to the office where it will be sent to the Red Cross. During the week prior to the sale, they made posters advertising their sale and their cause (which were obviously very effective!), and they spent time in class discussing Nepal, where it was, what had happened there. Their teacher said they had talked about how lucky they were to live where we live.

So, what has my daughter learned in school this week? Math, geography, language arts, and citizenship. But also, a little more appreciation for what we have and how lucky we are, and the knowledge that one person, or one small group of people can, and should, make a difference to those who are not. Time well spent, if you ask me.

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Kids in Paris

moulin rouge A friend of mine recently asked me if I could give her any advice on seeing Paris with kids, and as I thought about her request, I realized that maybe a blog post might be the best way to do that. When I think back to our few days in Paris, there was lots I wouldn’t have blogged about at the time because it was just so hectic. One of my two Paris posts acknowledges that in my current state of exhaustion, I am blogging only because I’m afraid the day “might get lost in tomorrow”. And that is exactly what often happened while we were travelling – we’d move on to the next place after a whirlwind trip, and by the time we had Internet access again (or time), we were somewhere else, experiencing something new. There are actually lots of locations and experiences that got lost along the way.
Anyway, I digress. I will attach some websites and blogs at the end of this post with the really practical information, but here’s what you REALLY need to know. The secret to being able to motivate a tired child to push themselves that little bit further, and actually – and here’s the key – WANT to go to see the attractions you want to see is advance preparation.
My advice would be to start a few weeks before you travel. Read stories and watch movies set in Paris.
If you read Madeline, then you’ll be able to visit the Eiffel Tower, or go stand on the Pont Neuf and look at the Seine while they marvel at how that little girl survived her fall into the rushing water.
If you watch Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame, then you’ll be able to spend an hour at Notre Dame Cathedral soaking up the wonder while they pretend to be Esmerelda and Quasimodo and chat with the gargoyles.
And there are so many more – The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a book with lots of graphics, but is also a movie now, too. Set in Paris. My 11 year old just read a book called My Secret Guide to Paris, which made her want to go back – it had a little French phrase to learn at the beginning of each chapter.
The picture book Adele and Simon has a list in the back of all the monuments they visit while looking for all the things Simon lost on the way home from school.
There are also the fantastic Not For Parents Lonely Planet travel guide books – and there’s one just for Paris! These travel guides are packed full of colourful images and fun facts for kids. And naturally, the fact that they are NOT for parents makes them all the more appealing.
Even books and movies for older teens can really add some extra magic to the experience – The Davinici Code might entice them to want to visit The Louvre, even if they’re not really interested in it’s cultural significance. They even have a tour specifically geared toward “cracking the Davinci Code“.

The other rule we tried to follow while travelling was to intersperse kid-friendly attractions with the cultural non-negotiables. So, if you can’t actually convince your kids that visiting a particular museum or building is a good idea, then find a reward outing to promise for afterwards. Like the home-made ice cream shop in Paris with 70 flavours of ice cream, or a playground, or a boulangerie, or even – God forbid – a Disney shop. Whatever you have time for. It’s amazing how much even a half hour of running around or playing or eating yummy treats can improve your kids’ frame of mind, and willingness to cooperate!

Another tip is to alternate indoor with outdoor attractions – one of the places we didn’t get to was Monet’s Garden, and I wish we had, really. Not only is it a beautiful and culturally significant place, but it is also outdoors, offering kids a bit more freedom to explore. Ditto for the Palace at Versailles. A real-live palace – that’s the stuff of fairy tales. But again, it offers the opportunity to explore outdoors – we didn’t even go in, and it was well worth the visit!

Speaking of exploring, be cautious of how much of it you do on foot – we made the mistake of looking at our maps while in Paris, and thinking things looked “close enough to walk”, so sometimes didn’t bother with the Metro when we really should have. By the time we had walked, we had used up a lot of time, and almost all the kids’ available energy – not good. Kids with no energy and aching feet are not the sort you want to tour Paris with.

I think one of the most exciting things for our kids in Paris was going out at night – which you don’t always think about doing when you’re travelling as a family. Usually, after an exhausting day of touring, you just want to get everyone into bed, but even a short excursion in the evening can energize everyone. Our kids loved being on the street in front of the Moulin Rouge after dark, and even though it might seem a bit sketchy, what with all the peep shows and neon naked ladies, our apartment was just a couple of blocks away, and we felt quite safe strolling there in the evening. You can get a surprising amount of mileage out of standing on the famous Metro vent while the wind blows your hair straight upwards! (Not to mention the interesting conversations provoked by the neon ladies)

Another thing we tried to do, but for reasons beyond our control (see Paris is Closed Today) were not able to, is visit the Catacombs. What could be cooler than thousands of skeletons in an underground city? That’s a whole new level of creepy!

I guess it’s all about being creative, and making some compromises – you won’t get to see everything you want to see, but you might be able to infect your kids with the travel bug that will make them want to return and see it all some other time.

Or you could just do what my friend Kim suggested when I asked for her travel wisdom – let the kids plan the trip, and if you’re good, maybe they’ll let you tag along:-)

http://www.cntraveler.com/stories/2012-07-31/kids-books-paris-france-travelnotre dame

eiffel tower

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blizzardSo, we know about homeschooling, and we have extended that to roadschooling, but we’ve got a new one this year – stormschooling. Definition: the act of trying to supplement your children’s education while you are buried under 12 feet of snow.

For us, with our youngest daughter, this has been a bit of a blessing in disguise. She has been struggling to work at the same pace as her class in math, as many children do, and although we have been trying to work with her daily at home, we often find we are playing catch-up. After an unsatisfying performance on a test, we work on the skills she hasn’t mastered yet, but by the time we get to that, the damage to her self-esteem and her confidence with math in general, has been done. Also, the daily schedule of extra-curricular activities and homework makes it hard to fit “extra” math in. So, storm days provide us with an opportunity to do some focused math work in areas where we know she really needs it, and it can be spread out over the day so it doesn’t get too exhausting. It takes me back…

She is in the same grade our middle daughter was in the year we were on the road. We used lots of different tools in our roadschooling – lots of iPad apps, as well as online tutorials like Khan Academy, games, as well as more traditional drills, and even text books. It’s interesting to see what she responds to most, compared to her sister. Lots of the tools are still good, but I find myself having to search for more exciting ones as well, or just different ones from those her sister enjoyed/tolerated. We are finding motivation a bit off at times.

So far, the best motivation has been “math prizes” – Dollar Store purchases that are bestowed upon her periodically, not just for doing the math, but for doing it with a positive attitude. That’s the trickiest part. The fact that, as far as she’s concerned, I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m not the teacher, and am I actually aware that place value was weeks ago?! My clever response, “Place value is every day for the rest of your life,” does not seem to provide the motivational boost I require.

A three dollar Webkin, however, combined with weather conditions that do not allow easy escape, seems to work quite nicely. Bring it on, Winter!


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Why would I shovel while knee-deep in snow? (and other questions)

pillsSo, obviously, I did that; on Sunday, while attempting to fashion a backyard luge for the kids, I picked up a shovel full of snow, twisted a bit weirdly due to the fact that I had no range of motion in my lower legs, and felt a little twinge in my lower back. After another hour or so outside, it was a bit more than a twinge, so I came in and put an ice pack on it. I didn’t sleep well that night, despite Robaxacet. The next day, more muscle relaxant medicine, more ice, and off about my business.

It is Wednesday now, and it’s still bothering me, so I figured I’d go see a doctor and get a prescription for some massage treatments. So, I tell my tale, I get my massage prescription, and I am asked if I’d like to try an anti-inflammatory to see if that eases it.

“Like Advil?” I ask. But I’m told I’d need about 12 Advil a day to really see much improvement, and that would be awfully hard on my stomach. The suggestion is a different medicine – a prescribed one called Vimovo.

“Sure,” I say, and I go fill the prescription and take one right away.

When I get home I read the bit that the pharmacist has highlighted on the information sheet, and am surprised to see some of the side effects that appear in neon yellow:

back pain?!?
burning or discomfort of stomach
impaired sense of taste
inflammation of sinuses
upper and lower stomach pain
upper respiratory tract infection (i.e., common cold, flu)
joint pain?!?!

Seriously? Check out the first and last ones – aren’t they the very issues that took me to the doctor in the first place?!?

It also states that this medication is used to treat osteoarthritis, and then in an “all-new” warning from Health Canada: Several scientific studies suggest that this medication may be associated with a small increased risk for fractures of the hip, wrist, or spine related to osteoporosis, a disease resulting in the weakening of bones.

Nice. So potentially, I could be going from mildly uncomfortable lower back pain into a fracture of the spine.

Oh, and my personal favourite?

This medication is associated with an increased risk of heart attack or stroke. The risk is increased with higher total daily doses and taking the medication over a long period of time. People with a history of heart disease (e.g., heart attack, stroke, heart failure, blood vessel disorders) or who have risk factors for heart disease (e.g., high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, kidney disease) should discuss with their doctor how this medication may affect their medical condition, how their medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed.

Good God!

So, here’s a new lesson I need to teach my children – ask questions. Lots of them. Don’t simply accept what people say or do based on their authority. Be judicious in your choices of medical treatment. I don’t need those pills, and the one I took today will be the last one I take until I have explored some other, less side-effect fraught, options. I’m not unable to function; I am uncomfortable. That’s all. Is that worth the risk of all those other potential side-effects? Not right now. Not to me.

And yes, I know they have to put every possible complication on the packages these days, no matter how minute the risk – even a box of Smarties probably poses many similar risks.

And, yes, if I needed medication, I would take it, regardless of those risks; I am not being naive, or “bashing” modern medicine in any way. When I need medicine – to keep me alive, or even just to keep me comfortable – I will be taking it. Without a doubt. But aren’t we quick to accept medications – no questions asked? To be fair to the doctor, he didn’t really know me well, and I might have been in much more pain than I actually was, and that medication is probably completely benign in the short term, with zero potential serious side-effects. So, I’m not bashing the medical profession either. It’s about me, really, and my children, and the fact that I want us to make informed choices based on what we learn and discover by asking questions and researching. There will always be someone who knows more. Did I ask that doctor about side-effects? No. And when the pharmacy employee asked if I’d like to speak to a pharmacist about the medication, did I? No. This is not about them. It’s about us.

On another note, I took my youngest daughter (who is often complimented on her lovely straight teeth) for an orthodontic consultation a couple of days ago on the recommendation of her dentist, and after listening to all the “flaws” the orthodontist listed, she was pretty convinced she needed braces, and so was I at the time – blinded by the reading of numbers and the showing of X-rays. I’m not quite so convinced two days later. I think that a large percentage of our current population has probably managed quite well with an 80% overbite. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that most of those people are blissfully unaware they even have an overbite. And again, if and when a person needs such treatments, I’m all for them. The power of a beautiful smile cannot be overstated. But really? Does everyone need to get braces?

Questions. Lots and lots of questions. Which none of my kids would be naturally inclined to ask a professional – a voice of authority.

Sigh. I’ve got some work to do.

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New Experiences – The Levees

tankNow, I realize right off the top that this post has little to nothing to do with roadschooling or travelling, but I think we can make some tenuous connections based on the fact that it relates to new experiences, and also includes a war museum. And a person might want to take their kids to visit this war museum on a different occasion, one that does not include alcolholic beverages, obviously. And as so often happened while we were travelling, this new experience has inspired me to write. So, relevant or not, here goes!

According to Wikipedia, the definition of a New Year’s Day Levee is this: The levée is a New Year’s Day social event hosted by the Governor General of Canada, the lieutenant governors, military establishments, municipalities and other institutions.
I had never actually been to one until this year, and I really didn’t know what it was all about, except that people seemed to get all dressed up and drink a lot, neither of which really appeal to me, if I’m honest. But this year, I went. And what a strange and surreal experience it was. The first establishment we entered, I was surprised that there was a line-up of name-tagged “officials” we were to shake hands with on the way in – very much like a wake, really. Except more cheerful. And obviously the “Sorry for your loss” greeting was replaced by “Happy New Year”. After the line-up, there was a table stacked with cookies and squares and other little treats, followed by another table well-stocked with non-alcoholic punch, and very alcoholic “moose milk”. Delish. And this is about 10:30 am – not my usual moose-milk-and-square-eating time, but hey, who’s complaining?
Then, it’s off to the Armouries. Now this one was a hoot. I laughed inside my head the whole hour we were there, because where else could a person enter a large hall, shake hands with military officers on the way in, be served seafood chowder by camouflage-clad soldiers, and drink rum and coke, while listening to Eighties classic hits (like Thrilller!?!) played by a live military band? Oh, and also peruse war memorabilia in the museum while still sipping on the afore-mentioned rum and coke? Bizarre.

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The Inspiration of Stats

mapI remember way back in June of 2012, before our roadschooling adventure had even begun, I posted about stats, and how darned exciting they were. And they are! It still gives me a thrill to write for an actual audience of actual people, especially when they come from so many different places. As a kid, I used to cut maps out of National Geographic magazines and stick them in a scrapbook, just because I liked them, so when I see that WordPress map with the countries of my “visitors” coloured in – well, you can imagine my excitement. And even though I only posted four times in 2014, I received my “Blog Report” on Dec. 31 informing me that in the past year I had 2900 visitors from 78 different countries. From four posts! I need to get back at it – imagine what would happen if I blogged once a week, or even once a month. Actually, that seems like a reasonable goal – once a month. Starting tomorrow. Promise.

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Our Own Space


It is just over one year since we left Europe; it’s hard to believe it was that long ago, and as I reflect on that final leg of the journey, I remember being sad that the adventure was almost over, yet excited at the prospect of home. Most of our year had been spent either all cramped into small places together, or living in someone else’s space, and as much as we appreciated both, the thought of our own space again was pretty exciting (although that didn’t happen until September when we finished building our new home!).

It is interesting to think about what effect that space-sharing has had on us as a family. Our two older daughters formed an amazing bond while we were travelling, strengthened by the fact that they spent many nights in the same room, if not in the same bed! We used to lie in our bed listening to the incessant giggling, and while it did drive us nuts at times, it often made us smile too. Until about midnight. Then there was no more smiling to be done. Just a bit of yelling and threatening, generally.

This giggle-fest would often happen in the car too, as we drove seemingly endless hours through Europe. They invented entire worlds to entertain themselves into delirium, complete with characters, lives, theme songs, book title spin-offs – I would go on, but in reality, I have no idea. Very little of it was accessible to my far too sensible adult brain!

As we look at photographs and reminisce, the memories that come to them are almost always  associated with some sort of “nonsense”!

And now that we have our own space again, and they are not forced together so often,  I think they miss each other sometimes. Combined with friends, school, extra-curricular activities, phones, and iPods, all this space makes for a distinct lack of connection sometimes.

As happy as I am to be settled in our new house, and have our own bedrooms, and lots of  space in which to retreat, I do recognize that all this space can sometimes have a negative effect on family relationships, especially as our daughters become teenagers and have a more natural inclination toward friends. And not only our immediate family relationships, but our extended ones as well – we have been a bit reclusive since we moved in here, actually. I think we are so relieved to have the space, and so tired from creating the space (still a work in progress), that we don’t tend to invite family and friends over nearly as often as we used to.

We have been making a conscious effort to cultivate that time together – have some sister “sleep-overs”, and family read-alouds or movies. And now that summer’s coming, we can have some family outdoor adventures too – some camping maybe? We really do need to find ways to hang on to those bonds that were created while we were travelling. I suspect camping will work – shove us all in a tent together for a few days to recreate some of that forced closeness we experienced as we travelled! Add a little discomfort and it will be truly authentic…maybe it will rain, or the airbed will deflate in the night. Ah, then we will bond for sure!

We  are so lucky to have what we have and to live where we live. We just need to be careful; it’s easy to get lost when you have so much space and comfort.


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I’m so not happy right now!

Says our youngest daughter on the way to school this morning.

“Why?” I ask her.

“Because I’m not in Europe! While we were there I didn’t really like it, but now I just want to be back in Monterroso – it was so cool there!”

This sudden wish to be in Europe was spurred by a visit from a friend last night who is about to take a trip to Cinque Terra. The girls were advising him on where to stay, how to find the local beach to avoid paying for the overpriced loungers, where to snorkel, the best food to eat – Nutella and breadsticks, naturally – and how he might not want to bother with the long, hot, sticky hike from. Monterroso to Vernazza. But if he does do it, he should look out for the strange cat on a table under a tree half way up the second mountain, just there, in the middle of nowhere.

I guess this visit inspired a bit of nostalgia in them.

And now, this morning, our oldest daughter headed off on a French Club trip to Montreal and Ottawa, all set to compare Paris’ Notre Dame with its namesake in Montreal, visit Parliament, The Biodome, and the Olympic Stadium where her cousin competed for England in 1976.

How things come full circle…


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