Monthly Archives: September 2014

Everything’s better with water…

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After two months of fairly non-existent “summer weather”, Hunter and I headed east in late August to hang out with family at the family cottage (aka Grandma Lynne’s house) in Sturgeon Point. This year we were staying for just over two weeks to ensure that we packed in lots of water fun as well as Great Grandma Addie’s family celebration of her 100th year.

One of the best parts about the cottage is water skiing as it is something that we don’t do at any other time during the year. Hunter learned at the end of last summer and we were both thrilled when he popped up like a charm his first time this summer. He was feeling pretty bold and also ventured outside of the wake, later telling me that he thought he was ready for slalom skiing next! I’ve been waterskiing off and on for years and love the feeling of skimming along the water at high speeds – it’s similar to kite boarding and windsurfing – freedom…

There were new tubes bought this year for behind the boat and it definitely upped the ante. No more high speed s turns and whirlpools to try to knock the kids off the single tubes – the new tubes are like floating sofas, with half the adrenaline coming from what you are feeling and the other half coming from anticipating what may happen as you have absolutely no control over the tube. The kids pushed the limits on a daily basis and by the end of the 2 weeks had managed to flip the big one. I was happy to not be on it at the time.

With lots of cousins around, the kids tend to move in and out as a pack at times. Everyone’s outside and then everyone’s back inside. Active time was spent driving circles of the property on the golf cart, along with swimming in the lake and then jumping in the hot tub. Down time seemed to be centred around the world of “i” devices as everyone now has one. Lots of discussion regarding certain apps and “mom, can I download…” could be heard on a regular basis as one cousin had something that another one didn’t.

My Grandma turns 100 in October, which is a pretty amazing thing. We decided to have a family english garden party in her honour during the summer so that as much family as possible could make the trip. With 24 of us there it was quite the party! Everyone got dressed up, we had family photos, yummy finger sandwiches and cake and played bocci ball, croquet and other lawn games.

One of Great Grandma’s requests for this summer was a boat trip so on one of our last days we headed down the lake to Bobcaygeon where she lives and went through the locks to take her out for lunch and for a short boat ride. Our cottage is on the Trent Severn waterway which is a pretty cool piece of engineering and Hunter loves going for a locks trip each summer.

Our new friends Bryon and Sarah stopped in at the cottage on their way to the Ottawa river. It was a bit weird as they were at our house in Whitehorse only a few weeks before and here we were continuing the fun together in a completely new place. Hunter was happy to have another person to play with and Bryon seems to have just a little bit of fun when you put him near water. He pushed the limit on all the toys and had Hunter following very quickly – the gauntlet had been thrown down…

It was a fabulous two weeks. Even though the weather was not as hot as normal, and we had a few big rainy days, we managed to pack in a lot of fun with the cousins, something that we all miss the rest of the year. Thanks to everyone for a great trip!

The moment it all came together…over a wood pile

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I quit my big important corporate job in May 2013 because I was convinced that there had to be a better way. A better way forward for me (less stress, less conflict for my personal morals and values) and for our family (more time together, less juggling, less frenetic).

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We then had a fun and active summer and took 8 months off starting in September to avoid winter and start our journey to define our “new normal”. While travelling I delved into Dannielle Laporte’s “Desire Map”, her new book that talks about leading your life in line with your core desired feelings. I was really intrigued with this concept of planning based on your heart vs your brain and ended up plugging away at the book, the process and the outcome while we were travelling.

By the time we got home in the spring I had defined my core desired feelings (the things that I want to feel every day) and they have been sitting at the back of my mind over the past few months – more like marinating than anything.

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We spent yesterday afternoon stacking 4 cords of wood (that’s the pile in the photo) for a former neighbour (we now live 50km away but I firmly believe that neighbour is a state of mind) who is injured and needed some help. We went out there as a family, worked hard in the drizzling rain for 2.5 hours and were rewarded with a home cooked meal and some wonderful company.

While grooving away to the tunes (Tim is never far away from music) and getting in the rhythm of loading endless wheel barrows of wood, I found my brain really free and clear and reflective on the last few days. I was outside, in nature, being active with family. This is the thing that I have determined is the biggest influencer on my own personal happiness. It also seems to make room for lots of contemplation and mental wandering…

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Hunter and I have had an ever improving road schooling week, almost peaking with Thursday’s afternoon phys-ed skate park session where I felt truly blessed to be enjoying the beautiful fall weather and experiencing his learning curve as he was attempting to master some new tricks. I saw his joy in showing me his new moves and was part of the awe and pride when he succeeded at something that was a stretch for him. We continued the upward swing on Friday when we attended the Yukon school education session with Infinitus at the Yukon Arts Centre. They are a beat box string trio and I honestly had no idea what to expect. We were going because I thought it was a great opportunity to continue to expose Hunter to new forms and styles of music. They blew us both away. Their ability to connect with a theatre full of kids for an entire hour was on par with their ability to play requests that ranged from Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbean to “Happy” and “Verve”. I got to sit there and watch my 11 year old boy get turned on by something – the power in that is AMAZING. He left stating that he wants to learn to play the cello, how amazing their music was and that we HAD to go to their concert Saturday night.

In the middle of all of this was the basics of numeracy and literacy and we are plugging away at it. I am a firm believer that those are critical skills for life and not something that we can skim over. At the same time, this other stuff is what brings colour to the world and makes us all individuals. The ability to feel passionate about something, no matter what it is, is so important.

We went to the Infinitus concert on Saturday night, bringing along another 11 year old boy with us. While the classical Bach sections lost him, the contemporary stuff held him through and Hunter walked away happy that he had experienced Infinitus a second time.

In the mix of all of this great stuff this week, I have found myself surrounded by stories of friends and family that are suffering from various forms of cancer or who have unfortunately passed away due to their illnesses. These are not old people – they are in their 40’s and 50’s. We read more and more articles about the chemicals that are in our food, our skin care products and our environment and it leaves me wondering where this is all going.

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Coming off of summer holidays you hear kids talking about how their parents are different people when on vacation. They aren’t as stressed or grumpy. They talk about how important vacation is to their family because of this.

Standing out at the wood pile yesterday afternoon I found all of these thoughts swirling around and I continued to ask myself “What are we chasing?”. We have more and more stories and examples that re-enforce that life is short and you only get one kick at it so why, as a society, are we so focused on competing with each other and chasing the money, the promotions, the titles, the new houses, the stuff???

I LOVE Ted-Ed videos. I am continually looking for new ideas for how to engage Hunter in learning and am fascinated with the diversity of things that are being experimented with in the education field. This week I watched a great video by Rita Pierson that talks about how important it is to build relationships and that every child deserves a champion as they go through life.

At the end of the video I was struck with the thought that if we aren’t our own childrens’ champions, how can we expect someone else to be? I also loved the +2 vs -18 metaphor and how positivity can make such a difference in those around us.

Our lives have fundamentally changed since we hit the road last September. We have a stronger sense of family, have more effective communication and are much more connected to each other. There is a sense of feeling that we are in this journey together, where ever it may take us. We have committed to taking things one year at a time – no stress about needing a master plan, just focusing on how do we meet our needs today and tomorrow.

I had a conversation with someone earlier this week and they asked “what are your plans for this Chasing the Sun thing?”. At this point, the picture is fuzzy and clear at the same time. I’ve been thrilled to hear from friends how they took the summer off to hang with their kids or chose to get more active as a family this year because of the experiences we are sharing. I firmly believe that there has to be a different way forward for families. The education system as a whole was built to meet the needs of the Industrial Revolution and doesn’t align with the economies of today and tomorrow that are driven by innovation. We aren’t building thinkers, we’re building kids that are focused on mastering standardized exams. Most kids are so over prescribed in terms of time and activities that we have lost the focus on family and play. Many kids are actually missing basic physical literacy skills due to early sport specialization. At the same time we have ever increasing childhood obesity rates and predictions for shorter lifetimes in the coming generations.

I worked hard to get to the point where I could work on a contract or consulting basis and I am grateful for the opportunity to serve and support organizations and individuals that need help. I am also working hard to balance my clients needs with my needs and our families needs. As parents, Tim and I are both committed to working less and playing more. What that looks like changes every day, based on the weather and the season. What matters most is maintaining the commitment to each other and to us as a family. I’m optimistic about our year to come and loving the journey that we are on.

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So… what are we chasing? We’re CHASING THE SUN both literally and figuratively. We’re chasing family kayaking, mountain biking, surfing and skate park adventures along with those bluebird sunny spring snowboarding days. We’re also chasing that warm glow and happy feeling that comes with a proverbial sunny day – overflowing with a sense of presence and all that is important in the moment, a life of few cares beyond what is right in front of you and those that you surround yourself with. By sharing our experiences and being transparent about our journey, we’re also aiming to make a difference by supporting those around us as they work to define their “new normals”.

Today = why I love road schooling

IMG_2806Today was a picture perfect example of why I am loving road schooling and the direction our life has headed. Although we are not on the road full time this year, I’ve decided that our approach to learning best fits in the middle zone between “homeschooling” (replicating the school structure but at home) and “unschooling” (limited structure, go with the interests of the child). We are mixing structure for our core numeracy and literacy work and less structure by using 2-3 projects that touch on either key interests or our travels to cover off everything else for the year.

I was up early and enjoyed a peaceful hour of household administration and client work before heading out the door at 8:45 for a meeting. I arrived back at 10:30 to find Tim up and about and a quiet house.

Hunter slept until 11:00 am this morning. It makes me so happy to be able to support and adapt to the fact that he obviously needed that sleep. He stumbled out of bed and got started on his math activities right away – we are using ixl.com math on the iPad and it’s great for both he and I in terms of content, tracking and reporting.

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After a late breakfast/brunch/lunch we headed out the door for an afternoon kayak session while the sun was at it’s warmest. It was a beautiful day and so nice to be able to play when the weather is good. Everyone continues to work on certain kayak skills and it’s a nice mix of training plus fun plus family time.

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We made it back home again by 4:00 and Hunter hunkered right back down and tackled his spelling for the day. With the late start and the extended paddling session we didn’t get to our big project for the day but I’m OK with that. It’s not the end of the world to shift things a day or two here or there to account for life happening.

When I have the confidence to step back and think about the big picture developmental objectives that we fit into each day, I always breathe easy and find myself smiling. IMG_4923

Adventure camp in the west kootenay’s

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With Tim and Hunter off on a boys trip in Saskatchewan with Tim’s family, and continued fall like weather in Whitehorse, I decided to head to the west kootenay region for some warm weather kayaking with the great folks at Endless Adventures. What was planned to be a five day kayak session turned into a fabulous summer adventure camp – warm weather, warm water and great people!

I flew in and out of Calgary using a credit that I had on Air North, which helped to decrease the overall costs of the adventure. What it did mean though was I started my trip with an 8 hour drive to Crescent Valley (between Nelson and Castlegar)… For anyone else looking to go to the area, I would firmly recommend flying in and out of the Castlegar airport, which is just 20 minutes from Crescent Valley.

Endless Adventures has a great location, right at the put in for the lower Slocan river and within close proximity of a whole lot of other rivers and play spots in the West Kootenay region.

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I spent the week camped in their campground (really just a field with a wash house), which is up the hill behind their retail store. Nice views and easy access to paddling and the local beach made this a nice place to call home. There is an organic grocery store right next door and a yummy breakfast/lunch spot about 200 yards up the road.

IMG_1992I spent my first two days doing runs on the lower Slocan – trying out different Jackson Kayak boats and refining skills. The water is bath-tub warm and the run takes about 2 hours if you are working/playing your way down or about 45 minutes if it’s just a straight paddle through. With lots of people around to paddle there seemed to be always someone to paddle with, the only challenge being shuttles. Its about a 4km shuttle back up to the put in. The Slocan river is a very popular float trip with people putting in at lots of different places and then taking out at Crescent Valley, where the kayakers then put in. Selling inflatable inner tubes is big business here!

That night a kootenay style storm rolled in and I found myself hunkered down in my tent for 2 hours (after I had retrieved it from across the field where it blew as the winds came up out of no-where) with the rain and wind just howling. Lots of lightning and thunder going on. Some spot fires got started up and down the valley and there was a lot of Wildland Fire traffic that evening.

Day three was a run on Wilson Creek with “the boys”. It was a fabulous instructor/student ratio of 4:1 as everyone was up for some fun that day. It was my first real creeking experience and definitely overwhelming. What the boys thought of as simple and straight forward, I found scary and big. I am super proud of having made it through with only one swim and a few well timed rolls and feel much more confident about my ability to paddle creeks. Our upcoming trip to Ecuador with Endless Adventures International will add a lot more creeking experience as well.

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We capped off the day with some swimming and cliff jumping at “Paradise”, an area just below one of the dams on the Kootenay river. This was another stretch as I went off the 10 foot rocks. “The boys” well outdid me with flips and dives off the 30 foot rocks!

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Day four was a day of exploring around Nelson and Castlegar in the morning and then a lazy afternoon spent in the lounge swing getting some work done… AGAIN – LOVE MY JOB 🙂

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That night the winds picked up again and sparked up a small fire that was smouldering about 4km up the valley. The internet and radio were calling for an evacuation but no one really seemed to be going anywhere. After much driving up and down the road to check things out I opted to pack up my tent and sleep in my car outside the Endless Adventure shop so I could leave quickly if it continued to grow. That lasted about 2 hours until I was waaaay too hot and uncomfortable and drove back up the hill and set everything back up again in the dark! Hunter would have loved to see all the Wildland Fire helicopters and planes flying around…

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Day five was spent exploring 2 of the park and play spots down near Castlegar and starting to learn some play boating skills. I have NEVER rolled that much in one day and was exhausted by lunch time! Playboating is way harder than it looks and will definitely take some more practice and immersion for me. I will be in search of more warm water for continued lessons…

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To get some confidence back I did two more runs on the Lower Slocan and practiced eddie turns, side surfing and rock boofing before getting back into the car and driving 8 hours back to Calgary on Day six.

Crazy busy six days that were jammed with all the fun I could find. Very little stress as I was only worried about myself, which was a gift in itself! We will hopefully be back next summer as a family as this is a great place for any and all paddlers.