Sunday, 22 January 2017

Where We Were

Our family is finally fairly settled in our new (temporary for a year) home in Hamilton, Ontario. So after all the energy and emotion of moving it's a real pleasure to sit down and dive back into, to savour, where we've been. Our adventures last year in the U.K. were also full of energy and emotion, but of a very different kind.

A different perspective:

It's the first time we've immersed ourselves as a family in an "other" place. There have been a couple of trips with extended family, and much camping with family, friends, and just ourselves, but this was our first overseas adventure.

It was surprising, delightful, the people were kind and helpful, and, through some kindness of the universe, everything fell into place, everything clicked for us on this trip.

Mr. S. in originally from Europe, I'd lived for a year in Paris when I was nineteen, and we'd both travelled a little as younger people and lived in other places as a couple. But it had been a long time and it was a good reminder, especially after the uniquely necessarily introspective view that being a parent of younger children generates, that the world is actually a very large place with many interesting and very different people in it. Living within a bicultural family in Canada you'd think we'd know that, especially living in Toronto, but knowing your familiar diverse hometown is different than experiencing someone else's hometown. Neither Mr. S. nor I have any familial background that originates in the U.K. so it was an alien and beautiful place for us both.

Though not entirely unfamiliar ;-)

Beside the three wonderful farms that we were lucky enough to spend most of our time on, we also were fortunate enough to spend time in London and some other lovely lovely places thanks to our rail passes and the U.K.'s fabulous train network (sooooo jealous as a Canadian).

There was a lot of walking. And not "beside-the-roads-gagging-exhaust" walking. Quiet trails from town to town, cutting through fields, up hills, by old stuff, by sheep, by old names, by the sea, through forests. Glorious.

It only really properly downpoured once....which, for Britain....:-)

The kids met the Atlantic for the first time and we dipped our toes in the English Channel....

The trains, even though they were an adventure in their own way, often provided respite between busy days.

We also went to a truly amazing and unique place. A place that all four of us agree we would go back to in a heartbeat: Lundy Island. However, Lundy requires a dedicated post, so I'll save it for later...

There was a lot of exploring, but mostly we went there to learn and help on the farms. So, after this little taste of travel deliciousness, instead of an ordered travelogue I'm going to write about the three farms we stayed at in detail, so as to share (and maybe inspire in others) more WWOOFing.

Please stay tuned!

(p.s. please excuse the quality of the photos - we travelled light - just one backpack and one bag each - sometimes all of which Mr. S ended up carrying - so no camera, just my phone :)

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Newer Things

Sometimes, if you're lucky, things go sideways in a good way. It's usually not actually by accident. Maybe something catches your eye, maybe your heart's desire gently urges your foot to step a little differently, a little further than you would normally and you find yourself on a completely different path than you expected. Sometimes you are working hard on something else but all that work primes you to be sensitive and open to just the right kind of change.

And sometimes the yearning has kept you on the edge for so long that you have no other way to go.

And sometimes you plan and imagine and dream and bring up little ideas to your loved ones and then more ideas and then the ideas catch and then you all plan and plan and get brave and plan and work some more until you find yourselves selling your home and flying to Britain to volunteer work on farms for six weeks.

Because that's a thing that happens. It's what we did. And now I'm sitting here back in Toronto, surrounded by boxes and bittersweet feelings as we pack up our house, but filled with excellent memories and fierce hope.

Before it all happened, I was fortunate to come across an excellent article on volunteering on farms with a family, which was one of the sparks for this heart-skittering idea I had about taking the family to WWOOF. WWOOF stands for "Worldwide Opportunites on Organic Farms" and it's this brilliant organisation that facilitates skills exchange and learning about organic farming all over the world. We signed up with WWOOF U.K. because in addition to wanting to experience farming, being bibliophiles we wanted to see the world of Harry Potter, Shakespeare, The Hobbit....and Zinadine put in a request for steam trains. And Mr. S. is a soccer (sorry, football) fanatic, so the U.K. was a good choice for us. Oh, and we are yetis who don't like the heat. So this seemed perfect. Just as Toronto was heating up to tropical-style heat and humidity, we were planning to be off to rain and 15C. Perfect.

Well, perfect and complicated and fraught with big emotions for all, because of the selling of the house, which I'll write about in another post. Suffice to say that things, well, lined up in a way that worked for us. Mr. S's work is opening a satellite office in September in a smaller city closer to where we eventually want to live permanently. It was a good time to sell our house, in market terms (it's never a good time in kid terms). And I found a lovely sabbatical rental in the city we're moving to, owned by wonderful people and timed perfectly to suit us. So our whole house in going into storage for a year while we search for our an acreage or a small farm of our own to put our roots down.

So that's where we're going. Where we've been is a different story, filled with sheep and chickens and green and ocean and pastries and trains and hedgerows and weeding and chopping wood and such interesting people and beautiful places that we can't even begin to believe we were lucky enough to see.

More tomorrow soon, please stay tuned :-)

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

New Things

Happy belated New Year! Although, not really belated, as it's still the new year.

So many new things lately. I have many stories to share, but here's a quick one before the kids and I run off to our outdoor class at High Park:

That's me. And a new website.

Bear with me. It's a work in progress, and as of this morning I am defying the perfectionist in me that wanted everything perfect-exact-just-so for a big reveal. I'm so excited.

So please stay posted, as I'll be adding photos and info soon.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Watching Fatherhood

These are some of my favourite photos of my favourite people. They are out always, as is the sketch done by my good friend during a camping trip a couple of years ago. They show one of the things I love best about this partner of mine, Safiya and Zinadine's "Babo"; his contentment and happiness at the kids being with him.

Like many men of our generation, Mr. S. did and does all the things: diapers, bedtimes, reading, food, comforting, carrying, baby wearing, co-sleeping, walks, taking the kids to his work, etc. And on top of that, he's the fun one. Forts and ridiculous stories and jokes are his forte.

But it's watching him shed work as he walks through the door and totally be there with joy for Safiya and Zinadine that gets me everytime. Just like all of us, he's flawed, and makes mistakes and has struggles. But dear lord, the fierceness of his trying for his kids is amazing. He will do anything for them, no questions asked.

We were the first of our friends and family our age to have kids, and our families live far enough away that we both got thrown head first into this parenting thing, no crash helmets. The thing is, even though we've both wept with exhaustion at some point or another, it was a good thing. We learned very quickly how to do the parenting thing together. We became eachother's relief, and I can always, always rely on him.

Very early on, I was fussing at him about some way of doing something with Safiya (because I, as the mother, obviously knew how to do everything the right way ;) and Mr. S. said, "I'm going to have a different way of doing things sometimes. Please trust me that it will be o.k." This standing up for his abilities as a father took me aback (let's just say it wasn't a version of fatherhood with which I was familiar) and won me over and over and over.

Mr. S.'s ego isn't tied up in public accolades or recognition, but I wanted to write this, incomplete and inadequate as it is, to have it noted. He is an excellent father. So there, husband of mine: Happy Father's Day.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Studio Wednesdays

Every Wednesday I try to be here. I might be here other days of the week, and at least once of the weekend (although some weeks are a wash altogether), but Wednesdays are my promise to myself. It's only a couple of hours usually, but it's a quiet and creative balm, this time. Other days the kids are here with me sometimes or sometimes it's a while and then I hear the bells on the front door to the shop and then small feet who are definitely not browsing :) But Wednesdays are my own.

After a while settling in, signs of commitment have started springing up here. A shelf. A kettle and some tea. A cleaning out of the scrap bin. Projects completed. Old patterns re-discovered.

One day a lovely lady came looking for help setting a zipper in a knitting project after trying at other places in the city. I heard low polite conversation at the front of the store, then hesitant steps, then someone was at my door: "Are you Marnie?"

Yes I am. girl number twenty on the door, Marnie in her studio. The renovations in our basement are almost done, and I am still here. I've completed projects, messed up new ideas and finally gotten other ideas to work. I've sold a few things in the shop. I've met some very nice people and had some great conversations. I've also hidden here with snacks and Netflix. Ahem. I've taught (well, guided) a friend of Safiya's to sew (and she designed!) her very own skirt here. Someone suggested "workshops? Could you do workshops? I've always been scared of my sewing machine...."

Oh. That's an idea. What do you think?

Saturday, 9 May 2015

And Now (and Bikes and Optimism and Expectations)

Now. (I just couldn't leave those wintry pictures up too long :)

Yesterday I watched Safiya ride away with Mr. S. to his work for the day. It was her first big bike ride and she poked her head into our room at 6am, dressed and ready to go. She was so excited, and a little scared. This is the girl who only fell in love with bike riding two years ago (before that there was a lot of "I just don't like bike riding!") and is tall enough to require a "big bike". To go from riding around the block to riding 18k in one day is a big deal when you're ten years old.

Mr. S. said she handled it with aplomb: tired, but not a single complaint. Safiya had been asking for a longer bike ride and when Mr. S. suggested this one, she had latched on to the idea with enthusiasm. It had been her own goal, and she had done it. I tried not to embarrass her with too much high-fiving when they got home.

Two weekends ago I had the idea to do our first family bike ride, which included Zinadine on his training wheels.

even before the snow melted the kids had their scooters and bikes out, mittens and all

I remember being optimistic as we loaded up the bikes on our very optimistically purchased bike rack to make our optimistic way to a big park with a rec trail. It was one of the first gorgeous days went hilariously not that great. We made it maybe 250 metres until we had to turn around.

Zinadine's mantra was "I can't dooooooo it." This is the boy who last year scooted 53k on his scooter from Toronto to Hamilton with only excitement (that's another post), but 500 metres total on his bike was just. too. much. The birds chirped in the trees and his rejoinder was "I. don't. wanT. to." To his credit, the complaints were low and resentful rather than high and wailing and only occurred uphill :)

Presented with this challenge to my expectations, Mr. S. and I took turns going slow with him.....very slow.....and decided to enjoy the sound of the nearby creek and the birds and talk about what we were seeing in the park. The end result was that Zinadine said he liked biking and that he'd do it again and that we all needed freezies from the corner store.

Now, the point of the story isn't that Safiya is ten and Zinadine is five. The point is that Safiya was also once five and behaved very similarly. The point is also that apparently I need reminding that my expectations as far as skill aquisition have very little bearing on reality. We can try out different things and make gentle suggestions (and sometimes bribes), but what Mr. S. and I learn from the kids over and over is that true joy of accomplishment only comes from the inside.

So, sometimes it works and sometimes......sometimes you are reminded that everyone gets there at a different pace and sometimes a different method, to be determined by them.

And sometimes you need freezies.