A big day…

Last Saturday started like any other Saturday….

Mrs. Iverson was the first to wake up, “Mama!  It is a beeeauutiful day!  The shunshine is up!”.  I squinted my eyes and looked up into her bright and smiling face.  “Ten more minutes k?” I muttered.  “Okay” she said as she snuggled back down beside me, “I love you”.  “I love you too sweetie”…

I’m not sure if it was ten minutes later or not but the next person up was Lil’S.  “Mom, what is Ivy doing?” she asked.  I opened my eyes again.  I heard the fridge shut downstairs.  Oh geez!  We both jumped out of bed and made our way downstairs where we found the little Mrs. on a chair in front of the stove with the skillet out, the eggs on the counter and her hand in the flour canister.  “We’re having pancakes mom!” she said proudly and she made a slurping noise with her tongue which translates into “yum”.  S and I smiled and joined in the preparations.  Not a bad start to the day.  I made a mental note to talk with Mrs. Iverson about the appropriateness of having “adult help” for food preparations that involve the stove.

Next we made plans to go to the park, to head downtown to buy presents for a birthday party in the afternoon…a very regular day.

When we were downtown we stopped for lunch at Five Guys Burger Joint (Obama’s fav or so J tells me).  The girls we thrilled with sitting in the “super big, super high chairs” and ate every bite of their burger.  Ivy proudly held the brightly wrapped birthday gifts all the way home.  We ran into friends and stopped to chat.

We did get to the park and Lil’S biked for three hours straight once she got the hang of riding without training wheels!!  Such an incredible mothering moment…all that time spent practicing, listening to her frustrations, her assertion that she would never be able to ride by herself…all of that gone in the instant that she put it all together.  There was pure joy bubbling up and out of her as she squealed and laughed with delight.  “Mom, are you still beside me?” she asked not daring to move her eyes from the pavement in front of her.  “You’re doing it!!” I yelled from halfway across the tennis court.  She turned her head to look and an enormous grin spread across her face.  She sat a little straighter and looked a little more confident as she continued on and picked up a bit more speed.  I didn’t think this moment would be that special.   But it was.  Really special.  I wish I could bottle that moment and keep it forever…especially her laughter.  The pure joy of it.  The transformation from frightened and focused to confident and carefree…quite the milestone.

I promised to keep this a secret from daddy so Lil’S could demo her skills in a more dramatic fashion for him.  So when we returned home, she went back out straight away with her dad and I stayed home with the Mrs.  Who was very tired indeed and had fallen asleep on the couch.  An hour later I decided to move her upstairs to bed.  She woke just long enough to protest this move and so we decided to sit and rock for a bit in the rocking chair.  She snuggled in closer, “thanks mama” she said.  “For what?” I asked.  “For rocking” she answered.  I smiled and rocked and my thoughts drifted to dinner preparations and wonderings about how in the world I would ever get this girl to bed on time with a nap like this…”mama?” she said with her eyes still closed, “yes love?”,  “mama,  it was big day today” she said with a sigh “a really big day”.  I laughed a little because I had actually been thinking in was a completely ordinary day.  But then I looked back at the activities of the day through her eyes…it was a big day, an exciting day even.

Pancakes, a visit downtown, a restaurant, brightly wrapped presents, a party, the park, all finished up with a delicious nap on the couch.  Such incidental things on their own…but for a three-year old, they were big.  And I was glad for this reminder…that these small moments, the newly acquired, everyday skills like riding a bike, washing dishes, making breakfast are all…more than enough.

A reminder to take pleasure in the small, the ordinary, the everyday.

These are my big things while these girls of mine are still small…

Ivy likes to wash dishes all by herself...it is kinda a big deal : )

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A Spring in our step…

Oh the planning for Spring…it is so much fun!  If you live around Kingston there are a ton of Spring inspired activities and workshops to attend.  Today we are headed to:

I love that there are so many opportunities here to share knowledge and seeds and that there is a strong desire to strengthen community and local networks.  If you are looking for other workshops/green things to do, visit these websites:

Loving Spoonful

Sisters of Providence

Sustainable Kingston

Kingston Unplugged

Wendy’s Mobile Market

Looks like our calendar is going to be quite full!  I’m officially looking forward to a change in seasons and putting down new roots.

Country mouse, city mouse

We are really happy with our recent move to the city.  It does seem to be in opposition to what I see most of my online and blogging friends doing (and some real life ones as well).  Most people seem to be saving up for or buying country properties, procuring small farm animals, growing their own food etc.  I guess I need to search out more urban homesteading and living lightly in the city type sites to keep us on track and in good company : )

I do find myself a bit surprised by how smooth the transition was/is and by how easily we slid back into our urban pre-kid lifestyle.  The kids adjusted really well…so much so it was actually anticlimactic (no need for all those “moving day” and “making new friends” books from the library really). Even I’m doing okay…and I LOVED our old house.  That house was our dream house.  You know, the one you dream of but never get?  That was it.  The first month we moved in I kept pinching myself to make sure it was real.  Friends visited and felt like they were in a secluded cabin getaway forest paradise.  And of course, they were!  Our annual Solstice celebration had a winter wonderland setting.  So truly, my biggest worry was how I was going to react to moving.  Would I be in a funk over the move? A depression about loss of the forest and river and passive solar house and walk-in closets (so superficial I know!), and my soaker bathtub (so welcomed by my post-birth-attending body), and the birds and the wildlife and cross-country skiing straight out from our front door…and I do miss that.

I wasn’t kidding when I said we went skiing out the front door.

There was nothing better than drying the girls off in front of the fire after a bath…no woodstove or fireplace in the new house.

Can’t beat getting the kids up in the morning and putting them in front of…the window…

to watch squirrel TV or…

…watch birds.  Our yard was home to so many beautiful creatures, cardinals, blue jays, stick bugs, toads…Remember my post, “Salamanders, Frogs and Worms, OH MY!”?  Telling the kids to “go find some salamanders in the woodpile” was my go-to thing to get them out of my hair while making dinner etc.  Here’s is hoping for some urban creepy crawlies and feathered friends to keep us busy…

photo by Brandy Jackson of http://www.stonewallphotography.com

Did I mention I miss my tub.  Surely you can see why.  I choose this picture, well, because we are clothed in it and because you can see we loved it right from moment one…Eric is still hard at work on the rest of the plumbing while Ivy and I jumped in to try it out.  Heaven I tell you! My new bathroom with its apple green tiles and old school fixtures is vintage awesome…but when the water in your bath doesn’t go more than half-way up your hips…sigh…at least we are conserving water.

This time of year I miss the preparations for tapping our trees.  From our yard we were able to make huge amounts of maple syrup to keep and to give.  I’ll miss the time J and I would spend late at night tending the fire, drinking beer and keeping warm while we (he) painstakingly boiled the sap down…We might try tapping at Grammie and Grandpa’s but that means asking them to do a lot of the work of checking and emptying the buckets…we’ll see if we can hold on to this tradition…

Mostly I miss the view from the windows…snow falling was magical.  Fall was gorgeous.  In summer we were kept well shaded and cool and in spring we watched the beautiful tulips and daffodils pop up and the moss turn bright green…Of course I’ll miss the view from the windows especially because I stared out those windows my entire labour with Ivy.  I remember watching the nearest pine tree and thinking how long it had been standing there and how much wind and rain and snow it had endured and yet it stood strong.  After Ivy was born I sat on the couch and looked out onto the most gorgeous fall day.  I silently thanked the tree for being such a great reminder of my own strength.

Here is that tree in winter…

The incredible colours of our yard in the fall…

The perfect summer setting for our outdoor movie festival (we showed The Princess Bride/Wonder Pets double feature in 2011)

Photo by Brandy Jackson http://www.stonewallphotography.com

Picking flowers in the spring.  This yard was also an endless supply of sticks and acorns and leaves and rocks – we will need to find a new source for our craft supplies!

And finally I’ll miss walks down our road and down by the river…

I loved walking by this little creek just down the road.  It lead to the mill that is part of the LaRue House.  Mrs. LaRue was the area’s midwife back in the 1800’s.  As a midwife it was neat to live down the road from the old “Birth House”.

It is weird truthfully.  I don’t think about the old house much.  Writing that list just now does make me feel nostalgic but I’m not lamenting the move.  I think we were just ready.  The location was beautiful.  The house was more than I ever thought I’d have and environmentally friendly to boot.  But it doesn’t suit where we are as a family right now.  The drive to and from work was beautiful but the commute was killing Mother Earth.  Our yard and the girl’s play space was breathtaking and watching the girls run around and explore in the yard/forest was heart-warming but once both girls were in school or daycare we were in that space less and less.

Maybe you should replace the words ” I miss” in this post with “I remember fondly”?  This moves marks a major transition.  It is like we are entering a new era, a new stage in who we are as a family.  It is great fun to remember the old place but I don’t find myself looking back.

There is too much to look forward to!  This move has already allowed for a better work/life balance.  The girls and I are crafting more not less.  Incredibly we are more physically active than we were in that last year of living in the great outdoors!  We are eating better (living out of your car is horrible for that).  And although this new house is older and not as efficient, we are able to walk to everything we need and are using less fuel in our car (by an incredible amount…I can’t even tell you…).  Opportunities for greening our life abound in this city.  We are even able to have chickens in the city something we’ve always wanted to do (see the following “chicken-sitting” photo, thanks Teri for sharing your chickens with my chicken-loving girls).

The girls are fantastically happy to have friends nearby, to walk on sidewalks (seriously thrilling for them), and to have “neighbours we can see”.  Our new neighbourhood is incredible and one neighbour even came over to help us unload our van the day we moved in!  Most others have come by to introduce themselves and welcome us.  This was such a pleasant yet unexpected turn of events…aren’t country people supposed to be friendlier than city folk?  Not here apparently and we are so grateful.

For now we are enjoying a long sought after dose of winter.  The weatherman says it won’t last long.  As winter winds down and we’ve mostly settled in, we turn our thoughts to Spring and new things.  Such a wonderful reminder that things happen when they are supposed to, as they are supposed to.  Every end, a new beginning.  We can’t wait to have our first gathering of friends in our new home to celebrate the Spring Equinox.  Let the making, and preparing, and planning begin!

Desperately seeking winter

A few weeks ago, in a fit of spontaneity and desperation, I booked a ticket home in search of winter.  By now you all must be tired of my whining.  But I am a northern girl and I have northern girl needs…one of them is to have snow in the wintertime.  I need to play in it, lay in it and soak it into my veins.  If I don’t I go a little batty (apparently… before now I had never encountered a winter without winter before).

And so Lil’S and I boarded a plane home.  I can’t say enough about what this trip did for my northern soul.  It was glorious.

Where is home? Thunder Bay Ontario. It is nestled in some of the most beautiful topography I've ever encountered. The photo above was taken looking out across Lake Superior at the Sleeping Giant. Click on it to learn the legend.

We arrived after midnight, the snow crunching under our feet as we walked from the car to the house. Lil’S exclaimed “Mom!  I’m walking. In. Snow!”.  It warmed this mama’s heart to know her little one was craving snow as much as she was.

The next morning we got down to winter business straight away.  First up, snow fort:

Thanks Auntie Kathleen for building it!

Okay, maybe snow fort building was first on Lil’S’ agenda.  First thing I did was lay in the snow. Sigh.  I felt sooooo good!

Don't crush my fort mom!

Second on the list was actually conducting winter business like making snow “pizzas” (see below) or snow “shoes”…pretty much anything that that lovely crusty top snow layer will allow you to “cut out” we made…and sold to one another.  Love it!

Your pizza madame. Bon Apetite!

Up next was a magical breakfast at Mrs.A’s, my best friends mom.  It was fun to show Lil’S the room where many a sleepover occurred in my childhood.  Mrs. A always made us feel so special at breakfast with personalized place cards and delicious food.  Sixteen years later she didn’t disappoint.  There were cinnamon cakes, eggs, muffins, orange juice in fancy glasses (which thrilled Lil’S to no end)…Lil’S even had some tea in the tiny little tea-cup Auntie Kathleen used when she was little.  Lil’S declared that it was the fanciest house she had ever been in.  I do believe she is right!

Well fed and hydrated we set off to find the new skating rink down at Marina Park.  I have to say “Well done Thunder Bay!”.  Growing up there was always talk about developing that area.  Being active and outdoors is what Thunder Bay is all about and this rink on the shores of the largest fresh water lake in the world, complete with a fire pit in the centre to warm up those fingers, is pure genius!  Take a look:

Ah, there is some magical about the sound of skates being laced up...winter, I love you.

View from the change room

Quite possibly the most beautiful change room ever built.

Spectacular view of Lake Superior

Showing off her backwards skating skillz

In front of the old train station...

The firepit, perfect for those in the group who forgot their skates. If you look closely you can see Lil'S and I warming our fingers on the other side of the glass. Genius I tell you!

Love little D peeking out the window!

A trip to Thunder Bay is not complete without a visit to the Hoito Restaurant.  A great way to end day number one.

World famous Finnish pancakes. Yum!

I’m going to pause here in my run down of my quest for winter in Thunder Bay.  Because as I was looking up a link for the Hoito (it is fascinating I promise!) I came across this video of “The Rick Mercer Report”.  In it Rick visits the Hoito and then heads off to Orient Bay, my old stomping grounds, to ice climb.  Then to relax after a long day he has a sauna and jumps in some snow.  I’m sharing this because this may help some of you who truly don’t understand my love of snow and ice and winter.  THIS is what I grew up doing!  I spent most winter weekends in high school driving up to Orient Bay with some tourists or TV crews to ice climb.  I was a figure skater.  I’m pretty sure everyone in town owns a sauna or has access to one somewhere.  When I say I want to jump in snow and let it soak into my skin, I mean it, really I do.  Just watch:

Day number two started with a trip to the Canada Games Complex.  Scarlett begs to go every time we visit.  So while it wasn’t a “winter” activity it was a way to catch up with family and friends as the kids swam and we watched my incredible niece in her diving lesson (even jumping off the tallest tower – crazy!).

We rounded out day two with an outdoor bon fire.  Thank you Patty and Kathleen, I was in heaven.

Look closely at Little D's upper lip...there was extra fun going on. Here you can also see my beautiful sister Kim...one of the people I admire most in this world, muah!

Day three was a day just for me.  There is nothing better than cross-country skiing on a beautiful, sunny winter day with one of your best friends now is there?

20km/hr eh? I think I might be a bit slower than that : )

so impressed with Kathleen's skate skiing abilities!

Ah, takin' a break

Nothing says the north better than Birch trees and clear blue skies.

We went skiing out at Kakabecka Falls Provincial Park. It was a tad intimidating.  We pulled into the parking lot and since cross-country is such a big nordic thing we found ourselves surrounded by very serious and seriously outfitted skiers.  I was wearing a borrowed vest, skiing on borrowed skis, sporting old k-way pants from when I was 16 years old.  Classy.  Despite the “I’m no longer from here” get-up I felt like Julie Christy in Away From Her.  Magical.

One more quick trip to the rink and we were back at the airport.  We didn’t get to visit half the people we wanted to  but we’ll make up for that on another trip.  This time really was about packing as much winter into our lives as we could.  As it was we never did go Tobogganing, or have a Sauna, or watch some Curling or ice climb…but I did get some ice into these veins.  And it was so nice to be home.

************

PS  For those of your who love winter, what have you done to cope with the lack of it this year (or at least the mildness of it)?  For those of you loving this Kingston weather, what the heck do you do in winter when there is no snow?  Do you ever get outside?