Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Car-free in the suburbs.

It's been a long time since I've posted. I've been busy and didn't have anything I wanted to share. There's been some changes in the last 6 months. We got rid of the second car in the summer. We found we were using the only the car we do have less and less. In October our insurance rate increased dramatically. At that rate, we've realized we should be using the car a lot more to get our money's worth. Between gas, insurance, money still owing on it and maintenance, we are not getting our money's worth. Even if we weren't finished paying it off, we're not getting our money's worth. But I prefer not using. We get more exercise this way.

First we moved to car light. Then we worked to figure out what alternatives we had for the trips we still had left. We got our car ready to sell at the beginning of January and stopped using once it was cleaned out. Kids can make a mess fast and it's simpler to treat it as something we don't have use of anymore. Thankfully, we already lived without a minivan. Which meant we didn't have to purchase new carseats to accomodate smaller vehicles. We fit 3 carseats in the back of our Dodge Caliber and have fit the same car seats in the back of a Hyundai Accent. We needed a car last Friday to go see friends. We used Autoshare and Kevin picked up a Nissan Cube downtown Toronto from near his work and brought it home. We installed the 3 carseats and he brought it back Saturday and took the GO home.

Most days we walk my 7 year old daughter to her school bus in the morning. In the afternoon we walk my 5 year old to his afternoon kindergarten class. And then we walk to pick him up afterwards and pick up my daughter from the bus shortly after that. Three days a week, we walk to martial arts class after my daughter gets off the bus. My 3 year old slows things down, but he's learning that when we're walking to something we can't get distracted. School is 600 meters, 2 trips there and back each day. School bus is 140 meters. Is 700 meters. On days when there are martial arts classes, my 3 year old and I walk often 4km. Plus we'll hit the park or the library or playdates or pick up some grocery items. Not nearly as much walking as I did before I had kids, but the most walking I've done since I had kids on a daily basis.

There are plenty of buses running frequently nearby, but it's winter and I tend to hibernate this time of year. For groceries we've switched to home delivery. We still need to make short runs when we run out of bread or milk, but nothing we can't carry and like other things in this old neighbourhood, it's not a long walk. I don't go to the gym but I started Muay Thai at the same place the kids go for martial arts in October. It's a lot of fun and I've been getting stronger.

Once the car is sold, I want to get bikes. Walking at 3 year old speed is not for the impatient. We bought my oldest a nice bike from Cyclepath already seeing as she had outgrown her bike. I'm not inclined to buy our 5 year old a nicer bike than the little beater he has now, seeing as he'll grow out of it so soon anyway. I'll wait until he's bigger to get him something that should last.

We've been looking at folding bikes for Kevin for his commute to the train station and then to his office. But we're not sure as of yet which he'll buy.

For me and my youngest child, I was looking at cargo bikes for passengers like a bakfiets for the boys to ride in. But I'm not enthused about getting one up a hill. Not that there are lot of hills, I'm just not in great shape. I also don't relish sticking out like a sore thumb. I'm hoping for something less conspicuous. I liked the Xtracycle Surly Big Dummy. The long tail doesn't seem to stand out as much and seems practical. But they aren't easy to find around here. I found a place selling Yuba Mundo's, but it doesn't sell the accessories on the website I'd want with it. I looked at Dutch style bikes or getting a regular step through bike and getting features from a dutch bike added on. I'm not sure the rear racks I saw will carry a nearly 40lb child in their seat plus my weight and a little cargo. The ones that did list a weight went up to 30lbs. I would prefer something comfortable to ride. I don't expect to get any real speed going with kids.

I think I'm getting frustrated with the local bike shops with websites that direct you to manufacturers websites without listing prices. And some manufacturer's listing dealers that don't have their products on their websites. I'm suspicious of their customer service because they haven't made their websites easy to navigate this way. Going to website that doesn't list price and don't show accessories for bikes whose manufacturer's display that are the reason I'm interested in the product just isn't helpful. I go to stores when I know they have what I'm looking for. The bike shops aren't making it clear what they do and don't have and for what price on their websites.

Maybe we just won't get around to buying bikes. We're making do without as is. I just thought it would be a nice way to speed things up a little. In the meanwhile, I've been reading some blogs from some car-free families and it's interesting to see what they've found works and doesn't work.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Studio on a waterfall.

 So, I've been doing some writing exercises on another blog and this one was just too long to post on there. So, I'm putting it here. I've used aspects of this before, but I wanted to use it.


The confessional was an oversized glassbox. Pale white skin in a daffodil patterned smock tied at the waist, she was distraught before the camera’s. So young and blindfolded, her gentle hands feeling around her, she knelt before the wooden block. The studio audience watched quietly with baited breaths. Her fellow conspirators huddled whimpering in terror, awaiting doom. Was there a better reality show? The last moments of terrorists and their supporters. Bright lights shone down on them.

“Confess your sins!” Her pastor whispered in her ear. But he was from her past and her future was in Allah. They had taken her coverings. Exposing her bare pristine white legs and golden locks. Under the blindfold, her closed gray eyes wept. Pastor Jenkins continued to speak into her ear, his arm wrapped around her shoulders in a protective and paternal manner. A man dressed in orange watched distantly with face covered, resting on the handle of the axe standing on end on the ground. They could hear her shakey breaths. “Repent! Child just repent and they might let you walk or at the very least, save your soul!” He pleaded in hushed tones. She continued to sob but shook her head. She didn’t have any sins to confess. Obeying Allah was not a sin. She had many things to repent for, but she would not repent for her faith. She feared death, but her faith was strong.

Her friends clutched each other in the corner, praying quietly, just as she prayed silently in her head. One had brown hair matched with a smock patterned in chestnuts with the same tie at the waist. With her bare pinkish beige skin exposed and long soft hair, she was built like a dancer. The other had the same shade of skin and long straight dark hair, wore a smock patterned in dark blue calico. Her lips moved as she prayed but the camera’s only picked up the sound of her weeping.

The studio was built on a platform on a pole-like structure, out from the island near their largest city. It rose up out of the edge of the ocean in a circular form with it’s curtain of waterfall falling all around it. The building provided an insular view to it’s studio’s, while creating a visceral view from outside.

The crowd was getting restless and Pastor Jenkins eyes met the show’s host. He shook his head sadly. He wore black trouser’s, white shirt with a tie and a business jacket. Black and white, much like how he saw the world. But the lines between his people had blurred, never so much more for him as it did now with this young woman from his own flock. He ran a hand through his graying brown hair feeling his frustrations mount. His blue eyes were filled with tears as he couldn’t find an alternative solution to please all parties. The audience wanted blood. He had managed to convince the judge to let her go if she only repented on live television. He had asked God for the words to set her straight. For him to speak into her heart. To show her the light! She didn’t even have to acknowledge Jesus as Lord. She only had to repent. But Abigail was determined and he could see that now. He slipped out the glass door and was replaced by the host.

“Abigail Caroline Ewert. Do you have any last requests?” She asked in a tone that suggested seriousness and almost bordered on empathy. Of course, she knew Abigail had a last request. Like other prisoner’s on the show, they had made these arrangements earlier.

“Piper’s to play Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham.” The audience assumed it was more Islamic sentiments. But it was music from an old bollywood movie of all things. Pipers came down the aisle, as per her request in dramatic form. They lined up before the audience in full view of the glass room. The music without singer’s or dancers or distractions haunted the studio. Everyone fell quiet.

The young girl shook with fear. As the song drew to a close, she seemed to find calm and resolve. She lay her neck on the high wooden block for the executioner’s death blow, her hands braced either side holding the wood. Guards stood at the ready. She was intensely convinced that she was making the right decision. Camera’s zero’d in on her face partially covered by her white blindfold, capturing her strength as her friends sobbed in the corner. They ached to hold her and comfort her. They were more converts. They hadn’t done anything wrong beyond being friends with people who had turned out to be terrorists. How could they have known? But these days, that was enough. So many attacks on sovereign soil. So many of their own people dead. Law maker’s had gnawed and chewed on their rights until they were all negotiable.

The executioner took a weary breath. Tall and brawn, he loomed over her. The host read out her script as per the law. Her face was somber amongst a perky outfit and giddy make-up. She looked as though she should have been presenting a pageant rather than a beheading. But it was all within the law. New laws that were in fact old laws. They would not suffer traitors. Abigail was asked if she had any final words and she declared Allah as her Lord. The axe glinted in the light as it was raised high in the air. The three women whispered prayers to their new found omnipotent power. Confirming their place on the executioner’s block. The host gave the signal and the axe came down with a bang for the final death blow. Blood spurted and the decapitated head rolled away. The pipers filed back out past an entertained audience.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Novel ideas.

I'm not really a TV watcher. I prefer to stare at the glow of my computer monitor after the kids have gone to bed or when they're busy trying to scrape coconut out of their shells right now. I like to write stories and in the past year or two, I've written a couple of short novels. I finished 2, but have a third that I just got stuck on. I don't post original stories or hand them out to be read. I just like the process of weaving plots into a story and how it flows naturally. I do post fan fiction stories occasionally. I'm not nearly as intimidated by doing that. It's not nearly as personal and I enjoy reading the comments on where I take the stories.

So all this to say, this unfinished short novel has been a thorn in my side for months. I've thought about it. I've gone back to look at it. I've done hand stands while thinking about it. I've asked my kids what they think I should do. All for nought. And today I came across this blog that I thought was very handy dandy.


I should probably take the time to read more things on writing to see if they can help me because this was so much better than standing on my head. And for bonus points sans the head rush.  I've already tried a few of their suggestions, but there are many more. I think the one that would really work for me is jumping ahead. I'm having problems weaving a few characters back together. It's like weaving a basket and getting the top and looking at all of the ends and not knowing where they go exactly. I know it should all fit. I know how it ends. It's just tying them together. I may just need to push ahead to the ending and then see if I can put them together.

I'm sure this is probably a sign of madness. That I write things that I don't let people read but then continue to write them. But for some reason, writing always felt good. I have passing ideas, images and plots and it burns to not write it out. And then I want to weave some of the ideas together into a story. It's a challenge to see if I can make them fit fluidly.

Anyway, enough waffling. I really enjoyed her post and anyone else who is stuck on a creation, this is a good read.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Hopefully not getting lost.

We're planning a camping trip in July. We lack experience and maybe a little know-how, so we're - scratch that - I'm researching (husband doesn't research trips) camping to make sure that we don't end up on the 6 o'clock news as the family lost in the middle of nowhere. We have a 12 man tent I bought years ago that we've used 4-5 times. But we've camped with other people on previous trips. People who knew what they were doing and had things that we just hadn't thought of. This will be our first time camping with children, which will be even more interesting.

I've always enjoyed an adventure. Ever since I was a toddler, I've had a habit of wandering off from the group I'm with. I was thrilled to learn about orienteering in my early teens and was naturally good at it. So I'm pretty excited about this trip. Which brings me to reminiscingabout our recent trip. We had a trip in April using up first class flight passes from work before I quit.

The plan for the trip started off innocuously enough. A Grandparent's 80th birthday in a hotel in Romsey Hampshire. But then we had people we kept promising to visit the next time we were in England. And the kids wanted to see stuff while they were there. And we knew we won't be going back for a very long time. The itinerary grew and grew. Soon we had a small tour planned.

- We went to see a friend going to school and teaching at Oxford and dropped in on a cousin teaching there too. We did some sightseeing and I got a ticket for driving the rental car on a road only for buses.
- We stopped at Stonehenge. I used to pass here a lot as a kid. And then the World Heritage people decided to protect it. Which really sucks because now you have to pay to see it, as a kid it was just us there in miserable cold weather climbing stones. But at least we didn't have to stand behind a rope.
- We went to Salisbury to see the cathedral and the medieval town. I always enjoyed the sound of rushing water under there. 5 rivers meet running underneath and there are swans all over the place.
- We stayed with my aunt and uncle near Brighton. They have a lovely home by the beach where my uncle and cousins like to windsurf.
- We did the tourist thing in London with the London Eye, Trafalgar Square, Globe Theatre, etc... It took a few days, but the kids loved the trains, double deckers and tube.
- We visited my little cousins in Bath and took a spin around town on scooters (3 wheel for the 2 year old).
- We went to the 80th birthday party and enjoyed a couple of days at a large family gathering.
- We visited more family in SE London.
- We went to Sittingbourne and visited more family. (Yes, I have a large extended family between my mother and father. We missed a lot of people believe it or not.)
- We took the ferry to France and drove to Vimy Ridge. I really want husband to download the rest of the holiday pictures, I just have a few from the beginning of the trip.
- Then we drove the rest of the way to our condo/hotel just outside of Paris. We took the kids to the Eiffel Tower, the L'ouvre, Jardin de Tuilleries etc... My daughter was thrilled to practice her French and play with French children on the playground. My middle child used pigeon French I wasn't aware he knew. As usual, I was the only one whose French was embarrassing considering the amount of exposure I've had over the years.

So here are some pictures that aren't in order and miss large segments of the trip.
Daughter Stonehenge

Arundel Castle

Me and the kids at Arundel Castle

My middle child playing at the beach with my cousin.

Middle child shaking his thing at Stonehenge.

Us at Christchurch in Oxford.

Oxford on Christchurch grounds.

Daffodils at Christchurch.

Me and my friend in Oxford.

Kids attacking husband in the rental condo outside Paris.

Globe Theatre

Visiting the cafeteria for Hogwarts in Oxford.

All 5 of us at Stonehenge.
We got lost a few times (I won't use a GPS because I'm annoying like that.) and had moments of complete confusion. But we had a fantastic time.

Here's hoping that our week of camping is as big a success and we don't end up on the 6 O'clock news. Any more knowledgeable campers with tips for a family going camping near North Bay, please share. And any other tales of traveling with children in general please.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Me teach good JK eh?

My middle child is finishing his first year in junior kindergarten and has lost much of the zeal for school that he had in September 2010. It's disappointing for me because my oldest has enjoyed school so much. He takes things kids say to him to heart and gets his feelings hurt so easily. We've worked with his lovely teacher on this issue and other issues that have come up during the year. We did make a difference. I just wish that he didn't keep asking if it's Saturday.

This is so different from the 4 year old boy who was bouncing to get his chance to go to school. I've discussed with husband over the past year whether I should look into home schooling him. I'm not working now, so that is an option. Senior Kindergarten is optional in my province. So I've been looking at homeschooling websites and blogs. I don't personally know anyone who was home schooled or anyone that has home schooled. But over my years with cloth diapers, breast feeding and natural birthing I have been exposed to the idea somewhat. Looking at my oldest child, I couldn't imagine how home schooling would have been better than what she has with public school. She absolutely loves it. It's a very different picture watching my son.

We have until September to decide. That's the deadline I'm setting for us to make a decision. I'll keep gathering information about both. If anyone has experience making this decision, please share it with me.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Shiny New Blog

This is my first blog. Let it be known that I doubt that I have much of any relevance or interesting to write. But I plan to write it anyway. And I'm not much for grammar or editing. I used to edit, but I used edit the entire piece of work until I was left with  "The". It's best I don't focus too much on the details and just write and post if this blog is going to happen.

Less than a month ago I quit my job at a major airline to stay home with my 3 children. My career has been a major part of my identity for a long time. So this has been a big scary step for me. To be fair, this isn't my first time staying at home. I had 1 year maternity leave with each of my 3 children. My oldest was born in March 2004 and my youngest was born October 2008. In 5 and a half years, I spent 3 years on maternity leave.

I thought I handled things just fine with 2 children and expected it would be fine with 3. But it didn't work out like that. My oldest (Grade 1) started French Immersion at a new school. My middle child started junior kindergarten. So they're both in 2 different schools as there isn't any French Immersion for kindergarten students. Then my youngest had daycare where he had activities and events. Between 3 schools, activities outside of school, my own interests, husbands interests and seeing our family and friends, work obligations, I found I wasn't juggling them all anymore.

I'm well aware how whiny this all sounds. I need to remember that it's a blessing to have the option to stay home with my children. They are lovely. And I have been able to keep my vehicle even if my husband will now be taking the train to work. And I didn't have to keep my daughter in French Immersion. I could have put her in regular public school. There have been many options that were carefully considered for more than a year with my husband.
I suppose what I'm really saying is that it's going to be an adjustment and I'm going to have to get used to being me again and not my job title.