Happy Sunday Funday Folks! This journey started on Friday morning.
The 11 months and 10 days we lived in Switzerland in 2004 were some of THE BEST and the darkest time of my life (besides watching my mama die!)
The darkness of living through depression and having no energy but to sleep, to be working in a difficult teaching environment, having Steve away training for volleyball each night and living in a country that is clean and exceptionally beautiful for a reason. They ‘control’ each other. I have never been yelled at more in my life.
The BEST moments meeting friends and students that are still in my life today, living in a pristine natural environment, travelling easily and learning more about myself.
Being back here now in 2019 with our boys is truly sublime.
Drove from beautiful Milan to the Rigi in the Swiss Alps.
With one stop in Locarno for our last Italian pizza and Calzone.
Over 25 tunnels. (We lost count!)
One 17 kilometres long.
We arrived in Vitznau about 3 and a bit hours after leaving Milan. What an indescribable drive. I am not sure my pictures can even explain.
One Mountain Train (Rigi Bahn) straight uphill into the Swiss Alps.
We have snow folks!
Meeting old friends that we taught with and their wonderful eleven year old daughter.
A gorgeous place, an incredible meal and amazing hot pools. Kaltbad Rigi
Guten abend von de Schwiez.
Guten morgen friends!
We started off with opening the hot pools before breakfast at 8:00am. We had a solo swim and play in the pools.
Then it was fruhstuck time here in the Alps. First, our super juice that helps our bodies deal with stress and goes everywhere with us. #partner
After a buffet breakfast, we decided to head to the top of the Rigi via the Mountain Train and then hike down. What a gorgeous three hours. And God even gave us another rainbow, like He did on the Eiffel Tower and at Vimy Ridge.
Now an afternoon of journaling, postcard writing, eating Swiss chocolate, shakes and German cookies!
PLUS another swim in the hot pools before dinner:
Dinner was many hours long, but the boys rocked it and luckily our friend’s play games like we do.
This is THE shift! This morning at 7:20am, Steve headed down the mountain on the train to take two buses and another train to the Zurich Airport as he heads home, then travels to Mexico in five days for another fair.
I had tears this morning as we said goodbye. I love this man on so many levels.
We decided I would stay here with the boys until Steve is done his trip to Mexico. I will travel with the boys for 8 days in Germany visiting old friends and then back to Paris for 3 more days for some tourist activities. And surprises for the boys. 😉
BUT FIRST, one more morning on the Rigi, a get together with some Swiss friends at an old school bowling alley with a jukebox near Zurich, then back to Germany.
This is the building where we were…
Then a 1.5 hour drive to one of our favourite spots in Germany with people living God’s plan through their lives and delivering a package from a mother’s heart to her daughter.
Finishing off the night with one of these… Sexy Neck would be proud! It was as good as I remembered.
Goodnight sweet friends from the Bodensee. Thank you to everyone for your kind words and for truly living these simple moments of an unfolding dream with us. I wish I could give you a HUGE HUG.
Truly an amazing time. No social media fluff and puff.
Take a scroll through and see what we have been up to as we have wanders from Germany to Italy. Please leave a comment too!
Biggest toy store (and LEGO section the boys have seen).
Oldest central plaza in Munich (Marienplatz)
Walking everywhere on foot.
Seeing Steve at work!
With help from a friend, I was able to find gymnastics training for the boys in Munich. It was a cool experience for them and made them appreciate their gym back home even more.
After training, we were able to zip to where Steve was doing his Fair talking to families in the Munich area about his school district. We were very grateful to see what he does. CC bought a new jacket at H & M today which matched his Dada’s.
After the Fair, it was time to get back to the hotel, get packed as we had a 5 and a bit hour drive to Milan, Italy the next day.
1 final shower in our bathroom/shower room. Have you seen this before?
1 hotel breakfast.
1 shake for a boys who has eaten too much bread.
1 more walk to Marienplatz.
1 more visit to the toy store.
Purchases of 2 Porsche’s and a German Shepherd figurine.
1 solo shopping trip to H & M for ME! I found some awesome Christmas gifts for the boys.
11:11 in Italy. Remembering.
1 final squeeze through the driveway from the hotel garage to the street. The rental car was beeping like crazy. Sexy Neck is a genius to work the angles to get our station wagon in and out of this garage.
5.5 hour car ride to Milan, Italy.
Through 5 countries.
From Germany to Austria, by Liechtenstein, Switzerland and then finally into Italy.
Clouds, snow and sun!
1 panic attack by ME! (The first 5km tunnel freaked me out and sent me into fight or flight even though cognitively nothing was wrong! It was a learning experience.)
1 very strange toilet. You pushed the toilet seat down to make it flush and the water to wash your hands went into the toilet. 🤪
Another toilet for 50 cents.
5 amazing slices of margarita pizza, some gnocchi, a calzone and some gelato to end off this beautiful day.
1 awesome room at the Meininger Hotel/Hostel. (The same brand of hotel we stayed in in Brussels, Belgium).
Steve is working hard to catchup on email and prepare for morning meetings. The boys are watching cartoons in Italian. I am doing laundry… Hence the huge pile by my feet!
Bongiorno from Milan, Italy!
I had completely forgotten, or maybe I didn’t realize, how much Italians LOVE children. From the waiter ruffling our son’s hair and shaking their hands last night to the free metro rides and free entry to the museums, wow, I love you even more Italy.
Today was the day that our oldest son, twelve year old JC, has been planning for months. Tying in with his study of Ancient Rome, this would be as close as we would get. Milan. He rocked his negotiation of the metro system and got us everywhere he wanted to go. We even saw a movie being filmed by the fountain outside the Castle.
Today’s plan was a fun one! I love seeing my boys plan, take charge and speak with the locals along the way. Jackson even ordered our lunch in Italian and paid for it.
Parco Sempione (Park)
Castillo Sforzeaco (Castle)
Museum featuring the mind-blowing work of Leonardo da Vinci. Hallogram videos and sitting in the room he worked on for many years was incredibly awe-inspiring.
Fried pizza for lunch. There was a HUGE line at Luini’s, so we knew it must be good. JC found this place on the internet through watching videos about Milan.
Gelato in Gallerio Vittorio
Duomo Di Milano (Church)
Climbing over 200 stairs to the terraces of the Duomo.
A clean toilet in McDonald’s. (Probably the only reason I will take my boys there).
Meeting Steve spontaneously in between his meetings. (I almost hit him when he came up from behind and surprised us)
2 metro rides.
Many kilometres of walking.
Dinner back at a very Italian restaurant by our hotel in the Lambrate area. The boys declared that this was the BEST pizza they have had in their life. (Sexy Neck and I thought last night was better!)
And MORE gelato and a play at the park in the dark before we head to bed at 10:00pm.
Cake and pie for breakfast. Sure why not! We are in Italy after all! This is how our boys started their day. We are finding our rhythm with a buffet breakfast between 8:30 and 9:30, then a mid-afternoon snack and then dinner around 6:30 or 7:00. We are all feeling GREAT and are truly eating our way around Europe.
This is our second and last day in Milan before we head north to meet friends in the Swiss Alps. We have been asking the boys each morning what they would like to do and it was unanimous that today would include:
Heading back to the Parco Sempione, a stroll by the Duomo again, a stop at the largest LEGO store in Italy that just opened on the 11th, a visit to the main train station and dinner there too! And yes more gelato too! We even convinced Sexy Neck to take the boys back into the Museum to see the Leonardo da Vinci exhibit. He missed it yesterday when we went because he was working.
As the boys went back into the museum, I sat outside with a hot drink and got caught up on the blog. Now this is what a hot chocolate looks like:
It was hot and thick and absolutely delicious.
The boys wanted to checkout the largest LEGO store in Italy and along the way, CC decided to buy the Swatch Watch he had been looking at since we were in Brussels.
We decided to head home to our hotel/hostel via the metro to cook dinner for ourselves. We had soup and salad. First, we went to our favourite grocery store, Lidl, to pickup some supplies.
A few handstands before bed doesn’t hurt! Right? JC attempting to walk around the room on his hands.
Ciao! Italy, it’s been a very fun couple of days. We want to own an apartment in Italy one day.
Ahhhhh Germany! I am sure I have ancestors here because it always feels like home. Most of my ancestry is English, but it is possible that I could be German as my grandfather Jenkins was adopted.
Steve arrived here late last night via train from Dusseldorf to Frankfurt. He has another fair tonight in Frankfurt showcasing his school district. What a cool job he has!
We all slept in this morning then enjoyed a multicultural buffet breakfast where one child had sausages and egg, another noodles, another rice and sausage. I had miso soup and granola with yogurt and Steve had his traditional croissant with ham, cheese and jam.
We decided to do a walking tour to see what we could discover and find some lunch. We followed the red line starting in the west at our hotel across from the Hauptbahnhof. It was a magnificent walk. Cities were built around water here. Not like Canada where most were built around train stations in the middle of nowhere.
1 self-driving bus.
1 Maclaren seen in real life.
Copious amount of steps. ( My Garmin is dead and I can’t find my charger!)
1 lunch in a restaurant above the Markethalle.
5 lit candles and prayers for Grandma, Nana and our boys at the church.
3 more handstands.
1 chamomile tea ordered that ended up being a karmel alcohol-free beer. (I don’t even like beer 🤣 and it wasn’t too bad!)
One thing I LOOOOVE about Europe are their parks and non-vehicular spaces. The symmetry of the trees and the imperfect spaces as well as the non-cement paths feel good for my soul. I think we use way too much concrete and spend too much time maintaining our parks in Canada and we have too few defined spaces and too much grass. 🤪
We had an amazing time just walking along the river and through the pedestrian paths of the old city today. Even in the sprinkles of rain, it was beautiful and divine.
My very creative husband took the next couple of photos. Man, do I love this man. He is such a genius in so many ways: in business, in education, as a man, with photography, with drawing and even guitar playing!! What a gift to spend this day with him in Frankfurt.
Friends, what is it about boys and farts…🤣 this is the exit sign in German… which will now become a permanent sign in our home.
1 failed attempt to find another RC store.
1 awesome park found instead.
Daddy dropped off at the airport for a flight to Hamburg.
2 Berliner (donut) and 1 pretzel eaten today.
1 large “STILL” water bottle.
1 bag of Haribo coke bottles.
208kms to our next “field trip”.
Going back to 1272 in the German medieval city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
One of Steve and I’s favourite German cities.
Walls all around it.
Staying in a family-owned Gasthaus inside the walls.
And oh so beautiful for a one night stop.
We decided to try the Gasthaus Goldener Greifen. It didn’t disappoint. Take a look at the view from the third floor looking down on the street and the dinner was delicious. The boys are loving the potatoes pancakes, apple sauce, cheese and bread.
In the evenings, we have been doing stretching and writing in journals. I bought all the boys each a special black journal and wrote a blessings for them for this trip. It’s beautiful to watch them immerse themselves in writing and drawing. It’s such a great way to debrief our full and fun days. I am enjoying spending some time each evening, connecting with my customers, looking at photos from the day and recapping what we’ve done. The boys have told me they want to do this whole trip again.
Guten Nacht with a final handstand photo from today and our walk to see what the wall around the city actually looks like. It’s thick!
Tomorrow, we will walk the mile around the wall that encloses the city and see what we discover, before heading farther south into Germany.
Traditional German breakfast at our awesome, cozy hotel in the centre of town.
3km walk around the city, mostly on the 500+ year old walls.
3 head bonks.
3 toques and 4 pairs of gloves.
1 Christmas store with automated teddy bears and a very cool woodworker.
1 church visit.
Many church bells ringing on this Sunday morning.
A walk in the fog and the sun.
Oh what fun!
When we were walking around the city walls, the boys were pumped at what they could see through the archer’s windows. One thing they spied was a wooden castle playground. After driving out of the city walls, we went to play at the playground before heading south to Munich on the Autobahn.
214 km drive to Munich.
Driving 150 km/hr in the slow lane.
1 stop at a resthof.
70 cents to pee.
Check-in at Brunnenhof Hotel near Marienplatz, the centre of Munich since the 1200’s.
WARNING: Nylons and short skirts are back in style over here (coming soon to North America), Canada Goose jackets are more popular here than in Canada, jogging is a huge deal over here, bikes and biking paths rocks and yes you can eat too many croissants. Cleansing tomorrow!
Monday, November 4th.
5 hours of driving, broken into two parts.
2 bags of cookies.
2 bags of Whey Thin protein crackers.
1 bottle of water.
All used as sustenance for this day of transition.
From France to Belgium.
From past to present.
From past dreams to present-day dreams.
We left our cozy, sweet sixth floor Paris hotel room on Monday, November 4th to start out European road trip after picking up this sexy station wagon:
We had two special places we want to show our boys: Vimy Ridge and Harnes, France (which will be furthermore known as the Armpit)
First, Vimy Ridge. A place to remember. A place to learn. A perfect place to be in November (or any time of year!) We went through the tunnel and the trenches, soaked up the information in the new museum and had a private tour of the monument. God even gave us a rainbow, like He did on the top of the Eiffel Tower.
When we lived in Harnes for one year, I used to come running on this land, given to Canadians from the French because of the significance of this Ridge during World War One. Being back in this place as a mother, I was touched by the Mother Canada statue at the front of the monument and all the mothers that have been affected by war. I am grateful for our country. 🇨🇦
After Vimy Ridge, we made a quick tour of the town where Steve and I spend our first year of marriage. Steve was playing professional volleyball for Harnes and I played a bit and coached ten year old boys volleyball. We found the gym with the cement floor and our old apartment across from the canal and coal excrement hill. I wish we had a video running as we drove into the village. At the time, we were surrounded by great teammates and didn’t realize what an armpit that we were living in. No train station. A little rough around the edges, a bit smelly and really in the middle of nowhere. An armpit.
We arrived in Brussels around 6:00pm. With time to checkin to our uber cool, mostly young person’s Meininger hotel/hostel and wander through Brussels and find an awesome Italian restaurant. We closed down the place!
Bonne Nuit sweet friends from room #401. (Every room number is an individual work of art here!)
10,396 steps walk
A quieter day at our hostel hotel.
Buffet breakfast (9.50 Euros for each adult and 4.95 Euros each for the boys)!
Yes, we did have Belgian Waffles. The boys were very surprised there wasn’t any maple syrup.
We had a morning of math and writing in the common area then zipped to our old favourite discount grocery store, Lidl, to pickup food so that we could make lunch and dinner ourselves today.
The arcade games behind us have been a huge hit. Old school driving games and some pinball too.
From living three years over in Europe, we knew that concrete ping pong tables are at every school and almost every park. I tucked four paddles and some ping pong balls into our suitcase. We plan on many days of playing. We had this ping pong table one block away.
Today was CC’s turn to plan an activity and he researched and chose the chocolate store, Leonida’s.
CC didn’t find any chocolate that he liked!
These chocolates looked like a white mushroom with a chocolate, caramel filling. Wow!
We then walked and visited the famous Mannequin Pis. I hesitate to even post a picture because the surprise we received when we visited the statue….hmmm… maybe I won’t post a picture. Nah, I think I will leave the Mannequin Pis as a surprise for all of you.
After visiting the statue it was time for dessert before dinner – more Belgium waffles and some ice cream too!
We finished off the time in the city with a few handstands in the City Hall square and listening to some beautiful accordion music.
Evening was spent cooking together with four other multicultural groups and talking about a hilarious reality tv cooking show in a hostel where no one speaks the same language and there aren’t enough pots, plates or cups to go around. Plus, you are so tall that you keep bonking your head on the vent and one burner on the stove keeps randomly going on. After the hilarious and hot kitchen, dinner tasted good.
Goodnight from Brussels. What a spectacular view our room has looking across the canal towards the city and the lit up Ferris wheel.
Our last full day in Brussels, Belgium involved wandering, waffles and a wonderful adventure to pickup our superfood nutrition from a friend of a friend who we had it delivered to. More room in our suitcases for presents for friends.
After saying “au revoir” to Daddy who will be working in Berlin and Düsseldorf for the next two days, we decided to try and find the Ferris wheel that we have been watching out our window in the evenings. We found the Ferris wheel plus stairs and concrete barriers to do parkour on, a construction site to watch and eat more Leonida’s chocolate at, a skateboard park, and many poles to “kong”. (To think I didn’t even know what konging was a week ago!)
It was CC’s choice for our meal today and he chose a waffle place. Imagine waffles with anything you want on them or in them. Our oldest had a smushed waffle sandwich with hamburger and cheese plus one with caramel for dessert, the other two had ham and cheese and then one with whipped cream for dessert. It was a memory making meal and a favourite for our boys. If you are travelling in Belgium or France with kids, Waffle Factory would be a safe bet for the family (as long as you aren’t looking for any fruits or vegetables!)
After our waffle meal, we went on a cross city journey to retrieve our super food box. This beautiful soul below received our package and allowed us to pick it up at her house. We are looking for partners in Belgium if you know anyone who lives there and is into helping people get healthy and wealthy!
We finished this day off with a hallway workout and a few more races on those old school video games in the common area.
Oh and I have to show you one of the bikes that captured my heart. I love this country for their biking culture: the trails, the bike shops, and the bike themselves.
Gooood morning from Brussels and goodnight from Frankfurt, Germany.
3 hour and 58 minute drive.
18 minutes in the Netherlands.
1 stop at the awesome “rest stops” on the side of the Autobahn. 50 cents for the toilet.
Side note: I was surprised at how many Burger King’s, Starbucks and McDonald’s are now available at these Autobahn rest stops. Twenty years ago, these rest stops were a highlight because of their uniqueness and you never knew what you were going to get.
We did get yelled at for not knowing that the ketchup dispenser had a foot pedal, so that kept things real for us.
Oh ya, on our way out of town, we had CC’s last choice for activity: Driving to a RC Car store, apparently the last RC car store in Belgium. The owner, Bernard, was THE BEST! We were able to hear stories about his story, his family, his businesses and all the trophies that lined the entire store. It was a blast. The boys were super happy and CC was pumped to walk away with a race car he can fix up.
After enjoying the RC car store and our Autobahn experience as well as seeing many churches in the distance, we arrived in Frankfurt!
We are pumped to be staying at Monopol hotel across from the Hauptbahnhof with a breakfast buffet, free mini bar, a bathtub and a hotel that has a door that swings out. (It’s the little things that these boys are finding interesting!!)
After checking in, we took a cruise across the street to the train station to have our first German pretzel and see what a train station looks like. It was as spectacular as I remembered. The book and magazine store was delicious. I loved watching people bustling around and the whooosh as the trains pulled into the station.
Guten Nacht sweet friends. We love you ♥️ and if you have made it to the end of this entire blog post air hug 🤗 and high five!! Leave me a comment so I can send them to you!
Pure excitement for the screens with movies, tv shows, podcasts, games and music on the seat in front of us.
Plus wifi while flying through the air too!
1 yummy airplane meal.
Copious amounts of water.
Lots of veggies from home, 2 meal replacement vitamin-shakes so no one gets a bungled up but.
3 hours of fitful sleep.
1 lost water bottle.
1 lost hat.
1 Uber drive.
1 random security screening and tears from our eight year old. (It is the second time he has been randomly selected for hand swabbing)
10:05am Arrival in Paris
1 hotel in Montmartre that actually looks exactly like the pictures in the online photos. (Hotel Migny Opera)
Sacre Coeur, the highest point in Paris and very close to our hotel.
Danone pudding cups. Oh man, do I love these delicious things. I would never eat them at home, but the dairy products and bread here are just oh so delicious.
Gotta love parks that have workout equipment. Plus fooseball, two playgrounds, a fenced in soccer/basketball area plus a ton of benches to sit on.
Amazing multi-purpose random parks where Sexy Neck ends up in a “dip” contest with other dads.
Hot Crepes. Who loves Nutella?
Pain au chocolat. Oh my.
In bed at 5:00pm to get our bodies onto this new time zone.
November 1st, 2019
14 hours of time in bed.
We made a mockery of the incredible French breakfast buffet and showed our boys where our love for jam, ham and cheese on bread came from.
We have the smallest elevator in our hotel! This is an actual real-life photo.
In our travel with our boys, we have realized one event per day is the perfect balance for us.
Today’s event was a Natural History Museum our eight year old picked out.
From the hotel.
On the metro.
To the Jardin des Plantes.
A misty walk.
A longer line than we are used to.
It was awe. some.
From the garden and zoo surrounding the museum, to the century old building that house the museum, we were in awe.
Then another metro ride to the Champs d’Elyssee for dinner.
3 metro rides.
One where I saw a man watching Steve buy our metro tickets. Then I saw the same man go through a turnstile with a woman, pickpocket her phone out of her jacket then proceed to give it back to her. I have learned that pickpockets use distraction and bumping into people to take things. The women didn’t even know he had gone through the turnstile with her. She thought it was just sticky.
5.5 hours of walking, talking, holding hands.
1 French dinner at Alsace restaurant.
1 priceless second day in Paris.
3 sweaty subway rides which were a nice reprieve from the cold wind.
1 canal boat ride along the Seine River.
3 bottles or Orangina and hot drinks by the “contained” Notre Dame Cathedral. There were high barriers around the property. We told the boys they will definitely have to go back.
Back to our hotel and 118 steps up a spiralling staircase to our room for a pre-dinner rest. We chose to be on the sixth floor. Steve and I decided that we will choose a place with a ton of stairs when we are 70 years old to keep us active!
Dinner at the highest point of Paris, Montmartre beside the Sacre Coeur.
Another beautiful day in Paris.
Cobblestone under our feet.
A quick pop-in to the LEGO store for the boys and H & M for me.
2 more Metro rides today.
We went to my favourite museum on earth, and it was free because it was the first Sunday of the month. If you love museums, checkout their free days and always note what day they are closed. It’s usually one weekday.
Off to my pick for this part of the trip: Mussee D’Orsay.
Two hours in the Museum D’Orsay was a hit. We climbed up to an observation deck on the fifth floor of the old train station and we asked the boys to see if they could recognize any of the artwork as we wandered around. We had a fun treasure hunt. But, I will admit that the biggest hit was the free virtual reality machine that gave the boys a two minute tour of the museum from the train station’s development over time.
16, 673 steps.
Over 700 of those steps straight up to the second floor of the Eiffel Tower.
Up in the day and down in the night is highly recommended.
Also, instead of accessing the Eiffel Tower from the plazas, come in from the side on Avenue Silvestre de Sacy. My boys found the sellers quite noisy and strange when we came from Pont d’lena yesterday to check out the Eiffel Tower.
The Eiffel Tower truly was an inspiring and incredible place to visit and I know it will ignite many future conversations with our family.
At 6:30pm, we arrived back home to our hotel for a simple picnic dinner while writing in journals and looking at and sharing photos amongst our devices.
We are very grateful for this day!
We saw concrete evidence of art in action and what a “rough draft” and “final copy” looks like! Yup, always a teacher!
We discovered a rose placed on a fence below the Eiffel Tower that reminded us of our beloved Nana in heaven:
We stumbled into an obscure Starbucks after a very rainy walk from the Museum D’Orsay to the Eiffel Tower:
The sun came out for our trip up and down the Eiffel Tower and we even saw a rainbow🌈:
Steve and I have THE BEST travel partners in the world!! No complaints. Easygoing. Flexible. Great communicators of their needs. And so MUCH FUN!
This Mama’s heart is overflowing.
🚙 Today, we are off to visit the town used to live in in Northern France and also Vimy Ridge. Then Brussels, Belgium tonight for the next three days.
Do you have any teeny tiny dreams that are wriggling around in your heart right now? I have had one for years. I didn’t know how it would be possible, or even if it would be possible, but it was wiggling and jiggling around. I wanted to take our boys to Europe. To see, smell, taste how we lived for three years in Europe before they were born.
We spent our first year of marriage, at the age of 23, in a northern town in France called Harnes. Sexy Neck was playing professional volleyball and I coached and played a bit too! I used to go running around Vimy Ridge, carefully staying to the trails as I didn’t want to detonate a latent bomb from WWI.
We spent our 29th and 30th years on this earth in Germany and Switzerland.
At 32, I discovered I was pregnant with our first son while travelling in Europe for our friend’s Patrizia and Roman’s wedding in Switzerland.
And now, we are 45, our boys are 12, 10 and 8, and we are taking our radical sabbatical on the road…. to Europe!
Hotels, hostels, a bible school, a mountain resort only accessible by tram, the Oberamerhof where we lived in Germany and dear friends’ homes will be our abodes for this adventure.
Over 3000 kilometres in a stick shift European automobile and on the autobahn to boot! Those little towns we lived in don’t even have a train station, so its car travel for this family.
Plus some gymnastics training thrown in for fun!
Where would you go if you could choose an adventure for your family?
Any advice on travelling Europe with kids?
Here we go folks.
The dream is unfolding in under a week!
We know we will get lost.
Meet the most interesting people.
See castles, villages, forests and cities.
Eat interesting food.
And get hug after hugs by our amazing friends.
I am MOST excited about this last one.
Friends we have known before we had children.
Friends who grew with us through living overseas, travelling and having children.
Friends who have walked the gift of grief with us from across the Pacific.
Friends who just “know”.
The words aren’t always known, but the feeling is unexplainable.
And now they get to meet our boys.
Dreams do come true!
Let this 3000 kilometre adventure unfold in His will.
Do you like surprises? Have you ever been surprised so much that it makes you jump and shriek? (I used to love surprising my mama!)
I am jumping for JOY over this radical sabbatical right now.
As a volleyball player I was never known for my vertical, but I think I can fly right now.
I love seeing my boys happy.
No more morning stomach aches before school.
I love living this small space, small refrigerator and no dishwasher life.
Hands in the warm water and our family working together to get cleaned up.
I love wandering with no direction.
Walking out the door, into the woods and then deciding which direction to head.
I love being so far away from town that I don’t pop anywhere.
At. Any. Time.
I love the relationships I have that are growing deeper through fascinating conversations and not just two minute fly bys in the school parking lot.
Facetime. Phone Call. Texts. They all keep us genuinely connected to those people who are embracing our radical sabbatical and supporting us on this journey.
I love perspective brought on by the time and space of stepping out of life’s routines and the mundane moments of life.
To do the work that I need to do to accept the death of people I have loved deeply, to accept the direction that my family of origin has taken, and to accept where I am right at this moment.
I love learning acceptance.
I love less laundry. We wear pretty much the same thing every day, except when we go into town.
I love making a weekly meal plan, ordering my groceries, picking them up and sticking to it.
Like I mentioned, we don’t pop anywhere. Nothing is open at the ski hill right now, so we are flying solo or relying on the generosity of wonderful neighbours, if we forget anything from the grocery store.
I love our simple super food nutrition that gets delivered to our door.
I love saving money.
I love being stretched to try new things. Living a small refrigerator life has caused me to find an alternative to the gluten free Costco pizza crusts we used to devour. I have been making sourdough spelt bread and pizza crust from scratch. Can you believe it? And I love it. It is incredibly simple to do and takes only a bit of prep time either the night before or the morning of. Small spaces need simplicity and I am finding it through baking.
Our family loves to walk, no matter where we are in the world. We love to explore on foot and see what we will see. No agenda, no timeline, just walking, talking and seeing what is around us. We have noticed that there is a rhythm in the mountains that is more in touch with the seasons. There is a flow that reminds me of squirrels. Right before the season change in autumn, people were bustling around chopping wood and preparing their homes and cabins for winter. It was a beautiful thing where families worked together and often ended the day with time around a fire. The city doesn’t really have this flow. It seems that most people have similar routines and rhythms no matter the season. I encourage everyone, as you read about our radical sabbatical, consider the seasons of the year that exist where you live and what could those different seasons look like. I believe that change is a great things for human beings to feel fully alive, and noticing the seasonal changes can help us live in the present moment.
I love watching my boys learn and seeing where their learning takes them. I am surprised at how much they love learning. My boys previous love of schooling involved recess as the highlight.
Amongst ALL of these surprises the largest have been my absolute delight to step outside of the “school system” and the holiday of Halloween.
I am jumping and shrieking as I write these words.
These were scary to jump out of culturally, but oh so wonderful now.
The “school system”.
All Hallow’s Eve.
Schools are filled to overflowing with delightful teachers and parents as well as amazing kids. But anywhere that there are more than a few people gathered, there are bound to be systems in place to make things “easier”. A system meaning “procedures, principles or methods in which something is done”. These ‘procedures’ and individual teacher’s ‘principles’ often are there for the greater good of a class. From personal experience as an elementary school teacher, I know it is really hard to truly individualise learning in a school system and to really see our students every single day. Not every child’s needs can be met on a semi-regular basis. Teachers do need to have eyes on their students, so they can’t have them zipping around the neighbourhood or even the school grounds during class time. We are truly grateful to be outside of this system for this year of homeschooling. As I write these words, my eight year old is researching bakeries in Paris, my ten year old is learning about “Game Theory” in Math and my twelve year old is zipping around the online program IXL learning about Grammar. It’s a beautiful thing to watch. They are fully immersed in their learning. Soaking it up and working hard. The past seven years in the school system, I have 2 times per month, taken my boys out of school to ski or enjoy a day at home or to go visit relatives, but I didn’t feel good about it. There was this tension that they would “miss” something. As we have stepped fully away from the “school system”, I don’t feel that we are missing ONE. SINGLE. THING. Truly.
My other huge surprise this fall has been realising the energy and thought that went into the holiday of Halloween for our family. How do you feel about Halloween? For me, it has always been a holiday with a spiritual ramification that I try to ignore. Is it a dark holiday that creates more bad than good? We may have to ask a law enforcement officer to answer that one. I don’t know the answer to this question because the optimist in me always creates good from every situation that I encounter. I have chosen to embrace Halloween because I love the opportunity it provides for my boys to be creative with their costumes and meet our neighbours. How often do neighbours get a knock from a child to say “hello”? Yes, my kids do love the candy too, but for me, I love the opportunity to say hello and get to know our neighbourhood. I wonder if my boys will miss it this year. We will be standing on the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France on October 31st and most likely walking up the 674 steps. We thought this would be a fun alternative to Halloween this year! We did have our eleventh annual pumpkin carving get together with friends, which is always a highlight. Other than that, we are stepping aside from Halloween this year. Whew!
Jumping for joy.
Small space living.
Simple super food.
Grateful on this Thanksgiving 2019 for this opportunity to be surprised on this radical sabbatical.
What does this radical sabbatical actually look like and is Sexy Neck working? Are we divorced? Where are you? What are we doing? These have been the pervasive questions over the last month as we have lived this radical sabbatical. Some people have been inspired, some people have thought we are crazy and others have just looked at us with wide eyes as we explain how we are living.
Yes, Sexy Neck and I are 100% in this together. (And not divorced)
900 square feet.
On the top of a mountain.
At a ski hill.
With the cows.
Travelling to Europe and Asia.
Not volunteering for anything.
Taking a radical sabbatical from the life we previously knew in the city.
What does this radical sabbatical actually look like for our family of five?
The boys do formal schooling Monday thru Friday from 9:00am to Noon. This formal schooling involves the 3 R’s – reading, writing and math! And I am hitting them hard. Going over basic facts, teaching them grammar and helping them understand the basics of the english language. They are writing in a journal, writing stories and doing research. Our 12 year old is researching Ancient Rome and Tesla. Our 10 year old is immersed in simple/complex machines and robots. Our 8 year old learned everything he could about Bobcats. Did you know they pee in the water so that they don’t leave a scent? Previously, the boys have been in French immersion, so the older boys have been doing their math in french and our youngest continues to write in french. But, I haven’t been stressed about it. If we decide to dive back into french next year, we will do a bootcamp in the summer to help them get back up to speed. This year is all about filling in some educational gaps that I see and having fun learning about what they are interested in.
Now, to talk about Sexy Neck! Right now, he is in Mexico City sitting at a fair, promoting his school district to families considering international education. And he LOVES it! Sexy Neck isn’t taking a radical sabbatical this year, but we are one hour closer to his work, so he does have a shorter commute! We are looking forward to joining him on a few trips that he is going to be taking for work. Sexy Neck LOVES his job and couldn’t imagine leaving it. It is truly what he was meant to be doing: a combination of education, business, travel and working with people. His dream life! We are happy that our radical sabbatical works alongside his dreams and brings him freedom from his commute and a more relaxed mountain life. He also loves backcountry skiing, which he can do every day after work in the winter. Truly his dream life!
Everyone who knows us, knows our backgrounds in Kinesiology and our love for physical literacy. All of our boys have done gymnastics from very young to eight years old. After eight they could choose to continue in gymnastics and our two older boys have. They love the community of boys, their coach and being able to achieve their personal goals through gymnastics. Thus, our radical sabbatical involves two days per week commuting one and a half hours each way back to the city so that the boys can practice with their team. Other than gymnastics, our sporting life will involve exploring the ski hill we are living on and embracing every day of winter. The boys have a goal of skiing every single day of the ski season. We know it will be “Canntastic”!
Lots of people have been wondering about our daily routines. To recap, here are a few of our routines that we have established for this radical sabbatical:
The 3R’s Monday thru Friday from 9:00am to Noon. And yes the boys say it is hard. And yes, we do have a lot of fun and flexibility. The boys take a recess break when they choose and they also choose where they work within our 900 square feet. Sometimes it’s on the floor, on our bed, at the kitchen table and often it’s at their desk. Sexy Neck is teaching them guitar and I am doing the rest with their teacher and our friend, Michelle, from Traditional Learning Academy.
Sexy Neck is fully involved in his work as a Principal of International Programs. He continues to embrace his role working with his students, the homestay families, his amazing staff and of course travelling to promote his program.
The boys are continuing with gymnastics and loving every minute of it. It is very motivating and they love the goals they have set: our ten year old wants to do an 8 second handstand and our twelve year old wants to do a giant on the high bar all by himself. WOW!
Outside of these routines, I have been personally surprised by four different pieces of this radical sabbatical:
1. Our garbage and recycling has reduced significantly. From one large black bin of garbage per week, to one medium-sized black bag. To one large blue recycling bin every two weeks, to one medium blue Tupperware per week that I will sort at the recycling depot in about five minutes. This surprise feels pretty amazing.
2. It’s outstanding to see the people who have stepped up to support us on this journey. We know that it truly does take a village to educate our children. Not only did we take the boys to Barkerville, a town from the 1800’s to kick off the school year, we took them to Science World and the boys got a welding lesson from their beloved Papa in his beautiful garage. The two older boys learned to weld, drill, grind, sand, paint and create a rebar coat hook with their initial on it. This was really incredible to see!
3. Living in a condo with no balcony and no private outside space, I was worried about what our outside time would look like. If you know us, we spend a ton of time outside during a day, even when the boys were in brick and mortar school. The boys and I have LOVED the mountain life. We love the exploring on foot and by bike. We love the terrain. Sexy Neck has loved climbing to the top of the ski hill. Bring on the snow! I cannot wait to see what that life will be like covered in white!
4. As the daughter of a teacher and a teacher myself, believe it or not, schooling has always been a thoughtful, somewhat worrysome process. The interesting thing about homeschooling is that I am being more intuitive: watching the boys learn, seeing what lights them up and letting them lead. No yearly plans, just living in the moment and finding resources as I need them. No stress of the September startup: Wondering which friends they would be with and which teacher they would have. Throughout the boys schooling, I known the importance of a teacher and their influence on their students. We have been fortunate to have incredible teachers and we have grown through some excruciatingly inflexible and mediocre ones. I am incredibly proud and honoured to be my boys’ teacher this year for grades three, five and seven. We don’t know if we will continue homeschooling next year, but for this month, it has been magical. I have learned that my boys LOVE to learn. They have embraced all the new skills I have thrown their way, including making a meal (spaghetti and meatballs), taking them to my health and wellness conference (anyone need more energy, want to sleep better, perform better or get rid of your fluffy tummy I am your girl) and learning to sew (curtains for their triple bunk!) alongside those 3 R’s that I talked about. I have seen where my boys have gaps in their learning and I have been able to fill them: capitalization, divisibility rules, number patterns, phonics, oh my! My heart is full. And only two pencils have been thrown in the process by my ten year old! A boy after my own heart with his emotions right at the forefront. I feel very grateful for this time together. I am not surprised at how much I truly LOVE being their teacher.
On September 26th, we celebrate our youngest’s eighth birthday.
We celebrate one month of this radical sabbatical.
We sit atop this peaceful mountain and ponder the adventure to Europe in November.
The projects that we want to learn about and where our questions will take us.
I have always believed that the beginning of all knowledge is asking a question.
And I wonder where this radical sabbatical will take our family.
And it begins… THIS IS day one! Truly, we really started two months ago when we rode away from school. We rode away from a structured school system with times and schedules that often aren’t in the best interest of our children. We rode away from preconceived notions of a 9 to 5 daily life. We also rode into a life of the unknown, a life of exploring, a life where every day of the week can be similar or wildly different. A new and familiar way.
Finding our rhythm.
Exploring new places.
Learning about our boys.
Closer to nature.
Our radical sabbatical.
As we stepped away from school, the first step was to find a distributed learning school that would meet the needs of each of our boys. I phoned and emailed many schools. There were some that would send you weekly assignments and others where you could decide exactly what you could do with no teacher direction. There is even “unschooling” where you don’t follow any curriculum and don’t work with a teacher. We chose something in the middle, partnering with the school that I used to work for before becoming an ‘accidental entrepeneur’ with the nutritional company that changed my life and I chose to partner with. I am a trained teacher, but I know where I want my focus to be: Coaching my people to their best life and supporting my boys. The teacher we have the privilege of working with was my vice principal when I worked with as a Homeschool teacher and is also a very good friend. Once we decided on the school, the teacher and I created a student learning plan for each of the boys. These are individualized plans where myself, Sexy Neck and each of our boys would sit together and talk about our goals, and what are the strengths and needs of each of them. It was rich!
Keeping things simple.
One wants a Youtube channel.
Another wants to complete a standing back flip.
And our youngest just wants to play with Lego.
Every child will be heard.
Every one of our son’s will get opportunities to lead.
We will get the opportunity to learn.
More about our boys.
More about their ways.
More about what fires them up.
More about what slows them down.
Once we created a plan around schooling, we knew the next step was to find renters for our home so that we could live in a smaller space, closer to Sexy Neck’s work without having to worry about being away from a house for long periods of time. We knew we were ready to live in our two room 900 square foot ski condo. Imagine a hotel with two adjoining rooms, one with beds and a bathroom and another room with a kitchen and hide-a-bed. Eh viola, you have exactly the picture of what we would be living in. We divinely found renters for our home through an old friend who reached out and said, “Hey, do you know anyone who is looking to rent out their home, my daughters are coming to university?” Oh ya, we do! We have know these daughters since they were wee ones and we knew that they were the perfect fit for our home!
The right people.
The right timing.
The right place.
Everything falling into place.
Walking out our dreams.
With this radical sabbatical.
In this small space.
With big dream.
Our radical sabbatical.
Once we had the school chosen and the house rented, it was time to declutter and start planning. And oh the decluttering we did. Following Dave Ramsey’s sage financial advice, we proceeded to sell more than $1,000 in clothes, toys and even a bed we weren’t using. I went through every single storage box in the basement and every cupboard and closet in the house. It was freeing! Stuff entangles me! Lastly, I went through all of my teaching boxes and found the resources that I knew I wanted to use. Four boxes widdled down to two boxes of treasures that I knew would help my boys learn.
From chaos around us.
As our radical sabbatical begun, the only thing left to ponder and pray about was what would we do to start the first day of school! We decided that a 1766 kilometres round trip road trip was in order. We visited two very special cabins for two nights each and ended up stepping into the 1800’s in Barkerville for the first day of school.
Old fashioned candy.
Singing in the street.
King House B & B.
Three happy boys starting this first day of school in grades three, five and seven.
Imagine biking away from school on June 28th knowing that you would not be returning to that industrial looking school building and schedule for over a year?Imagine being able to design your learning, travel the world and live at a ski hill with the foundational goal of skiing every single day of the ski season? Imagine moving into a nine hundred square foot home with five people and no dishwasher nor in suite laundry?
What would your radical sabbatical look like?
This imagining above is the reality we are creating and that I will be writing about during our radical sabbatical. Our family of five is riding our bikes away from grades two, four and six and walking into grades three, five and seven as homeschoolers living in a two room condominium, overlooking the ski hill.With the addition of two trips, one month long trip to Europe and one two week vacation in the spring, you now have the big picture of what is going to unfold over the next twelve months and corresponding chapters of this book about our life yet to be written.
Could you imagine?
Would you ever step out, take a time out and shake up your reality to press pause on life?
Stopping all activities except skiing and gymnastics.
Withdrawing from all volunteer positions on boards and activities in our community.Renting out our main house and only bringing the bare essentials into our small living space.
Inspired by the gift of grief given to us by my beautiful mama over five years ago.
Fanned by the gift of grief given to us this year by Sexy Neck’s mama, grandma, grandpa, my aunt and our Labrador, Summer.
Walked out first and foremost, by Joanne Kraft when her family took a year off from activities outside of school. Her book, “Just Too Busy: Taking your Family on a Radical Sabbatical”, jumped off the library shelf last winter and cemented this idea in my mind.
Watered and lovingly supported by our friends who live our freedom and growth lifestyle.
Practically supported by our teacher friends and the school that we will work with to educate our boys over the next twelve months.
Divinely inspired by our Father in heaven who knows our hearts and allowed everything to seamlessly and truly effortlessly unfold.
Now, we create space for us to live in a nine hundred square feet condominium.
Building a learning space for three creative and hardworking eight, ten and twelve year old boys.
Building a triple bunk bed so that we have more space to play.
A radical sabbatical.
Twelve months to pause and change our routine.
Finding our rhythm.
So, I sit here and ask again: What would a radical sabbatical look like for you? It doesn’t have to be as extreme as what we have done, but maybe it’s something as simple as eating dinner together every night or what Joanne Kraft did and taking a break from extracurricular activities. Whatever speaks to you as you share our journey with us, may it be meaningful to you and light up your life!
These are exciting times my friends. Truly exciting!
<Note: Joanna is currently seeking a publisher to partner with to publish her book as she helps people be free on their own journey as she shares her radical sabbatical with others.>