Well, I must admit now that as I sit down and type this, that JC is our guy that I was most concerned about and most excited about this year as he was growing and learning. At the end of last year, fourteen year old JC had decided to stop doing gymnastics since starting it at 18 months old. In our experience in watching children as teachers, grade 8 or 9 is not the ideal time to be stopping activities as you have to wonder what will take the place of the activity? He was also getting quieter and quieter as his voice changed and he was our quiet one to begin with. Lastly, he started talking in one syllable words, with the predominate word being “good”. Oh no, what other changes were ahead for us?
This year, JC really grew in so many tremendous ways and it has been so fun to see his passions develop and catch fire. JC developed skills in the media arts, drones, photography, video-making, producing, writing music, pottery, and stunting. JC is now a pro at Adobe Premium Pro, Unreal Engine, 360 degree camera and GarageBand.
After encouragement from people placed in his life at the perfect moment, JC moved from gymnastics to competitive trampoline in September. He had success after success in the gym each week and has been keen to learn new tricks daily (like a half-half and a Rudy-out). In his first in person competition, he stuck all his landings and showed what a ‘gamer’ he is. He won 1st all around for British Columbia (level 1-4) in April and did amazing at Western Canadians in June.
JC continues to really loves hanging out with his brothers and his Winnie, skiing the Prospector Terrain Park, cross country skiing, reading and having time to create! It’s in these in-between moments of time that JC really thrives. His imagination always takes him to interesting and fascinating places. He made a cardboard Ironman mask one day, created a stunt where his younger brother, CC, flew through the air and through garbage bags covering a doorway and also worked alongside his little brother, OC, to make fascinating Lego building another day.
Now that we have made it to the end of grad nine, it is really hard to believe our oldest is going into high school next year, with a hybrid twist! (More to come about the hybrid twist!)
P.S. And yup, no pics again. Anyone know someone that works at WordPress and can give this loyal 10+ year blogger some more storage??
Do you find your middles are always stuck in the middle? I thought that I would begin this sequence of blog posts by updating everyone on our middle guys journey over the last few years of this home learning life. Yeah for middles for adding spice to our lives.
CC moved out of French Immersion in grade four and came home starting in grade five. This was an influential time for him. His confidence was at an all time low as there were some boys that were very unkind and we realized that his learning changes were far beyond what we thought. He was receiving sporadic support at school, but nothing like he needed. He now receives weekly tutoring for one hour plus I work with him daily for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. In all areas of learning, his confidence has grown and he is seeing himself as a capable learner now. WHEW! We dodged a bullet on this one. We really didn’t leave the “campus school system” because we were unhappy. Our sole purpose was to create flexibility to travel with Sexy Neck and to take a “radical sabbatical” from the grind of everyday life. Here’s the full story! God really did have us in the palm of His hand, in more ways than one, when we started this in the fall of 2019, especially for our middle guy who’s life has been enriched by all the people who have loved on him, listened to him and shared in his learning over the last three years.
As CC finished off grade seven on June 10th, we realized that he had so much life and love POURED into him this year. He achieved his green belt in Taekwondo at Quest Martial Arts and now has his name on the wall as a member of the Black Belt Club with Mr. Rowe and family guiding CC in such a loving and disciplined way. CC was able to experience his first bus field trip when he went with Daddy and his international students to Vancouver. For fun, CC played soccer and basketball, did his first rail jam event up at Apex ski resort, and started refereeing in soccer. CC also did scuba diving, golf and swimming lessons this spring. CC LOVES his Goldendoodle , his new hat from Village Hat Shop in San Diego and every second with his brothers plus singing with his teacher Janel. He is very proud of the fact that he finished his first album “Sensation” containing 10 original songs. This guy really does love performing! He also staged a strike against a movie choice, strongly disliked our squid and eyeball dissection, as well as skied, skated, hiked and enjoyed every second learning in the world!
If you ever can’t find him, CC would be found working on his remote control cars or building one of his ideas in the garage using his hot glue gun or one of his daddy’s tools. It is a fun ride with this guy’s quick wit and super sense of humour. CC’s current goals are to be a truck driver, inventor or “puppy hugger”. As you will see over the next three blog posts, we definitely aren’t raising robots or mini-me’s. Helping the boys find their passions while exposing them to as many different situations and activities is our mission. This homelearning life has literally and metaphorically exploded since taking the boys out of a large box called “campus schooling”. We are grateful we were brave enough to give it a shot and grateful that our country allows choice for how students learn. Thank you Canada!
P.S. Sorry for the no photos. WordPress is really not allowing much storage on my ten year old ++ blog and I don’t want to stop this writing train now that I have gotten it started again. TOOT TOOT!
What happened after the “Radical Sabbatical in Europe” Joanna? I have been asked this question many, many times in the last 2.5 years. November, 2019 feels like a few months ago. So much has changed, hasn’t it? I wonder what has changed for you?
First, before we get into the newspaper headings from our lives, I want to send you a big hug with my eyes with the few more well-earned wrinkles around them. HUUUUUUG!
Second, here’s a few highlights since November of 2019 (and WordPress cut off my blog because I had used up all my storage!):
We are now on year three of our Radical Sabbatical and we are calling it “Best of Both Worlds”. After living at the ski hill for TWO, yes count them TWO University school years, we moved back to the city in May of 2021. We have been living here in the city and commuting on weekends to the ski hill, hence “Best of Both Worlds”.
The home learning life continues. We are going into year four of learning outside of a physical school setting and I truly wish that I had done it when the boys were younger. The boys are thriving and finding their true passions. The boys and I work together, as a team, each morning on specific learning mostly related to writing, numbers, French, Social Studies and Science. Afternoons are full of outside time, art, music, making things in the garage, hanging out with neighbours, classes and activities. It truly is a richer life than I could have ever expected. (Future blog post coming on the pitfalls and blessings of this type of learning!)
Sexy Neck has changed jobs! He moved back to the city where our house is to be one of the leaders in charge of a large 400+ student International Program. Coming from a program he led with 100+ students, this move has been a huge shift for him and our family. Yes, we are still happily married and we celebrated 25 years in May. WOOP WOOP!
In the spring of 2020, I was getting asked many questions about home learning and as a teacher, I felt called to head back into a school to help other families. Next year, will be my third year working with Heritage Christian Online School (HCOS), working with 15+ families per year (@40 students). I guide each student’s learning, meet with them, suggest resources and report on each child’s learning twice per year. I have done this job previously in 2015-2017 and I feel a real “calling” to be with this school, at this time, working with my exceptional, lovely, amazing, fellow home learning families.
Another questions I often get asked, are you still with Isagenix? Yes, yes, yes, yes. I am a lifer and we enjoy the #isalife every single day. My life sharing Isagenix looks a bit different now, as it fits in the corners of my days behind my faith, family, friends and teaching, BUT I will always be passionate about health, helping people with their goals and guiding people on how to use the Isagenix products. After doing 12 events in 5 years, I don’t see many events in my future, but one thing I have realized in these last years is that I truly love one-on-one contact with other human beings. At the events, I would have preferred to be stacking chairs or helping people register or wiping down sinks in the bathrooms that speaking or standing on a stage. I love these products and the people it has brought into my life. If you are one of those people that has asked me about Isagenix in the last 8 years, I am truly blessed that you asked, trusted me and shared your health journey with me. Yup, I am truly a lifer.
“The boys” are now going into grades 6, 8, and 10 in September. I cannot honestly even explain the growth that they have had the last 2.5 years. Our oldest is now taller than me! Our middle guy is going for his blackbelt in Taekwondo and our youngest is thoroughly enveloped in learning about Policing and being a Conversation Officer. They are such fun kids to hangout with too! More coming on “The boys” soon.
December of 2020, we introduced Winter, a goldendoodle, into our family of five. Winnie is truly each of the boys’ first love and they shower her with attention, walks, cuddles and lots of time together while they learn at home. (If anyone remembers our labrador, Summer, the name will make perfect sense!)
Lastly, tonight, I wanted to tell you that I will again be regularly blogging, sharing the journey that I have been on these last few years and also what’s coming. I realized the other night that often we talk about the pregnancy, baby and toddler stage way more than the teenager stage. Who remembers talking about breastfeeding, first foods, which diapers to buy, organic crib mattresses, milestones, toileting and so much more ad nauseam? As our second guy turns 13 this weekend and we are going to have two teenagers in the house, I want to use this energy they are creating by talking ad nauseam about this important stage in children’s lives. Strap yourself in folks, it is going to be a fun ride.
I love you all dearly, back soon! (well at least sooner than 2.5 year. HAH!)
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.
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.