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.
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.>
Who else has noticed the hashtag and word #influencer pop up all over social media?
It is everywhere, chosen by many people as the hashtag of 2019 to grow businesses and get their message out there. I am not buying the #influencer message and here is why: We need to be an #innerinfluencer and not just unconsciously digest the #influencer around us, with their edited pictures and image of the “perfect life”!
These are my three reoccurring thoughts about why we need to be an #innerinfluencer:
First, do you remember taping up posters of famous people on your physical walls and saving them on your computer desktop? It was dreamy. It was wondrous. It was also very fake! The pictures were staged. The smiles probably were too! And now with the invention of photo filters, everyone can have these pictures too! When you open a magazine or even a friend/acquaintance’s social media page, it is most likely filtered, photoshopped and staged just like the pros. Who knows if they had a fight with their husband two minutes before or are a million dollars in debt? The pictures won’t show or let us know what’s really going on.
It’s really doesn’t matter though, because in the 21st century YOU are the star of YOUR life. Go on a journey to look at your own unique gifts and talents. Look back to your childhood and when you were free and hanging up those posters of Ricky Schroeder or Backstreet Boys. What did you truly love to do and what did you want to be? This will be the greatest influence in your life. Be an #innerinfluencer. We can no longer allow ourselves to be influenced by magazine pictures and social media posts by celebrities or friends, it truly is only an illusion.
Second, do we really know the lives of the people that are calling themselves #influencer and do we want to have them influencing our lives? I was truly shocked to hear about the divorce of the Bezos. (He is the CEO of Amazon and they had build their business together.)
I have seen the power of outside influencers over and over in education where one child and even one word from another child can shift the personality and culture of individual children and an entire classroom. For example, just this year, one of my boys walked away from a beautiful friendship. This friend of my son’s is a heart-centred, kind and so much fun. My son and I have watched this boy become mean and moody because of the influence of another student in the class. My son lovingly created space and allowed his #innerinfluence to guide him. He walked away from this friendship. This is the greatest lesson my son has had with friendship in his short life and it has been a gift.
Take time to know the people who have influence in your life. Ask yourself three hard questions: Are you allowing yourself to be influenced by people who have your values and desires? Are you choosing to be influenced by people who mirror who you are and where you want to go? Can we really know these things about people not in our inner circle? Boom shakalaka. Three hard but very important questions to ask about influence. Here they are again:
1️⃣ Are you allowing yourself to be influenced by people who have your values and desires?
2️⃣ Are you choosing to be influenced by people who mirror who you are and where you want to go?
3️⃣ Can we really know these things about people not in our inner circle?
Lastly, the greatest influencers in my life don’t even participate in social media. Where do your greatest influencers exist? My influencers are my Sexy Neck, my three boys, my mother in heaven, my Heavenly Father, and a circle of friends that share their lives with me. I love the music of many musicians. I love the acting of many actors. I love the athleticism of professional athletes. I am inspired by many social media personalities with their beautiful quotes and pictures. BUT, rarely do I allow this group of people, unless I know them personally, to influence my life. I choose to be an #innerinfluencer, leaning into my gifts and talents, looking at where I need to grow and living as a human “being” with my tribe every day of my life.
I believe we are living in a world where reality is shifting, what we see is not really the way things are. The reality is the prettiest pictures and the slickest words get the greatest amount of attention, if we choose to pay attention. I want to encourage each of us that read these words to be looking outside with eyes open wide and looking within with hearts open wide.
You are a unique human being. There is truly no single human being in the world that is just like you.
May my words be an #influencer for you to look within as an #innerinfluencer because this is where the juicy dreams live in the 21st century.
I was a cat girl growing up. Now, I am a lab girl for life!
I loved cats independence. Loved their gentle purrs and how they would sleep with you in the most obscure ways. My cat, Boots, loved sleeping right on top of my neck or chest.
Enter in Sexy Neck into my life in 1992 with a visit to his family home which was definitely a dog family. Their little dog, Mandy, was a sweetie. Someone to walk with, someone to greet you happily every single time you walked in the door and a great companion for everyone.
This cat girl growing up didn’t stand a chance! Nineteen years ago, I became a dog person, more specifically a Labrador retriever girl. My life would never be the same!
Over these years, I have had the privilege to learn from our two labs, KT and Summer. These are the specific lessons from Summer as this was a very Holy day celebrating her life.
💫 LIFE LESSONS FROM A LAB 💫
💫 Enjoy all the seasons, especially winter. Rolling around and sliding down slight inclines on your side is especially fun!
💫 Wag your tail at everyone but bark at the mailman.
💫 Always be on the lookout for food. You never know what you will find. Even things that you need to lick off the pavement are enjoyable.
💫 Be a baby watcher. Stand as close as you can with your wet nose on the baby blanket. Diapers are the best things to smell on babies. (We called Summer our “Nanny dog”.)
💫 Pour out love to the humans CLOSEST to you. Always be happy to see them. Always greet them at the door. Always look up to them with adoring eyes, especially when they have treats for you.
💫 Love children. All children. Always love those children that will rub your ears, your belly and play fetch with you.
💫 Take your master cross country skiing at all hours of the day. Be their companion and confidante listening to all their stories. Don’t get stuck in the powder!
💫 Be content being with, playing with and taking care of your core group of people. It’s the simple things.
💫 You are never too big to cuddle or have your ears and belly rubbed.
💫 Don’t leave the food you like unattended on the table. It might disappear! (This is a lesson from my boys: Nine and eleven year old. This is something Summer just started doing last year, which was ironic because her arthritis was so bad that we had to lift her into the car. That piece of toast on the table, though, no problem!)
💫 Don’t trust strange dogs.
💫 Be present
💫 A little mess doesn’t matter.
💫 The stuff you leave behind is meaningless. It’s the memories, the cuddles, the smells and the moments that create a MAGICAL life!
🙏🏻 LIFE LESSONS FROM A LAB 😘
Magical memories with this puppy: swimming, always being happy to see us, chasing golf balls, cross country skiing, eating every crumb off our floors, shedding a small dog every day, being my comfort and companion, witnessing the birth of all three of our boys…
Thank you faithful friend. Thank you for the life lessons that I will take with me for the rest of my life. I will miss you every day!
In April, I am going to be sharing my experience with technology and our three boys to a group of parents, professors and community members at the local University. I will be on a panel with four experts that have immersed themselves in learning and being awake to technology.
Here is my speech, your comments are appreciated:
When I was growing up I had a neighbour named Michael. He was not allowed to eat gum, candy or anything that had sugar in it. When he became a teenager, he always seemed to have a piece of gum in his mouth as soon as he walked down the end of his driveway. He was focused on when he could have his candy and gum. He was a sugar zombie. As I now raise three boys in a overtly technologically driven world, like sugar was for my generation, and ponder them as teenagers, this has been in the forefront of my mind. As parents, my husband and I always “start how we want to finish”. We don’t want to do anything that won’t help our young children grow into adults.
Our discussion around technology began when our youngest was four months old and I flipped on a children’s television channel and saw an Oil of Olay commercial. I asked myself if I wanted my son to grow up thinking that women looked like that? The answer was no and the cable was taken off the television. Our boys are now 11, 9 and 7. They have access to technology but have maybe seen the nightly news five times in their entire life. My husband and I have come up with four guiding questions or tips about technology that have helped us as we parent our boys.
BUT, before I share these tips, I want to give you a bit more depth of insight about our vantagepoint as parents. All of the information in the world, is now in our pockets, we can also take pictures, communicate immediately, count our steps and even open our garage door. When we grew up, we had to access a library, find someone, or have a gigantic set of encyclopedia Brittanica on our shelves at home to access information. With this power in our pocket, we also know that it lights up our brains like cocaine. Oh it feels good! Technology gives us instant gratification. And we have observed that most people spend more time with their technology (than?) with any human being in their life. Therefore, we don’t take technology and our children’s connection to it lightly.
NOW, here’s our four questions we use to guide us. I implore each of you to steal our questions or be inspired to create your own. May you find a healthy relationship with technology for you and your family.
First, how do we want technology to look in our family knowing the average usage of screen time is 6 hours per day for children?
We held a family meeting to discuss this and we talked about our weeks as well as the activities that we live to do. We decided on 4.5 hour per week. Yup, per week. The boys created Tech Coins so that they could personally keep track of their time. We know they will soon be teenagers and I don’t want to be keeping track of their technology time. I want them to be able to know when enough technology is enough. Remember my neighbour and our motto for parenting: “Start how you want to finish”.
Second, we wondered how do we help grow creators using technology not just consumers. Like good food, alcohol, shopping… we believe you can consume too much technology. Have you ever met a young child that can only talk about technology? I believe we are dealing with an overconsumption! In our boys, 4.5 hours of technology per week, they do play a few games that are apps. They mostly will create skits that they video, make cartoons, build things or make stikbot movies.
Here’s the big question, number three: How do we engage in social media as a family? I use it sparingly for work, after I overcame my own addiction. My boys don’t do it at all. Common Sense Media recommends that children aren’t ready til 14 years old. And as my husband has worked as a Vice Principal at both a middle and high school, I don’t know if our boys will have access to social media before they leave our home at 18. Haha. My husband estimates that 70% of the issues he dealt with were at least partially connected to social media. It’s a platform that creates communication and a life that isn’t real. I read things personally, that I know that person wouldn’t say to another living human beings face but the technology had caused a disconnect. We are all about connection.
Our fourth question was one from my journey, do we crave technology? Can we leave it for an hour or two or a day or a two? I am proud to say that I now can. But now I am very careful to see if my boys are being seduced into the instant gratification of technology. If yes, we talk about it, then take a break for a day or two.
People worry about zombies coming to the earth, but I think they are already here… mouths dropped open, head down, phone in front of their face, running into poles on the sidewalk, ignoring every human being around them. To prevent a generation of zombies, I ask:
1. How does technology look like for you and your family? What do you want it to look like?
2. Are you using technology to create or consume?
3. How do you engage with social media?
4. Do you crave technology?
A few questions to ponder as we live in an ever changing technological world and strive to raise awake, creative human beings and not zombies.
Overconsumption rules the world right now and, in my opinion, is ruining the world.
From the plastics that are flooding the earth and waters.
To the devices that are flooding our brains and bodies.
On to the food that is stripping our lands of minerals and then not giving our bodies what it needs even when we think it’s good for us.
Overconsumption has taken over!
Did you know that most teens now spend more time on devices than an adult spends at their full time job per day?
Did you know that some family’s have their children signed up for activities every single day of the week?
Has anyone else noticed that rarely do we talk about reducing or reusing what we consume, instead all our energy has gone into recycling?
Tonight, I lift my glass and say cheers to finding a balance life.
Harmony within and around.
Time and space to be.
Energy and effort to do.
Balance between men and women.
Testosterone and estrogen.
Our three boys ages, 10, 8 and 6 receive four hours of screen time PER WEEK. Today, their brains were flooded with the sounds and sights of skiing on snow. Their bodies climbed trees, hammered rocks, played piano and even jumped on mattresses in the basement later in the day.
My husband and I don’t allow screens anytime on Mondays and Wednesdays when the boys have activities. The rest of the week, they are free to choose when they use their “tech time”. They are open to choose how to spend their free time. It is in these in between time that is so fun to see what they create.
Imbalance is killing us.
Overconsumption is killing our planet.
Each of us, can find ways to create balance.
Individually it is easy.
Collectively it makes a difference.
Balance in mind, within our bodies and through our spirit.
Imagine this place of balance for you, what it would look like and feel like.
Who would be around you?
What would you eat?
What activities and moments of stillness would flow through the day?
What would you do tomorrow if you lived a day in balance?