“We can best help children learn, not by deciding what we think they should learn and thinking of ingenious ways to teach it to them, but by making the world, as far as we can, accessible to them, paying serious attention to what they do, answering their questions -- if they have any -- and helping them explore the things they are most interested in.” 

This September, many of Judah's age-mates began school.  Judah, upon hearing about this school stuff, promptly informed me that he wanted to stay home...and also, he didn't want me to teach him anything at home either.

Lucky for him, this was our plan anyway. Lucky for me, I can be home with the kids full-time to enact this plan of inaction. Truly though, to call it inaction is doing it a disservice. We are unschooling Judah and Neve, and ourselves really, but that doesn't mean we aren't learning. Instead, at the heart of the unschooling is a belief that humans, particularly young ones who haven't been squashed, have a natural desire to learn. We are a curious species, with a huge capacity for gaining wisdom from every day life.

And so, we wake up. We have breakfast together. We talk about what we're eating and how it fuels our bodies, and how our body digests it and how we'll likely poop it out later today. Kids love talking about poop. And then I ask the kids what they want to do for the day. Invariably, one will ask to go to the library or on a hike or to visit some family member or other. And so we do.

We hike and we identify trees and bugs and marvel at the beauty of moss or leaf formations. We throw stones in a river and learn about currents, and physics, and how to make the best splashes. We go to the library and Judah picks out books about fur traders and letters and numbers and hat stealing fish. Neve picks anything by Sandra Boynton. We go home and draw pictures and words on the chalkboard wall, and cut and glue random paper to random things, and make up silly songs and play the piano. We talk endlessly about how everything (from babies to PVC pipes) is made, because that is what Judah wants to know. We visit my mom or my sister or Luke's family. In each home the kids interact a little differently with their surroundings, but in each place they are embraced and loved.

The best part of all this living is that the kids are doing so much learning, but they don't know it. They love it, because no one is making them do it. No one is telling them that they cannot learn unless they are in a structured setting with a sticker to prove they are doing it right. There is no shame if Judah calls an F as S, or when Neve tells Judah he's a "good girl" for peeing. They are learning because it is intrinsically rewarding for them, because they are free to fail.

Some days this journey is exhausting. Some days, when I see what other children know or can do, it can be scary. All along, I have to let go of the comparative expectations we, as parents, put upon ourselves. I have to trust that my children will learn all that they need to learn, in their own time. There are moments of pure light, when I can see a breakthrough in their understanding. The light of those moments carries me through for another day.

I am so blessed. I am so privileged. I get to witness their blossoming. I spend my days with two minds that have so much potential; I hope I help them reach it.



Whenever I miraculously discover a free moment during the day, I find myself turning to my phone or laptop for a wee tech-fix. Then the free moment ends and a toddler or preschooler starts requesting my undivided attention, only I can't oblige because my brain won't peel my eyes away from some super-beautiful Instagram photo of someone else's kid. Oh the irony.

This week, I visited my brother for a few days, to give Luke a chance to study for his finals. I left our phone at home so I could talk to him each night. I was unfettered from the insular web for three blissful days. It made me come to a few realizations:

1. I'm a more present, fun, engaged, loving parent when I'm unplugged.
2. The vast majority of the stuff I do online is just taking up space in my life/head and not contributing positively to the life we want to live.
3. I want my life to be lived in the wide-open world, not the world as seen on a screen.

So, here I am, about to make a public declaration (because otherwise I won't follow through. I just won't) that I'm giving up all tech in the presence of my kids. I want to be present. I want to have a leg to stand on when I ask them to stop texting...or time travelling... or whatever, at dinner when they are teenagers.

I may snap the occasional picture when they do something irresistibly adorable, but now you'll have to wait until they are asleep to see it.

I have two beautiful children and only one life to enjoy them.
I plan on doing just that.


Dear Neve,

Today is a very important day.
Today, you said no for the first time.

Now, I hope you will keep saying it.

I hope you will say no to unkindness in the world.
I hope you will say no to anything that judges another's worth based on their skin, sex, religion or accent.
I hope you will say no to politics that would destroy your world for temporary gain.
I hope you will say no when people tell you how to feel about your body.
I hope you will say no to anyone who tells you you can't do something, because you are a woman.
I hope you will say no to the machine which drives consumption and kills contentment.
I hope you will say no to any partner who will love you only with conditions.
I hope you will say no to any path which robs you of your passions.

I hope you will keep saying no.

Today is a very important day.
Today, you said no for the first time.


The Week That Was and the Giveaway Winner!

Top to bottom: 1. Annual Easter family photo past... 2. and present  3. Neve's first egg hunt
4. I forced my sister to cut off my hair  5. I'm so glad she did. 6. Judah and Neve discover the power of teamwork while raiding the candy stash 7. Jude and Daddy with their vintage Canadian Geographics  8.Navel gazing  9. Night weaning makes us all tired- pancakes for brekkie  10. Neve's water obsession  11. Cuddles and books with Gara (Grandad).

I'm thrilled to announce, Chris is the winner of our first ever giveaway, Nia Vardalos' new book Instant Mom!

Chris, just leave your email in the comment section below and we'll send your copy of the book to you this week. 

Thank you to everyone who left parenting tips. They were all fab!

For those who missed it, here's where you can check out my chat with Nia

Happy April 1 everyone!


The Year of Frugal Living - Part One: Housing

On January 6th of this year, I was scheduled to return to work from my year of maternity leave (yes, we get a whole year in Canada - one more reason I love this country). Instead of going back, I told the wonderful organization with whom I had worked for five years, that, this time around, I was cutting the chain to my desk chair. I was going to be a full-time, stay-at-home parent... Eeeep!

This is not all that unusual. Stay at home parents do still exist...even if I have a hard time finding them at the park at 8 am. Our situation is a bit tricky, however, because Luke is still a full-time, stay-at-school student. The guy loves learning. So, unlike four years ago when we were full fledged DINK's (dual income, no kids), we are now NIKE's (No income, kids everywhere). 

Luke graduates next May and better become gainfully employed in his dream job, in the field of wind energy, in the few months following. In the meantime, ie. for 18 months, we are living with neither of us working. 

How are we going to do it?
Excellent question.  I'm hoping I'll discover a lot of change in the couch.

Just kidding.

We actually budgeted our plan out fairly thoroughly during the past few years. That is to say, when both of us were working during the summer months and the like, we'd continue to live just on my income and to save Luke's. We also put aside a bit of my wage too, giving us a nice little nest egg for the 18+ months of no working. It's nowhere near what we would have made before, however. In fact, it's under 50%.

So we're having to get creative.

The absolute biggest expense for the average adult is housing. We were renters up until three years ago. A lot of people think renting is a waste of money, because you aren't building equity in a property. If, however, you have a house with a huge mortgage and little money down, you're actually just paying a heck of a lot of interest and not a lot of principle. Not to mention the additional costs of taxes, utilities and home maintenance (which can be huge). It pays to lay it all out on paper before you leap. All that being said, we had saved up enough to buy a house with 25% down payment (thus saving the hefty cost of CMHC loan insurance) and we were in the market for an income property.

I have to admit, I wasn't big on the idea of buying a duplex...
"Ugh. Now someone's going to know that I can't garden and my kids run around pant-less in the backyard all day."

Luke, on the other hand, was totally mad about the idea of the "du-per".

So our first home purchase is a duplex. What this means for us is that we have no back door on our house. Instead there is a fully contained, private-entry apartment at the back. We can't hear anything front to back and the only time I really notice they are there, is when I want to have a hot shower and the water isn't all that hot because they've beat me to it (a bigger hot water heater may be in our future and let's be serious, I rarely shower). All this to say, it's had a very minimal impact on our lifestyle.

The best thing about the apartment is that is brings in 600 dollars a month. 600 bucks that requires us to do very little to earn. The apartment covers the bulk of our mortgage payment leaving us with utilities, taxes and maintenance. All in all, we're paying almost exactly what we were to rent, except we can enjoy the space and lifestyle a home can offer while paying down a significant chunk of our principle each year (thank you low interest rates!).

The location of our house is also a big money-saver. We bought in an area which is only a few kilometers from downtown. It has had a bad reputation in the past, but is really burgeoning into an activist-filled walkable neighbourhood. We love it. Best of all, it offers us a farmer's market, library branch, coffee shops, theatre, community center, my lovely in-laws and a sketchy karaoke bar all within a ten- minute walking radius. It's also on a major bus route and allows Luke the ability to always bike or take public transit to school. Less driving = money in the bank and time to do what we care about.

Utilities are another area where we've been trying to focus our savings. Our house is pretty small. Our portion is only 800 square feet. My bedroom is pretty much all bed. It's cool though. It's cozy, it's open and bright and best of all it's pretty cheap to run!

We have a gas furnace and A/C, which are quite economical, but even so we try and keep the house at a reasonable temperature. In the winter we wear slippers, in the summer we don't expect to sleep under a duvet. We try to turn off lights when we leave the room (I hear my father's pleading voice in my head if I don't), we run the dishwasher with the entire day's dishes after 7 pm, we make our kids share the bath, we rarely change the fish bowl, if it's yellow we let it ...You get the drift.

We thought we were saving pretty much all we could in the utility department and then we had an epiphany. We could hang our laundry to dry in our basement.

I know, I know, this isn't like the discovery of stem cells. People have been hanging laundry to dry for eons. But the stuff from the dryer is just so snuggly and smooth and lintless. And honestly, our basement is TEENY TINY, like, smaller than that font was.

"Too bad," we told our past selves, "give it up!"

Instead, we purchased a solid 30 dollar drying rack from Home Hardware, Luke strung up a rope from one end of the basement to the other, and we started drying. Our shirts are so stiff they stand on their own and our towels can double as drywall sanders, but we're so pleased with ourselves, we don't care.

Our quest for more housing related cash continues. Someday, we dream of buying a triplex, or maybe even a six-plex... a girl's gotta dream after all.

Our house - 2010

Now that I'm done my blathering, any tips from you?


Nia Vardalos: Instant Mom

Nothing prepared me for the love I would feel for my child. Nothing prepared me for how quickly it happened for me. And here’s what I just figure out now: no one is ever prepared.” Nia Vardalos, Instant Mom

Nia Vardalos is warm, funny and engaging. I am nervous for our conversation, but she immediately sets me at ease by assuring me that if I could see her, I wouldn’t be so nervous. At the moment, I’m just thrilled she can’t see me. I have not brushed my hair in 48 hours. I am wearing a ski cap. I slept in my sweatshirt. I take some comfort in knowing, this kind of unkemptness is familiar ground for her. Like myself, Nia is a mom. Unlike myself, who had 9 months and 2 weeks to prepare for each of my children, she had a mere 14 hours.

Instant Mom is Nia’s hilarious and emotive new book. In it, Nia, first made famous for satirizing her Greek family in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, chronicles her experience with infertility and finally her long journey through the adoption system; a journey which culminated in being matched with an energetic and, at times, right-hook-throwing, toddler.

Instant Mom is both guidebook and cheerleader for parents (and parents-to-be) considering adoption. She makes no judgments as to whether foreign or domestic, open or closed, public or private, adoption is preferable; saying only that every child deserves to be loved.

When I ask her what advice she can offer to people thinking of pursuing this path to parenthood, she says, “Read as much as you can and then decide what’s right for you. Just listen to that inner voice.”

Nia assures me that the biggest myth about adoption is that it is expensive and difficult, and that there is something wrong with the children who are adoptable. She refutes all of these claims, but especially the last. All the vast majority of these children need, is a loving home.

What strikes me most, however, is that Nia’s story isn’t just one of the adoptive parent, it’s one of every parent. Not one of us knows what we are doing. Each parent is an instant parent, whether we were handed our child from a midwife, obstetrician or social worker. In a single moment, our lives are transformed.

Nia shares moments of pure terror in this journey, like watching her daughter choke on a hard candy or realizing the stray dog living in her home is, in fact, half coyote (ok, as a reader, that was more hilarious than terrifying), but there are also moments of transcendent beauty – the first utterance of “mom” and “dad”, hands held in the night, kisses given and received – moments every parent can recognize.   

When it comes to control, parents don’t get a safety bar to grip on this ride. I just have to grin through my chattering teeth and lean into every gut-churning dip. I see it all around me right now- I’m in a room of adults who know that sharp pang of nostalgia when we look at a picture of our child taken just yesterday.”

Now that her daughter is in school, I ask her if she has any advice for surviving the toddler years. “Don’t buy anything new,” she says. “It’s like having a puppy around.” I look over as I type, to see my daughter peeing on the floor.

Nia is so wise.

Instant Mom will officially be released on April 2, but you can win a copy here! Simply comment below with your favourite bit of parenting advice (non-parents can participate too)! One winner will be randomly selected on Monday, April 1.

Find out more:
Instant Mom - read the goods, straight from the publisher and buy a copy near you!

Adoption in Canada
– a great resource about where to start. “Of the more than 78,000 children in Canada’s child welfare system, approximately 30,000 are legally free or eligible for adoption.”


Dear Spring

I see now this is all my fault.

Last year, I thought you had left because Summer had moved in again,

And Summer is so loud and flamboyant and demanding.

I presumed you'd come back like you always had,

Right when I couldn't stand one more moment of winter;

With a snowdrop and a rain drop and a chickadee call.

But winter is still here, emboldened by your absence,

Nibbling at my fingertips and ears and perspective,

Ready to enfold the whole calendar in his toothy mouth.

You have made me sorry for saying Autumn was my favourite.

Autumn with its flashy colours, rainy afternoons, gluttonous beauty.

How could I have forgotten you.

Verdant, fragrant, fleeting you.

You are a short season,

But you hold a long grudge.