Saturday, September 20, 2014


Something I've really been enjoying lately is watching the connection grow between Aedan and Colm. They just love each other so completely, without reserve or qualification. Though Aedan can sometimes get a bit carried away, he's generally full of kisses and pats. He'll tell Colm when he's getting into something he shouldn't ("No, Collie! Get out of there!") or offer random toys to him. He just can't wait for Colm to wake up in the mornings, and usually speeds the process along by climbing over me and bestowing kisses all over Colm's face and arms. And then sounds really surprised when he wakes up. "Oh! I think he's waking up now!" It's so sweet.

Colm clearly loves his big brother, too. He can dissolve into a fit of giggles just by looking at Aedan. He crawls after him where ever he goes, and lately I've noticed him trying to do what Aedan does. We were at the pond the other day, Aedan throwing rocks (of course) and I watched Colm edge as close as he could get to the water, pick up a little rock, and drop it in. He did this multiple times, watching his brother carefully. I've noticed him do the same with sticks, at the river. He also tries to stand up on the arm of the couch, and launch over the back of the loveseat beside it, something Aedan does a million times a day. I'm beginning to realize that I'm going to have to watch this little one very carefully!


Parenting two kids is often exhausting. I have little time for myself (which is partly my own fault, I'm terrible at making time for myself, but that's another post.)  Watching these two grow together, though, is immensely rewarding. I wonder if they'll make up their own secret language, hiding out in a fort in the woods around our house. I picture them wrestling on the living room floor, or skipping stones at the river. I see so many shared adventures ahead of them, and I hope they'll always be friends.

Sunday, September 14, 2014


3rd Birthday
Little Aedan,

Yesterday was your third birthday. We had your first ever real birthday party, with your friends and Yukon family coming out to the house for a bonfire in the afternoon. You were so excited to have your friends visit! Every time a car pulled into the driveway, you ran alongside the dogs to greet them, barking just like Cilla barks. You had fun playing dinosaurs with Tristan and visiting with Tante Cat and Megan. We sang to you, and you blew out your candle.

I can't believe how much you've changed in the last year. You speak so well, and you are fearless when it comes to trying new and multi-syllable words (especially dinosaur names, like euoplocephalus and brachiosaurus). You run, and jump, and go up and down the steep stairs to our loft with no problem. You finally like the bath, but you still hate having your teeth brushed.  You're not so obsessed with diggers anymore, but you sure love your dinos and your sea creatures.

This year, we ended our breastfeeding relationship. You weren't very happy about it at first, but things are so much better between us now. You sleep the whole night through, and when you do need comfort in the night, you tuck your little hand inside my shirt, against my skin, and that seems to be enough.

One thing that has stayed constant in the last year: your love of throwing sticks and rocks into water. Forget slides and swings...give you a river and a rocky beach and you're occupied for hours.

You love a little touch of maple syrup on your oatmeal in the morning, and soy sauce on just about everything else. You love french fries, and tofu, and peanut butter sandwiches and frozen peas. Berries of any kind seem to be your favourite fruit these days.

You are really asserting your independence, and I try so hard to respect that and to give you space to be you. But sometimes I think you disagree with me just because you can. If I'm sitting in a certain chair, you will insist that I am not sitting in that chair, that it is your chair. I could observe that it is a beautiful sunny day and you will assure me that the sun is not shining. It's hilarious and maddening at the same time.

Perhaps the biggest change in your life this year has been becoming a big brother.  You have welcomed Colm into our family whole-heartedly. You've never seemed jealous. You love him (a little too hard sometimes) and I'm so excited to watch you grow together.

You delight me, you frustrate me, you amaze me. I feel so lucky to be sharing this life with you.

Love, Mama


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Our Home in the Forest

Welcome to the September 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Home Tour

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have opened up their doors and given us a photo-rich glimpse into how they arrange their living spaces.


Our home in the forest
When I look out of any window in our house, I see only trees: birch, poplar, aspen, and spruce. Mostly spruce. Our home is made of spruce: big logs peeled clean by my husband's hands form the high-ceiling'd family room, and smaller squared logs make up the kitchen and loft, the original building on these five acres. We heat our home with spruce, and birch, too, There is birch in the woodstove now; it smells faintly sweet.

We live off-grid: our house runs off a deck of 10 deep-cycle batteries. During our short summer, we get a boost from our solar panels, and run the generator every 3 or 4 days to fully charge the batteries. In the darker months, we run the gen-set more like every 2 days. We've got some running water now, too. We fill a 250 gallon storage tank in our house with water we transport from town in another tank on the back of an old pick-up truck. So far we've only got the kitchen sink plumbed, but the propane on-demand water heater makes doing the dishes or bathing the babies that much easier (before, we heated water in a big kettle on the stove). We shower in town. And we use an outhouse. Even at forty below. I grumble about it but I've seen some awesome displays of the northern lights while stumbling outside to pee in the night. It is a reminder to be thankful for the little things.


Our house is cluttered and usually messy. P and I both have a love of books, so the book shelves are filled until they break with the weight. There are books in stacks on the floor, books lining kitchen shelves, books in the windowsills, books balanced on the side tables. We try to cull every once in a while, but very few seem to make the cut. I tend to be more ruthless, but only by a little bit.


The kitchen counters are crowded with jars of oatmeal, beans, lentils, spices, and jars of wildcrafted herbs: raspberry leaf, rose hips, plantain, labrador tea, and yarrow. There are boxes of tea, a tin of coffee, bottles of oils and vinegars and hot sauces. There is a bowl of fruit, a copper tea kettle, a loaf of bread, a jar of fermenting water kefir. There are glasses of water half-drunk, and always, always a stack of dishes: it seems to cycle from one side of the sink to the other, dirty then clean then dirtied again: rarely do they find their way back to the dish cupboard. 

Our loft, where we all share a Fraken-bed, is reminiscent of my teenaged bedroom, which is to say: the bed is never made and there are clothes everywhere. It's embarrassing. No one gets to see it but us.

Our home is unfinished, cluttered, dusty, a mine-field of blocks and dinosaurs and dropped bits of food. I've struggled with this off-grid life; it wasn't my choosing in the beginning. Even recently, I've posted about wanting to move to town. But these days, I see the beauty in where we live. I see the unique opportunities it provides our boys. I've come to love the wide open space: 5 titled acres, and nothing but forest, river and mountain all around. I love the total silence, and the complete dark of the nights.  I love the possibilities.

Thank you for visiting our home up the Dempster!


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon September 9 with all the carnival links.)

  • Being Barlow Home Tour — Follow along as Jessica at Being Barlow gives you the tour of her family's home.
  • A Tour Of My Hybrid Rasta Kitchen — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama takes you on a tour of her kitchen complete with a Kombucha Corner, a large turtle, her tea stash, and of course, all her must-have kitchen gadgets. Check out Hybrid Rasta Mama's most favorite space!
  • Dreaming of a Sisters Room — Bianca, The Pierogie Mama, dreams, schemes and pins ideas for when her younger daughter is ready to move out of the family bed and share a room with her older sister.
  • Building a life — Constructing a dream — Survivor at Surviving Mexico-Adventures and Disasters shows you a glimpse inside the home her family built and talks about adaptions they made in constructing their lives in Mexico.
  • Why I'm Sleeping in the Dining Room — Becca at The Earthling's Handbook welcomed a new baby but didn't have a spare bedroom. She explains how her family rearranged the house to create Lydia's nursing nest and changed room in spaces they already had.
  • The Gratitude Tour — Inspired by Momastry's recent "home tour," That Mama Gretchen is highlighting imperfect snapshots of things she's thankful for around her home. Don't plan to pin anything!
  • Our Home in the Forest — Tara from Up the Dempster gives you a peek into life lived off-grid in Canada's Yukon Territory.
  • natural bedding for kids — Emma at Your Fonder Heart shows you how her family of 3 (soon to be 4) manages to keep their two cotton & wool beds clean and dry (plus a little on the end of cosleeping — for now).
  • I love our home — ANonyMous at Radical Ramblings explains how lucky she feels to have the home she does, and why she strives so hard to keep it tidy.
  • Not-So-Extreme Makeover: Sunshine and Rainbows Edition — Dionna at Code Name: Mama was tired of her dark, outdated house, so she brightened it up and added some color.
  • Our little outdoor space — Tat at Mum in search invites you to visit her balcony, where her children make friends with wildlife.
  • Our Funky, Bright, Eclectic, Montessori Home — Rachel at Bread and Roses shows you her family's newly renovated home and how it's set up with Montessori principles in mind for her 15-month-old to have independence.
  • Beach cottage in progress — Ever tried to turn a 1980s condo into a 1920s beach bungalow? Lauren at Hobo Mama is giving it a try!
  • Conjuring home: intention in renovation — Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama explains why she and her husband took on a huge renovation with two little kids and shares the downsides and the ups, too.
  • Learning At Home — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling helps us to re-imagine the ordinary spaces of our homes to ignite natural learning.
  • My Dining Room Table — Kellie at Our Mindful Life loves her dining room table — and everything surrounding it!
  • Sight words and life lessons — The room that seemed to fit the least in Laura from Pug in the Kitchen's life is now host to her family's homeschool adventures and a room they couldn't imagine life without!
  • A Tour of Our Church — Garry at Postilius invites you virtually visit him in the 19th-century, one-room church where he lives with his spouse and two kids.
  • Preparing a Montessori Baby-Toddler Space at Home — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares the Montessori baby-toddler space she's created in the main living area of her home along with a variety of resources for creating a Montessori-friendly home.
  • The Old Bailey House — Come peek through the window of The Old Bailey House where Erica at ChildOrganics resides with her little ones.
  • My New House Not-Monday: The Stairs — Claire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl shows you her new laminate stairs in her not-so-new-anymore house.
  • To Minimalist and Back Again — Jorje of Momma Jorje shares how she went to the extreme as a minimalist and bounced right back. Read how she finds it difficult to maintain the minimalist lifestyle when upsizing living space.
  • Our Life As Modern-Day Nomads — This family of five lives in 194 square feet of space — with the whole of North America as a back yard. Paige of Our Road Less Traveled guest posts at Natural Parents Network.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Fall in the Klondike Valley


While it is fall in name only in many parts of Canada, here in the North, we are most definitely in the thick of it.

Fall is birch and aspen shimmering gold; it is the leaves of the fireweed and wild rose turning yellow, orange, deep purple, scarlet. It is a breathtaking display of colours on the tundra. It makes me think of a richly woven carpet, spread out over the mountains. We take drives out to Tombstone Territorial Park, just up the highway from our house, to drink it all in.

It is a time of dark nights filled with stars and undulating aurora borealis. It is sometimes damp. It is morning frosts laying the tall wild grasses low, and sweetening the cranberries that hang ripe on the bush. 

Fall here is guys in checkered flannel jackets asking "Got your moose?" over cups of coffee in the Eldo. We head to the hills on warm afternoons, plunk our babies down in the soft moss and lichen, and fill our buckets with wild blueberries, keeping the conversation up so the bears know we're there. We hurry to get the garden in, chopping, blanching, freezing and canning, listening for the soft "plink" of the jars sealing. We work on the woodpile, bucking up logs into stove-lengths, splitting, stacking. 

Fall is the final push to get it all done before cold weather and dark nights settle in. The miners pull the last bit of gold from the ground, and the bartenders and blackjack dealers pull the last bit of gold from the miners. The seasonal businesses run down their stock, close up hotel rooms one by one for the winter; the boards are nailed up over the windows and doors. The town is quieter, now.

More than anything, fall up here feels to me like leaving. Maybe I haven't been here long enough yet to feel settled. Maybe I've just got leaving in my heart.  It is a tightness in the throat as we watch the cranes fly overhead and the seasonal workers hitch their way out of town, back to Toronto or Vancouver or Montreal.

For those of us left behind, it is a time of drawing in, and of reconnecting with friends after a busy summer. There is a scramble to find someone to shack up with, making high rent and long cold nights more tolerable. We hunker down as winter approaches, we speculate on what kind of a winter it might be, sizing it up with more than a little apprehension.

Fall here is brief and beautiful; it is hurrying up and slowing down all at once.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Barry's Memorial

(Barry and me, on the right)

I've been trying to write this post all week, but busy days and changing nap schedules have left me little time to do it.

Last Monday was our friend Barry's memorial service. We gathered at the Commissioner's Residence, a beautifully restored historic building in Dawson City. The flowers in the garden were still blooming, and the red of the poppies gently waving in the wind and the yellow of the building served as a bright counterpoint to the grey clouds that were crowding into the Klondike valley. 

Barry was no ordinary man, and this was no ordinary memorial. The organizers decided to apply for a liquor license, because it was assumed that people would be bringing alcohol anyway. Since it was being held on Parks Canada property, that fact made some nervous. So the local fastball team ran the bar. There was a table with photos of Barry from his time here in the North, and some of his more iconic shirts, hats and beer cozies were on display. There were also buttons made with his picture and his favourite sayings (like "groovy" and "Dave's not here, man") and there were t-shirts for sale, too. It was pretty wild. After the service, we shot some shirts out of a t-shirt canon. 

The service was short, with friends speaking about Barry and a few beautiful poems read. After that, we placed feathers in a basket, to send our loving thoughts on with our friend. He was a naturalist, and loved birds. He kept a record of their comings and goings each year at his place on Strickland Lake. 

Our love, our hope, and our sorrow placed with our feathers, we proceeded across Front St. to the banks of the river. It started to rain as we gathered on the rocky exposed river bed. Two of his dearest friends got into a boat with our feathers and a jar of his ashes, and then they were taken out past the dark waters of the Klondike, to where the sand-coloured Yukon mixes in. It was in these waters that Barry wanted his ashes scattered. On the count of eleven (another of his sayings) Barry's ashes were released, along with the feathers. Watching those ashes scatter in the wind, settling into the fast-flowing waters, and our little bundle of feathers spread out across the surface, was incredibly peaceful. It made me think of the lyrics of a John Prine song:

"When I die let my ashes float down the Green River,
and my soul roll on up to the Rochester Dam.
I'll be halfway to heaven, with Paradise waitin'
just 5 miles away from where ever I am."

It was like we'd been holding our collective breath after we learned of Barry's suicide, and with this, we all let it go. The sun started to come out as we crossed the road back to the Commissioner's Residence for a barbeque. It was really beautiful, and I think Barry would have approved.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about depression and suicide. It is such a complex issue, not easy to understand. But I no longer feel angry with my friend. The anger has been replaced by a deep sadness, for those of us left behind and for him, too. I'm so sad that none of us saw the signs, or if we did, we didn't know how to act. I'm so sad that a man who had such an incredible love of life and all of its weirdness, in the end became so lost in the darkness of his depression that suicide seemed like the only way to some relief. It makes me sob even now, writing this. Such a wonderful human being, so full of love, and so happy just to be. That is what I want to remember about him.

I feel like, for Barry, we must do two things. First, we must be vigilant with ourselves and with each other. If we feel ourselves slipping into that darkness, or see someone else lost there, we must do everything we can to help, and to fight for this life. Because it is a beautiful gift. And that brings me to the second thing we must do for Barry. We must love this life and all of its oddities, treasuring each moment, delighting in where it takes us, and being unapologetic about who we are.

(the photo taken at the river was taken by Heidi Bliedung. Used with permission.)