Some stats for you


I had a look at my blog’s stats today and I am happy to announce that the  most viewed page is… drumroll… the Home page. That makes sense. Followed by… The About page! If you are like me, the first thing you do when landing on a new blog is to check the About page. But where it gets in equal part interesting, amusing and slightly disturbing, is the third most viewed page. The third highest hit page? This one.

It didn’t come as a surprise (and in fact, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it didn’t rank higher) since the search engine themes that most often lead people to my blog are a variation on “Keep the toilet clean messages”… Which is a sad commentary on the world we live in at several level. Like, we need to remind people that we’d rather not sit in their pee or flush their number-2s. Like we need to consult Google to figure out how to write “Please clean-up after yer-selves, thank you.” Like, some parenting blogs are really boring, inane and not all that well written and have a gazillion more subscribers than I do, meanwhile, I’m reaching notoriety for my approach to telling people that they are slobs. And by  notoriety I mean that I have half-a-dozen subscribers including my parents and my husband and daily hits in the range of 50-100. *Sigh*

Sweet.

Back in the saddle


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Running, how I’ve missed thee. Well, “missed” might be a generous word. I missed the feeling of doing something healthy. I missed feeling sore for a good reason. I missed the good fatigue. I missed feeling energetic and motivated. The running part is just what I do to get there.

Sunday morning I left for an early morning run with my husband and the 3 under 3. We both pushed a jogging stroller, me with the twins and my husband with our preschooler. It felt great. I may have packed a few ice cream pounds during our holiday in Cow’s country but the constant babywearing has kept my legs and core in good working order.

That’s when I saw her. She was sitting on a patch of grass in the shadow of a large green electrical box. Even at 8:00 am the sun was hitting hard at the tail-end of a dry heat wave. In suburbia, the saplings don’t provide shade, the utilities do. She was sitting in the shade of an electrical box next to a public transit stop, waiting for a bus. A little old Asian lady, with a face like a dried apple. What was she doing at a bus stop at 08:00 am on a Sunday morning? She wasn’t dressed to go to Church. Was she going to work? Was she at the end of a night shift? Maybe as a nighttime home caregiver? Was she going to babysit a grandchild? She looked tired, seeking shade and rest in this sea of asphalt and concrete. There’s nowhere to sit in suburbia. You are either coming or leaving. You’ll sit when you get home.

She watched us run by and I suddenly felt self-conscious, burdened by the sadness and futility of our lifestyles. “How crazy is that?” I asked my husband. Here we are, on a Sunday morning, running nowhere. We’re not running because we’re being chased or because we’re chasing something. We’re running because we are an affluent couple with such sedentary lives that we need to get special shoes and special strollers to make our bodies do what they’re supposed to do to stay healthy, keep illness at bay and avoid decrepitude.

Our bodies were not made for grocery stores with just-on-time delivery and beverages with enough calories to cover two meals. They weren’t made for cheap, easy, fat, sugar and salt. Our bodies were not made for online shopping, Facebook and desk jobs. In the absence of anything to chase, haul, till or hack we are left to devise contraptions like the treadmill and the weight machine to trick our bodies in the belief that our lifestyle is healthy and active.

I ran past the little lady sitting in the shade of the electrical box on a Sunday morning thinking the world was upside down. Sunday used to be a day of rest. My husband and I can rest on Sunday but we shouldn’t. This little lady should rest on Sunday but she can’t.

This Sunday morning reflection lead me down the path of our recent to move into a rental house and our decision to start saving to build our not-so-big passive house in the country. I yearn for an active lifestyle that keeps me fit in itself. And as much as I enjoy working out and breaking a good sweat, I will not look back when I stop running nowhere.

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My street team, also known as my
Greatest Handicap.

Family camping hits and misses: DIY Laundry


My oldest daughter demonstrating the art of washing your own clothes while wearing two camping un-dryables: the hooded sweatshirt and jeans.

When my husband and I planned our summer holidays we decided to make them more than just fun and include a bit of life skills. Since we have 5 daughters — including, to be honest, an infant who still wears whatever the heck I say — frugality in their change of clothes was a survival skill that was sorely lacking. And by survival, I mean mostly my own as the Chief Laundry Matron.

To teach the girls frugality in their change of clothes, we decided to skip the laundromat altogether and make the children wash their own clothes. We purchased a large yellow janitor’s bucket-on-wheel with a mop wringer. We hoped to use it as a laundry-washer-and-wringer. We also went shopping for a proper hand-washing laundry detergent. My first lesson in DIY laundry was to learn that not all gentle detergents are created equal. In other words, there is gentle machine detergent and there is hand-washing detergent. For longer-term use, you cannot get away with repeatedly (read daily) washing clothes by hand in machine detergent. I learned this at the last minute and left with a jug of grocery-store bought Ivory Snow. It did the job but in the future I will shop for something meant to be dumped back into the ground.

The laundry routine got off to a bad start when we realized that the yellow janitor bucket would not fit in the camping trailer. Well, not with our current rate of packing. Fitting 10 in a trailer meant for 7 doesn’t only mean that you will be cozy — read “cramped”– it also means that you are storing more stuff than the trailer was meant to store. Leaving the wringer at home meant hand-wringing and putting-up very wet clothes to dry.

The drying time was a problematic issue. When camping in PEI, where the weather was dry and windy, our clothes took half a day to dry. But in Quebec where the weather was hot, humid and the campsites shaded, drying took at least two days. I say “at least” because we left Quebec City with a basket full of wet clothes that finished drying in the St-Lawrence River wind in Riviere-du-Loup.

The drying issues didn’t stop with the weather. Another challenge came, what’s new, from the size of our family. Even with washing small loads daily, I didn’t have enough clothesline to hang 10-people’s clothes. I relied on a folding drying rack but stacking clothes side-by-side also lengthens drying time. Add the daily load of beach towels and bathing suits and the drying real estate comes at a premium. Last winter as we were planning our trip, I made a list of camping clothes I wanted to find for the children. It included a lot of active wear from MEC in synthetic fibers and nylon blends for quicker drying. I was hoping to find most of it in consignment stores but didn’t follow-through with as much enthusiasm as clothing 8 kids on a budget warrants. We left with our usual canvas and t-shirts. And those take a long time to dry, especially when they sport fancy add-on such as cargo pockets and shelf bras. To top it off, some children — who shall remain anonymous — tossed the carefully crafted list of “Things to Bring” and packed their own duffel bags with enough clothes to bypass the entire laundry exercise. Not only didn’t they learn anything about laundry frugality but we tripped on their humongous kit bags for two weeks, shedding bits and pieces of sanity with every hit.

Laundry logistics was also a concern in the planning of our daily activities. To be kept under control, the laundry monster had to be fought a little daily. But planning daily laundry without interfering with the hot water needs of mealtimes and personal hygiene made it difficult to leave the trailer. I had to face the fact that regardless of the value of the learning experience, 6 people doing a handful of laundry daily was seriously inefficient. In the interest of having a family holiday, I ended-up doing most of everybody’s laundry. Overall, I washed half of our total laundry burden by hand and took advantage of laundromats for the other half.

I’m not giving-up on DIY laundry and the teaching of clothes frugality. Next time, we will bring the wringer bucket even if I have to toss a few overstocked items (like the playpen and my guitar: really, we c0-sleep… in a 26X8 ft camper trailer… why did I think that (a) I would use the playpen, and (b) I would play a musical instrument after bedtime. Why?). I will also carefully oversee my children’s packing to make sure that they don’t bring their entire wardrobe and that their clothes are easy to wash and dry. And I will buy a washboard. That will be the best part.

Camping with baby (ies)


We just left for our 3-week trailer adventure, towing our little house (emphasis on little) all the way from Ottawa to the maritimes with some fun stops along the way. One of the challenges of fitting 10 in a trailer made for 9 (on paper, reality is more like 7) is what to do with the babies. The trailer is either in eat mode or sleep mode with strictly enough room to do one thing at a time: prepare food or sleep. The outside is dirt.

Before going any further, let the record show that camping with babies is a royal nuisance and should be avoided. But if you can’t avoid it because, like me, you have other children for whom the definition of a good time goes beyond napping at regular intervals in their own bed, then you may need to find ways to compensate for the sheer lousiness of camping with infants.

(Some people camp with baby because they love camping and want to share their love of sleeping on dirt with their unappreciative infant/toddler. There is nothing I can say to help these folks.)

(As another aside, my 3 year-old just fell asleep singing “I want to go home to sleep” on the tune of Safe and Sound by Taylor Swift. So there.)

But yes, so you have to camp with infants or toddlers because you have ABSOLUTELY NO OTHER CHOICE and you are looking for tips to make your life more pleasant or at the very least less miserable. My first tip would be to get a cheap wading pool (cheap as in $15 is too much) and bring a bag of toys. The wading pools are the first things out of the trailer and the twins have a clean dry place to play. They can also be filled with one inch of water and placed in the shade at the splash pad on a hot day.

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Sleeping in tents with babies can and will be a pain in the neck. And the lower back. Co-sleeping has been our saving grace. For Lucas especially, home is where the boob is. And it may sound like a drag at home but it’s a boon on the road. Here he is snuggling-up to Sarah in the queen size bed we share.

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Of course, co-sleeping can be dramatic especially when you wake-up with your 3 year-old violently throwing-up on you. This morning’s shower was the best ever and it is with little sleep and some unplanned laundry that we hit the road for the second leg of our RV extravaganza!

Sunset Ceremony: Life in Ottawa


I mentioned in a previous post that the heroism in raising a large family is not always the endless march of chores (although it is relentless) but the ability to stop, breathe and do anything else than laundry, cooking and cleaning. When the children were younger… Let me rephrase that… When my older children were younger and we only had 4, we would go for hikes in the Gatineau Park, attend free family events in the Capital, visit museums, organize camping trips and get-togethers with friends. Since the fifth child, and even more since the sixth, we stopped doing anything but driving, cooking, cleaning… and oh, moving a few times too.

This week, my oldest daughter asked if we could attend the Sunset Ceremony at the RCMP musical ride headquarters. Once a year, the RCMP Musical Ride puts on a free show in Ottawa before leaving on their summer tour. Attending requires some wit as parking is limited and the best seats go quickly. We prefer to park at the Aviation Museum and walk 15 minutes (adult pace). Ideally, we would bring lawn chairs and a picnic and camp there no later than 6:00-6:30. The show ends at sunset with the lowering of the Canadian flag. It’s a great opportunity to celebrate Canadian culture and heritage and to teach the children about flag etiquette (because you know… more culture is better than less.) “Yes, every flag has to be lowered at sunset and put away.” “Yes, even the flag hanging off the neighbour’s front porch…”

This year, we were treated to a performance by the Canadian Sky Hawks, complete with wind change and crowd landing. I ended-up under a Sky Hawk parachute on Canada Day as a child. Memories… Now I watch the size of their boots and the speed of their descent and shudder.That being said, I was giddy as a little girl this week as we waited for the Hercules to drop its high performing cargo. I told my daughter: “There’s a fascinating mix of anal retentiveness and recklessness: they have to be obsessive about their kits and jump drills, yet they jump off a plane and do unnatural stunts with a parachute.” I could never take that step off the Hercules.

Day trip (Or why good baby carriers and large families rock)


As you may have noticed, the move and consecutive adaptation-reorganization have punched a significant hole in my ability to blog. Not only time is at a premium but I am mentally and physically exhausted and  unable to string two coherent ideas together. I have posts started on attachment parenting twins, the twins’ 9 month update, the twins’ birth story, an update on the running diaries about setbacks (ha!) but I’m unable to finish them. So until my brain returns, here is another lazy picture post.

3 carriers: Ergo, BabyHawk Mei Tai and Boba 3G

This month we are experimenting with different infant/child carriers. With 3 under 3 at home during the day (and with me to run errands), I am definitely short a few hands. Pushing a bulky double stroller just adds to my misery and I started carrying the twins in two baby carriers, one at the front and one at the back. We went on a countryside stroll this Father’s Day and left the stroller in the van. In this picture (above), Clara is carrying Lucas in an Ergo baby carrier, Eloise is carrying Eve in a BabyHawk Mai Tei and I have Sarah in a Boba 3G.

Boba up and down

The Boba 3G was a loaner from a local breastfeeding and babywearing store. Go give Milkface some love: they are awesome. The carrier goes on and off easily and is the best I found for carrying a squirmy preschooler. My daughter is 35 lbs and fits in the Boba like a dream thanks to a high back, wide body and handy foot stirrups.

Carrying a 35 lbs preschooler in a back carrier may seem like overkill…

… but bear with me: it makes my life a lot easier. She is near me, under control, and will stay in the carrier a lot longer than the stroller. When it’s time to walk, she goes up and down easily. I thought it would also be a good workout but the excellent design and weight distribution in the Boba 3G makes it feel like a whimpy daypack…

BabyHawk Mei Tai: best for my petite 12-year-old. She comfortably carried her 18 lbs sister for 30 minutes before she got too heavy.

The children love carrying their baby siblings in carriers. And I love the help!

Adventurers in the pine forest
For younger babies in a back carry, I prefer the smaller-bodied Ergo.

Everyone agrees with me yet that big families and good carriers rock?

Fathers Day shot: that’s some heavy lifting!
We had lunch in the beautiful village of Almonte
And topped it all off with ice cream

My husband is a rock star


Not a real rock star, of course. But he rocks more than the other husbands and that makes him a rock star. Photo credit to my two oldest (and apparently talented) children, who are not supposed to touch the D90 under pain of death. You are so busted.

12-ish years ago, we bought a canoe at Canadian Tire. We used it a couple of times to go camping. In fact, my last memory of using the canoe was at Silver Lake. I peed on a stick that morning and found out we were expecting Marie. My last memory of the canoe is therefore tinged with morning sickness. With 4 then 5 children, activities like camping took a sabbatical and the canoe sat — or rather lied — unused in three consecutive backyards. Until now.

The pond
Tall grass

When the children saw the pond behind our rental house they immediately thought of great canoeing adventures. When their dad asked where he should set-up the trampoline in the backyard, David’s answer was immediate:

On the island! This way it will be double the fun!

Trampo-freaks entertaining the neighbourhood
Trampoline Island

(it has not occurred to my little country bumpkin that the patch of grass behind our patio door is our only backyard. The pond belongs to the Crown according to the developer and the developer according to the City.)

Cloudscape
Plane

Last weekend, my husband took the children for a turn in the canoe. The pond is a rainwater catchment area landscaped to serve as a recreational path and  bird sanctuary. The children returned from their expedition with tales of seeing Aaron-the-Heron (and his partner-in-majestic-flight Erin-the-Heron) up real close and meeting a little water mammal in the cracks of the man-made retaining wall. My husband was proud to be fit enough to portage his vehicle to and from the pond. I never had any doubts.

Our teenage daughter and son ran around the pond taking pictures of the expedition laughing as they heard kids yelling from their backyards: “They have a CANOE!!” Meanwhile I could just imagine the exasperated look on their parents’ faces. “Two years doing just fine telling the kids we weren’t allowed on the pond, and they move with their 8 kids and A CANOE… There goes the neighbourhood!”

Since September we have not taken nearly enough time to pause and spend time doing something cool with the children. This little expedition around our suburban paradise reminded me just how simple building memories can be. In a large family, all too often the heroism is not in the endless march of chores but in being able to stop long enough to do something else.