Monday, August 20, 2012

The Luxury of Simplification

Today marks the end of the first of two weeks up at our family cottage. The girls and I took the train up North and my sister Jessica drove us and my sweet tough nephew to the cottage. We hung out for a few days last week.

We don't live close to our family and so we forget about all the beautiful conveniences and value affirming moments that a healthy family has when they see each other daily. By healthy I think we all know that means putting the fun in dysfunctional...

Last week was abnormally busy. Beautiful Luke came and got to be the big kid and run amok with Fenner.  Luke is the youngest of four and, I may be wrong here, but I think he may be the most determined, solid and gentle little person I've ever met.
He kept Fenner on the go and she kept him from jumping off of cliffs. I appreciated that.
Timeless Laughter
There is no way I would be having as much fun as I am up here without the constant and graciously passive support of my Mom and Dad.  Whenever the cottage gets a bit tight or full we can go for a breather and a visit with Nan and Grandpa.

I am inspired by my Mom's philosophy of providing simple and creative toys and tools that are mostly found in daily life for kids to explore and experiment with.  Her home has always been full of toys that belong to a bigger life - Egg cartons, tin foil, drums out of containers. When she does buy toys, they are toys that grow with the beasts. 

Clearly Liz has been inspired as well because when I came back from my run on Tuesday this is what I found. A drumming circle, babies, and a blissed out Grandfather. It was almost good enough to muffle my bitterness at how sleek my sister looks 4 months after having a baby...almost.
Marching to the Beat of our own Drums
As if there wasn't enough fun to be recovered from my dear friend Stephanie came for what she thought might be a time out from the city. She might have gotten it too if she wasn't so damned great with children and grown ups. 
She and Fenner really solidified their friendship over art, nature and lichen. We're still trying to figure out what this kind of lichen is but we've been hunting Umbilicaria all over the place. I've been coming up here since I was born and have never once seen the leafy sprigs until Steph pointed out the sheets of Umblicaria Americana out.
Now, she and I see lichen everywhere.
Orange and Mysterious
Going feral has never been so easy.

A rhythm of a sort has come to pass; the beat of the morning with it's coffee and visits to Grandparents and neighbours, chores, swimming, lunch, nap, swimming, chores, dinner, clean up, stories, and bed.
Life is simpler when you don't fight it.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Inner City Kid

Sunday is family day here at the Gemdriks house and so Fenner asked to go for a walk in The Pit. Living in downtown Toronto has a ton of great advantages. We don't have to own a car to get around, we live in the heart of a diverse neighbourhood that celebrates East Indian culture, and we get to experience urban culture.

But we still get to go for walks in The Pit, also known as Williamson Ravine.
 I've posted pictures of the ravine before. In Winter, Fall and now Summer. It's like walking in the jungle right now.
 Filled with flowers and bugs that we don't see anywhere else in the city. We go here on family days often to regroup and slow down.  Fenner runs into the woods out of eye sight and through the little river that runs through the valley.

She gets herself into trouble and then gets herself out of it without our assistance.  J and I look on while chatting about whatever comes to mind.
 I love this place. It's quiet except for the birds and the cicada's singing.  In the Spring there was a Hawk hanging around.
 Marlowe snoozes

 Not knowing about the muddy road we traveled so close to home.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Rainy Day Coping Strategies

A series of rainy days in the city have left us sighing with relief and feeling slow as molasses in the wet city heat.

It's been perfect snail and worm hunting for our terrarium so we've been trying to exorcize our activity demons by going on rainy day hunts.
 Our terrarium is looking ok by our adventures and Fenner has been getting her minimum dose of exercise.  After a summer of running and exploring Six Mile Lake and our neighbourhood parks these few days have not been active enough.  
She discovered my copy of "How Does Your Garden Grow?". It's full of plant experiments, tips and tricks. I loved this book when I was a kid.  My Mum really hooked me up with fun nerdy DIY books like this when I was growing up.

I'm chuffed that Fenner is as curious about them as I was.
 Fenner's been trying to build Highfield Rd. out of different types of block sets in the presence of an increasingly involved baby sister. GODZILLA!
The lavender and sage are shedding their flowers in the midst of the rain.  It is not falling gently, these are the rains of change - torrential downpours that steam up the city and evaporate 2 hours later when the hot sun reappears.
There have been magical impromptu visits with friends that have saved us from each other.  This is my favourite view of my neighbour's home.  She is a musician and maker; I am inspired regularly by our visits.
It looks like another rainy day today and I'm getting frustrated with the lack of space so we will be stretching our legs to visit friends on the other side of the city and then going for a rainy evening walk in our local ravine.

It's the Perseid Meteor Shower this weekend and since my girls have gone on a sleep strike I think I might pack them, Jason, and some cocktails up in the chariot and bring them to the lake to watch the shooting stars.

Theoretically, it should be more fulfilling then having our evening interrupted 16 times before we just give up and go to bed. Theoretically being the operative word here...if it doesn't rain.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Not as complicated as making a person but a finished object of some complexity

After six months of consistent but slow knitting, I finally finished The Four Season Summer Hat from The Purple Purl.  I had bought the hat with high hopes last Fall but didn't start it until the Spring this year.
The yarn is Tanis Fibre which was delicious to knit with. The colours are epic but I wasn't able to keep Fenner still long enough to really focus on them (it might have been a hot day).  I think I got a hint of them here.

I'm really proud of myself for sticking with this finicky project.  It required way more concentration than my life easily affords me.
The thing of it is, that if I have something to do that requires focus and attention (besides parenting) I have to build it in to the day.  It has to be protected and maintained, detail work is not work that
comes naturally or easily to me while there are young beasts on the prowl.
I finished sewing in the kajillion ends while I was in Scotland since there were three adults to two children I got time to do the details and then I blocked her in the lake and voila.


I got hit by a weaving busload of inspiration on the last trip so I'll be warping my face off this week to try and catch up to it.

Friday, August 03, 2012


I'm up North again. It would seem as soon as I get the chance I spend our time up here at our old family cottage. I forgot the camera cord in the city and Fenner is exerting some will so my time is limited.

1. My view at 6:00 am when Marlowe wakes up. The coffee is brewing and Fenner is still asleep so we enjoy the morning chill in peaceful silence together beofre the day's adventures begin.
 2. Fenner's collection of nature that she's been offering throughout the day.  Her frogs, toads, catepillars and fish all remain outside in the "Deep Dark Wood"

3. My Mom and Dad.  The real reason we have such a great time up here is because our family community is here.  Dad can amuse Fenner when I'm all used up.  Meals are a team effort, in theory, but in reality it's a lifesaver to have another adult to clean up if an overtired 4 year old needs to hit the hay in a hurry.

4. Space. Fenner has found her legs and has been leaving the cottage in the morning and visiting all of our neighbours, most of which I grew up with and have now taken over their parents' cottages just like my sisters and I are.  She is kayaking and exploring the bay by herself.  I can feel the tether we have getting longer and more elastic every day.

5. Chores. I find great satisfaction in mindless maintenance chores to be done around the property.  Digging around the cottage, raking tinder dry leaves and sticks and bringing them to the ancient compost heap at the back of the property. 

I have four more weeks left of my epic parental leave. I plan on packing the days with as little as possible. It has been a luxury.