The Six Wanderers
I think our province finally recorded a drop in reported cases of the COVID19 in the past week. Which means that the first phase of the deconfinement is underway... slowly stores will be reopening, parks will receive those longing for the trails, people will be allowed to gather in groups of over 5 person... what will this all mean for us? Well nothing much.
We have been blessed in the way that Jeremie could continue with his pool business all through this craziness. Somehow, families stuck at home with their kiddos thought that pool services and maintenance was essential and we were soooo relieved, this being our sole source of income!
This is one of the many situations in our life where we were glad we had traded our house and yard and many payments for a simpler lifestyle. We fell in love all over again with our tiny motor home and our woodland surroundings!
Following my last post on our homeschooling journey so far, I thought I’d share with you a little bit of how this pans out in our day-to-day life.
I used to be an early childhood educator and then owned a home-daycare for a few years. I used to live every minute of my working hours and then every moment of the early years raising my babies focused on a schedule and I do believe it helped me keep some of my sanity! But at some point I just couldn’t do it anymore.
The constant checking of the clock to see if we should be getting ready for “outdoor play” or lunch or nap time... I felt like I had this constant companion rushing me to the next thing on the schedule, the next activity, the one getting me closer to the end of the day when finally all these little humans would be sound asleep.
I loved spending my days with them but felt like I was always behind trying to catch up or just catch my breath.
Then, when Norah graced us with her presence(which was something right from the start) we decided that the home-daycare days had to come to an end. She was to be our last baby and I really wanted to be able to enjoy these last baby days to the fullest.
This is also when we felt like we wanted to bring a few changes to our lifestyle. We sold our house where all our babies had been born and which we had called home for the last 10 years. We said goodbye to our beautiful pool and to our next door neighbours who happened to be my parents and moved to our first “fixer upper/flip” in Ottawa.
We lived in a constant whirl of contractors and renovation noises and dust from the pile of sand that was to be our backyard.
We alternated from sleeping on the second floor to sleeping in the basement apartment when the heat of the summer became unbearable. It was quite the experience... but I think we were learning all about living in close proximity and being flexible and adaptable which prove to be a life saver when we now travel!
When the time came to put the house for sale and we got to talking about doing it all over again, I felt like maybe my sanity would go with the sale of the house!
I had always been attracted to the idea of tiny living, I was in awe of the consensus that seemed to overflow from each and every one of those tiny house dwellers, that less really was more.
While we were browsing apartment and house rental listings I was also browsing kijiji listings trying to find us a bus that we could maybe turn into a schoolie or an old RV or trailer that we could transform into a little home instead of throwing our money away on some small apartment rental for god knows how long...
I wasn’t sure Jeremie would be along for the ride but what did we have to loose at this point? It kind of felt like a “now or never” kind of move! We could live in the tiny house for a few months and then move back into a “regular” house and still wouldn’t have lost anything money wise...
Jeremie seemed to like my reasoning, hey, if I was willing to squeeze myself into less then 300 square feet with four kiddos and save us a few bucks along the way, why not!?!!
We found an old RV located at a camping site near my parents house, the owner wasn’t there during the week but said we could go and peek through the windows (which of course I did!!) and that he would gladly meet us there the next weekend if we were still interested!
The layout of the RV was perfect, exactly what I had envisioned... I could already picture our tiny table and the kids’ bunk-room at one end!
We met with the owner on the Saturday and waited for our mechanic friend to meet with us so we could have an opinion on how crazy of an idea this was... at one point though, the kids were getting hungry and tired so I had to pack them in our SUV and leave so the men could do their jobs... I waited patiently for Jeremie to meet me back at his parents house bringing either the news that we were proud new RV owners or that the project involved a bit more money than we could afford at the time...
He came back a few hours later, wearing his “I’m sorry but it just didn’t work out” face... It was the first RV we had visited and the asking price was quite low so I really had not so great expectations. But then, he just threw the set of keys at me and said that the RV was ours and that he had gotten the owner to drop the price by 2 thousand dollars even though our mechanic said that it wasn’t in too bad of a shape!
We were really doing this! I was over the moon excited!!!
From then on, we packed the kids and a few necessities every single weekend and made the drive from downtown Ottawa to Alfred, to my parents property where our RV was parked and worked some TLC magic turning this “old school shag kingdom” into something that resembled a home!
We worked on it every weekend for about two months and by the time we had sold our house in Ottawa, we had also sold most of our belongings, had been sleeping on air mattresses for a few weeks and were more than ready to embrace this minimalist lifestyle!
We had moved from our home in Alfred in May with a big moving rental van and many truck loads of stuff (even though I had started to downsize our things way before we moved) and then, in September moved again in our RV with only a service van containing our most loved possessions(and that even included our bikes)!
Every thing we now owned could fit in this 36 foot motorhome! And from there started our winters of travelling adventures(since, let’s be honest, Canadian winters are not made for RVing!)
Along with minimizing our stuff came the desire to minimize almost everything else! Outside commitments, kids extra-curricular activities, shopping trips, etc. It felt good to come back to the fundamentals, to analyze everything that we allowed not only in our home but in our lives.
We’ve been calling this RV our home for almost 2 years already... what was an experiment in minimalism turned out to be the biggest adventure of our lives yet.
And now that we had started talking about maybe finding us some acreage and building ourselves a smaller sized house, we find ourselves in the middle of this pandemic and can honestly say that our plans can wait and that we are relieved that this simpler lifestyle has allowed us some peace of mind amidst all the uncertainty!
Now for the part where I wanted to share with you our daily rhythms, I felt that I also had to share how we’ve gotten to where we are at now.
While travelling, I discovered a part of me that had rarely been able to come out during our scheduled days at home.
I read the book “The Road Back to You, an enneagram journey to self-discovery” by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile and it was a real eye opener! I’m still not totally sure if I’m more of a type 1 Perfectionist or a type 5 Performer but some traits of both types have resonated so much with me and reading through the book has allowed me to learn how to be gentler to myself and how to embrace this self-discovering journey.
Here is an excerpt from the book having to do with the type 1:
“In security, Ones are more self-accepting, spontaneous, fun, open to try new things and being both/and rather than either/or. Here the voice of the inner critic gets quieter, they’re not as hard on themselves, and they shift their attention from what’s wrong about the world to what’s good and right about it. This shift often happens when Ones are away from home and feel less responsible for improving or fixing things. Ones can become entirely different people when they go somewhere for a week of fun in the sun.”
I had felt this burden of me being the keeper of time, the ruler of our schedule, the one making things happen a certain way at a certain time being lifted from my shoulders since, let’s face it, nothing happens as you plan it when you are travelling... especially with four kiddos!
We all had to learn to let go of our expectations but found some strange sense of peace, surrender and acceptance in the process. Our best moments travelling as a family have been the ones we never could have planned in advance! We found the best hiking spots when we weren’t even looking and the best of friends when we were convinced friendship would never happen!
In short, we wanted to replicate at home this newfound feeling of spontaneous yet memory making environment we had been privy too while we were travelling.
Just a few days after coming back from Thailand a few months ago, I was on a mission to “get us back on track”. Meaning taking care of the last bit of jetlag left in our system and making sure that we weren’t having diner past 6 and the kids were tucked in bed by 7.... then social distancing happened and we had nowhere to be and no one waiting on us(the kind of freedom I enjoy so much when we are travelling.)
Who cared if we played outside till our bellies were the ones begging us to get back inside to have diner? Who cared if we enjoyed a long breakfast and I sat down to finish my coffee before it got cold before starting our school work? I realized we could let go of the schedule and enjoy rhythms instead.
Instead of rushing to get lunch done in order to put the little ones to bed before 1, we let the events of the day unfold organically and, funny enough, we manage to “stay on track” most days!
So here is what it looks like for us on those days:
Up around 7
We share a largish breakfast around 8... I try to use the time when all the mouths are busy eating to read a bit of the read-aloud we have going at the moment.
When all the little tummies are filled, the kids have to get dressed, brush their teeth, make their beds while I tidy up our small table and take care of the dishes.
We alternate between the two oldest for the first French lesson of the day... the younger ones keep busy with legos or cars or wooden trains or puzzles...
Then we switch to Math which they do together since they are at the same level and then the other one finishes with a French lesson. This can take us anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours depending on their cooperation or interest...
We usually head outside right after “school” since by then the younger ones are tired of playing by themselves and we all need the fresh air! I usually send them outside by themselves just so I can catch my breath, clean up a bit or start a load of laundry!
We have been blessed to be able to settle on some acreage, with the forest and streams as our daily companions! We love it here!!!!
It’s never tempting to have to go back in the RV for lunch, we sometimes eat whatever we can grill on our campfire but most days we have a mix of “munchies” as the kids have come to call them and we are satisfied with that as long as it means more time outside.
We accompany our lunch with an episode of the Wild Kratts (which I count as our science lesson for the day) and then transition to “quiet time”.
The younger ones are allowed a few minutes to play something that doesn’t bring a whole lot of craziness out of them, most days it’s legos or coloring and then are put to bed while the older ones have to keep quiet till their siblings get up. We often use this quiet afternoon time to do our history lessons or art and composer study or simply listen to audiobooks. This is usually the time they tend to their chores also...
We have a snack once everyone is awake which often consists of the treats I love to bake. Cookies, muffins, cakes or fruits with peanut butter and yogourt dip! Or even, homemade poptarts!
Outside again till I feel like we’ve had enough of the fresh air and that extending our outdoor play would only bring havoc once we are back inside!
After much convincing, the kids take turns taking showers while I prepare something for diner. We always end up having diner later than I would say is a “reasonable” hour for a family with young children but I’m finding that trading the clock for what naturally comes next is way less stressful for me and gives us much margins for “the unexpected” that makes for the best memories!
I’m sharing all of this as a gentle reminder that, even though our governments and city councils might be giving us the “go ahead” we thought we were so desperately longing for, slower rhythms are something sacred that maybe we shouldn’t be in such a hurry to trade in for our “normal” lifestyles! Let’s linger in this stillness a bit longer, I know I will!