Thursday, 30 November 2006

The side of Superior we never knew

Testing the homeschool waters, overdosing on togetherness and living on beans on toast while longing occasionally for the queen-sized comfort of home, we discover that Lake Superior in September (left) is truly a superior experience. (Being a southern Ontario dunce I thought it would be cold up here. Duhhh. It's, like, totally hot man.) We’ve pitched the tent in a to-die-for campground – this one is Pukaskwa National Park - and run to the beach to cool off. It seems each beach is more gloriously deserted than the last, and I figure that's because the start of the Canadian school year looms and everyone else is at WalMart stocking up on school supplies. Poor buggers…How lucky are we that our classroom is a beach, a forest, a tent, a picnic table?

Wednesday, 29 November 2006

Night school's the right school

Academic maneouvres in the dark
Ontario's Manitoulin Island is not only an awesome place to visit, it proves a great spot to test-drive our hastily prepared homeschool curriculum and to get crackin’ on my hopefully-soon-to-be-published book. The fact that we’re outside at night only adds to the novelty . . . and although it's not clear how this laptop-by-firelight thing is going to work, I'm hoping it'll give me a creative kickstart. (Just after this photo was taken, I kicked my husband’s ass in Scrabble, which is an utterly satisfying albeit rare feat and surely a step in the right direction. )

FYI, a summer evening in Ontario with no bugs being about as rare as a bear that doesn’t actually shit in the woods, we can hardly believe our luck. Manitoulin rocks. Maybe we’ll stay forever.

Oh yeah, um, no can do. Still have 5,000km to go to get to Vancouver. Must keep this gig rolling…. Next stop Lake Superior.

Tuesday, 28 November 2006

It's fun to be Farquhar

Mmmmm, Manitoulin ...
For every mom out there who dares forge her own way - when all around her are the suburban ideals of keeping up and conforming - there are a zillion others who will consistently say, “I’d love to do this or that but I can’t because of the kids.” And that, ladies, in a word, is crap!

Long-haul adventure travel mightn’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think it’s fair to say that a lot of moms - including formerly free-spirited, fun-seeking, travelling types - tend to avoid going anywhere with their munchkins because they think it’ll be no fun at all. Too hard. Too tedious. Too just-not-worth-it. I’m hoping I can prove them wrong.

It's not that a change in parenting tactics has to involve a “me-first” attitude shift, but perhaps when mom takes a chunk of time to do the travelling she’s always wanted to do - while learning to ignore her inner June Cleaver a bit more often – the family can actually learn to play along.

Our own driving-camping-flying adventure began a few months ago in Ontario, in late August, as we said goodbye to those we love and caught the ferry to Manitoulin Island, the largest freshwater island in the world. There, we discovered it’s a whole of fun to be a Farquhar.

Most people think a Farquhar is a nasty lord from Shrek, so unless you happen to be familiar with your Scottish clans, you too might have trouble with the name. Not so on Manitoulin where the author’s family – pictured above, Farquhars all – lapped up the fame by association

A chapter a night: Good reads in the Garden

Bedtime was never so much fun
After a much-loved auntie gave me this book to read to my girls, I figured it would be a great way to get them immersed in a longer story that could be told each night, a bit at a time, to kick off our excellent adventure across Canada.

The Secret Garden is a gorgeous tale, and it held their attention big-time. Of course it didn't hurt that we got to tackle it from some of the most scenic locations Canada has to offer. On this particular night, we read a chapter beside French Lake, in Ontario's divine Quetico Provincial Park.
Reading in the dark inside the tent - with everybody decked out with headlamps - is so much fun. I highly recommend it!

Thursday, 23 November 2006

OK, I fess up. I'm 42 years old and I don't even know how to program my VCR ... so what the hell am I doing creating a blog? Truth is, I just got my first rejection from a big U.S. publisher who said she really, really loved my book proposal but the fact that I just don't have a "name" in the U.S - or anywhere else for that matter - means she wouldn't know where to start in terms of marketing. Ugggh.

"Have you ever considered creating a blog?" she asked. "Well, er, um ... a blog, you say?" I replied. I quickly checked with a tech-savvy friend, who assured me a blog was indeed the way to go. And now months later - after embarking on a year-long adventure with my hubby and kids - we've stopped travelling long enough to give it a try. And if a techno-spaz like me can do this, who knows, maybe I'll really get my book published.

It’s one thing to craft a survival strategy for travelling with kids from a few brief sojourns here and there. It’s another to create an honest account of an entire year away from everything and everyone this author’s children know and love: the comfort of home, Grandma, cousins, aunts and uncles, friends, a great school and teachers, a backyard ice rink, six chickens and a bunkhouse made with loving care by dad. So I'm hoping my writing and my parenting style – part slacker mom who refuses to do all the “right” things and part keener mom who wants her kids to value independence and discovery – will inspire readers, whether I'm writing from my tent on the shores of Lake Superior or the back of a Land Rover in South Africa.

Wish me luck.