December 18, 2008

CONFRONTATION and of course....Merry Christmas

I know I haven't written anything substantial in a while. Graham and I both feel mentally and physically exhausted. We have both lost almost 40 pounds between the two of us and we didn't have a whole lot of extra weight to begin with. Things have been challenging to say the least. We were getting up at the crack of dawn or even sometimes before and Graham was heading to the boat yard just after 7am and not returning until after 5pm. He would come home all dirty and his hands all cut up and most often he would return with stories of how something else went wrong or how there was no one working on the boat for another day or how the fellows who were on the boat didn't know what they were doing. The boat yard is dirty, the bathrooms are gross, it is muddy with puddles and muck everywhere. Lots of mosquito's from all the standing water. Not a nice place to be. You also have to walk a mile from the bus stop to get there.

The boatyard manager(Nicholas) told me awhile ago 5 weeks to completion, which would of put completion on November 19th. The 19th came and went and we could see there was WAY too much left. Nicholas is a nice guy but he is an optimist and he doesn't like confrontation. He would rather tell me soon, then tell me the truth, or he would rather just avoid me. They put just one guy on the boat so most days something would get done but just not that much or the work done would have to be redone the next day. Graham was feeling the pressure and finally one day when no one showed up he went looking for Nicholas. He didn't find Nicholas but he did find the yard owner "Jason". Jason is a Grenadian with a HUGE temper. He is very volatile. As Jason was walking past he said hello to Graham and ask how he was and Graham told him the truth. Anyone who knows Graham knows that he doesn't raise his voice or yell. He remained calm and explained the situation to Jason. Well Jason flew off the handle on Graham and said many many mean things. Graham said that some of the things he said he couldn't even make sense of and figure a response because they were so ludicrous. Regardless, Graham let him have his temper tantrum and then asked him quietly again to get the guys on the boat and get working. Luckily the end result was that the guys were on the boat asap and they even worked the weekend. I was ready to take a strip out of Jason when I heard this but Graham said it was not worth it, we got what we wanted so who cares. I love that about him. I am a little more HOT HEADED.

Unfortunately the effects of speaking with Jason didn't last long about a week later we had another day with no one on the boat. We were already well into December and realizing the list of items left was long. So on Wednesday, December 10th Graham and I left the kids with his Mom and Dad and we went to the boat yard with our list of items remaining. The first thing I did was I went to the office and photocopied the list. The next step was distribution. We left a copy for Jason and then we walked the boat yard until we found Nicholas. Nicholas was speaking to a few of the guys but he saw us standing and waiting for him. He must of been able to tell from my face, I was MAD!

Once he came over he tried to make small talk but I just couldn't muster it. I handed him the list which he reluctantly took (I had to actually push it towards him). I said that I was done, that this was crazy that we were still here, that I see people in the yard yell and scream at him and that it seems to get what they need done and that maybe that is what I needed to do. At the end of the speech, I was yelling and screaming. You could tell he was mad when I was finished and he began to blast me and tell me that I need to find more courage and take things in stride and then my final move........I began to cry. He started out his speech telling me that no one would be able to be on the boat for a week! By the end of our heated emotional discussion he was going to have them on the boat right away and start getting the items done. The talk was about 40 minutes and I was exhausted when it was finished.

Since that Wednesday confrontation we have had anywhere from 3 to 11 workers on the boat each day!!!! The boat is now OUT OF SHED, give me a hip hip hooray! The boat now has the mast and all the rigging up, give me a "Hoo0-RAHHH"! The boat has the steel arch up and attached, "DANCE A JIG". The woodworkers are working from 8am til after 4 quitting time on the final trim work on the coach roof and even worked SUNDAY, give me a "HOLY CRAP"! Things are moving and shaking and we couldn't be more happy. In amongst this craziness we decided it was time to leave the apartment and move on board and be close to the action. You can imagine the day we move aboard there are 9 men working on the deck of the boat, it was chaos, but it made me SO HAPPY.

Living on the boat while it is "on the hard" (not on the water) is not that great but still it is so much better than the apartment, it just feels like home. We spent Thursday unpacking and organizing and of course the kids played with other boat kids. Night time is a bit of a challenge because the bathrooms are so far away and the mosquito's are outrageous. The bites they leave are huge and swell up. We put bug nets over our beds but somehow they still find a way in. The other night I had to grab a fan in the middle of the night because it got so hot and as I was trying to hooked it up, I had my arm outside the net trying to plug it in, a mosquito was buzzing in my ear and I was swatting madly, Amelia said I looked like I had lost my marbles, she was laying behind me and thought she would help me out by swatting behind my ear to, well I felt something touch me and then totally freaked out. Graham was watching the whole thing play out and laughed himself silly.

The best news of all is that for the last two mornings I have woke up to Amelia's smiling face. It has been awhile since I have seen her smile so much. It makes me so happy. We all feel so much better seeing the progress. Today we flying to Curacao for Christmas. We really need a break. We need to be away from the boat for awhile and just relax and enjoy life. We are all excited. It will give us all a chance to like each other again.....:-)!

I have booked with the yard to have Artemo put in the water on Jan 2nd. The things we are waiting on is the final sealing and caulking after the trim work is done, and the bimini (cover above the cockpit). Graham and I have many other things to do but most can wait until we underway.

I wouldn't wish this experience away for anything. Challenges make you stronger and believe me, stronger we feel. I am amazed by what we have withstood and accomplished in the last few months. I have also learned alot about how we operate as a family under stress, we do pretty well but we all realize we need to work on not getting short with each other when we are stressed, hot and tired (I am probably the leader of this bad habit!).

There you have it the whole story. The Perry family is not defeated. We are still going strong and ready for what life has in store.

Miss you all more than you could possibly realize. Thank you for all your emails, comments, visits, cards and also for the packages! Such a treat to go to the post office and pick up a surprise! We feel your support and it means alot to us.

Merry Christmas.

Julie, Graham, Alex and Amelia

December 13, 2008

Nanny and Papa

Yesterday we said good bye to Graham's parents (Judith and Roger). We had such a nice visit and our spirits were really lifted having them here. Roger and Graham went and worked on the boat a few of the days! Graham said what a great boost in momentum it was to have his Dad here and to get into and finish a couple of jobs that had been looming over his head for awhile.

We also rented a car and saw some parts of the island we hadn't seen before and even a new waterfall. The freedom that comes with having wheels felt really good. The weather was great while they were here to, some nights we didn't even need a fan.

Nanny Judith brought peanut brittle and made fudge and muffins while she was here. We all had our sugar fix. Made it feel more like the Christmas holidays for sure. Amelia and Nanny even made Christmas ornaments.

Roger and Judith took the kids to a Rotary meeting here in Grenada. We are all so proud to have a father/Grandfather who is a District Governor of Rotary. Roger is dedicated to Rotary international's goals of Health, Literacy and Education. Amelia said she was nervous about where they were going for the lunch meeting because it looked kinda shabby but once the doors opened inside was a beautiful room done up nicely for lunch. Her take on things is always so funny. Alex said it was better than church!

The kids and I went to the airport with them and saw them to the gate. When the doors closed the tears started flowing. Life seemed so much better with them here! Thank goodness we are heading to Curasco in only a week.

December 02, 2008

Past, Present and Future house guests!

Sunday morning we found the most disgusting creature in our guest room. It was a HUGE CENTIPEDE. Graham and I were tidying up the room for his folks (who arrive in only 2 more sleeps!!!) and I look up on the wall and OMG............of course I freak out and start doing the 'weeby geeby' dance. Amelia and Graham are laughing their heads off. Amelia grabs the camera and Graham goes to work capturing it. Once they have it contained, the kids go to show the neighbors. Turns out it is "POISONOUS" and the neighbors Dad lets us know ASAP and he proceeds with killing it. Ok, I haven't slept well since. I wake every hour or so with a startle and start smacking myself and checking the sheets. YUCK!
Some of you have heard that we now have "Sam" the kitty living with us. The kids found him by the house and they started feeding him and I laid down the law....he was NOT allowed inside! Unfortunately, the little kitty was attacked by a larger kitty and the neighbors brought him up one night all bloody and off to the vet and $100 EC later, we have an indoor kitty named "Sam". Anyone who knows us, knows Graham and I are the furthest thing away from cat people......but the weird thing is that we are all liking this new family member. He is definitely a distraction. The neighbors have agreed to own him after we leave this month.

We are 2 more sleeps away from having Graham's folks here. We have been "X'ing" off the days. We have rented a car and we are all excited about having the freedom of wheels and being able to see the whole island! We are going to go see the chocolate factory, the Mona Monkey's, the waterfalls, the beaches and of course "ARTEMO". We are in desperate need of this visit, it will lift our spirits and it will nice to be in vacation mode for a bit.

November 25, 2008

Time to call it.....

December is quickly approaching and Artemo will not be finished in time to make the 3 day sail to Curasco prior to Christmas. Graham has been putting in 12 hour days trying his damn-dest to make this happen but it was time to call it. We can't keep going at this pace, feeling like we are running a race.

Flexibility is the name of the game with our lives and always has been. We never do, just to do. It has to feel "right" or we don't do it. The things we are always checking against are being #1 Safe, #2 Happy,and #3 Together!

Once Graham and I had the time to sit down with a calendar and take a look at the timeline we quickly realized that Panama and the Pacific crossing wasn't in the cards for 2009. Number of big reasons this isn't right:
  1. Once our major boat "Reno" is complete it doesn't make sense to sail to far away from Grenada, just in case any adjustments need to be made.
  2. The "Reno" sucked a ton of our savings up and the kitty needs to be refurbished before we head out for extended sailing
  3. If we don't start actually sailing until January this wouldn't give us much time to get our sailing skills up to snuff for the crossing.

As you can see, pretty convincing points! Graham and I evaluated our options and here is what we decided. We are flying to Curasco for Christmas and spending the week, relaxing and enjoying the holidays with Grandpa Griff and Nana Cheryl and hopefully my brother Rob. We are then coming back to Artemo and putting her in the water (fyi she is looking Spectacular!!!). We are then going to sail up to Antigua and meet my Dad and Cheryl there. They are going to sail North from Curasco to the Virgin Islands and then sail down to Antigua and meet us there. We will all then sail leisurely from Feb to April back down to Grenada. Taking our time and enjoying the islands we skipped over on our first trip. Smelling the flowers!

At the end of April we will haul our boat out at the yard here in Grenada and we will head back to Toronto for 6 months to add to the trip kitty. We will then be back in Grenada Nov 1st, 2009 to start up again and make the trek to the Panama and beyond!

We are all feeling pretty good about the plan. It took quite awhile to come around to it but it makes so much sense that it is hard to argue with it. The kids weren't totally sold on it but they have come around. They like the adventure and as the boat nears completion and we can begin to see it's potential we are getting more excited about actually sailing her again! They didn't want to come back until we had accomplished what we had planned. Good lesson though about always carefully weighing pros and cons, at each step in your life.

Ok, you got the long story (sorry Brian). The short story is that you are going to be seeing us sooner than you thought! The good news is that we already have the good bye parties out of the way. The bad news is that I shouldn't of cut my hair so short and got rid of all our work clothes.

"Whatever is flexible and living will tend to grow; whatever is rigid and blocked will wither and die." - Lao Tzu

November 15, 2008


"...a women whose prime occupation is to care for their family and/or home"

Yup, that's me! I have a new job and any job worth doing is worth doing well.

I am nowhere near being in the running for housewife of the year, heck I don't even think the other housewife's would talk to me but I am really trying to embrace it.

I take pride in the fact that the kids are excelling at school. They are learning a ton and so am I. Their quality of work has improved and we all get interested in what we are learning. I am also researching healthy vegetarian recipes on the Internet and try to find all the freshest ingredients. We do up a weekly menu plan and do the grocery shopping (via bus). The kids and I are trying to make things as easy as possible for Graham once he comes home. We do all the prep work, cutting, peeling, rehydrating beans, etc. We also do all the dishes. I can't help but feel proud when the recipe is a success and everyone is happy with a new tasty treat.

I have a system now for washing and hanging the laundry. I wash the sheets once a week and shake them out daily. There are these tiny little bugs (not bed bugs) that I get rid of. I wash the floors on Mondays, and scrub the bathroom and shower on Tuesday. I find myself getting mad when the kids get crumbs all over and smear their hands all over the fridge. I never use to notice a dirty fridge door?

Taking care of the house, the schooling, the kids well being, the grocery shopping and the errands Graham needs done is definitely a full time job. It is different when you work out of the home. When you do a good job you see the benefits fairly quickly and you get recognized for a job well done. You feel pumped and it makes you work harder. Here at home the positive feedback doesn't come as often and the product isn't often something you can hold but you can see it in their faces.

So what's the conclusion here ........well, I do miss the "office" and the fast pace, BUT how lucky am I to be able to put my career on the shelf for awhile and focus on the most important people in my life!
Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.

November 11, 2008

Ever wonder about the boat????

The boat, the boat, the boat...... Boat discussions are pretty much constant around here. It is difficult not to get discouraged given the state of the boat. Things are happening but it is at that stage that you wonder if it will ever be finished. I am getting worried. December is quickly approaching. The boat manager "Nicholas" promised me five more weeks about four weeks ago. He hasn't said anything about not being on schedule, but once I put all the items left to get done into a schedule....I am starting to wonder when it will actually be done. Below is the email I sent to Nicholas on Friday and the photo is the schedule I made and attached. We haven't seen Nicholas since and no reply as of yet. I am hoping to see him today or tomorrow at the boat yard and hear the news. He has been pretty straight forward and good with us so far. I will keep you posted.
Hi Nicholas,

As December quickly approaches I want to make sure that we are on schedule for an early December departure from Grenada Marine. We have family arriving in Curasco on December 19th and obviously the kids and I all have our hopes way up to be joining them.

I was hoping you could take a look at the schedule attached and let me know if you see anything I have missed or if you feel that we are in any way not on schedule. The blue rows pertain to Grenada Marine work items and the yellow rows are the items Graham is working on.

I want to make sure that we have the date booked for our boat launch and we also want to let Martin know when the rigging will be on, so that he can take the measurements for the new bimini and dodger.

I want you to know that I can just imagine the thankless job you must have. Everyone wants their work completed yesterday. Graham and my style is not to jump up and down and yell and huff and puff, we appreciate that you are trying your best to complete our work, on time and on budget. We speak highly of you and the work to date. We look forward to the successful conclusion.

Hoping to hear from you soon. I will also look for you at the boat yard.

Julie Perry
S/V Artemo

November 05, 2008

Double digits....

Today was Amelia's 10th birthday. I can't believe a decade has past. Amelia is everything I hope for in a daughter. I love her imagination, her emotions, and her big laugh. As much as some days I am ready to lock her in the room for talking back to me, I love that she questions authority and never settles. She fights with all her might for what she believes in. She sees below the surface. She notices body language and nuances and she is empathetic. The past 10 years have seriously flown by and I am looking forward to the next 10. I didn't think it was possible but we are growing even closer than we were on this trip!

I decided to make her birthday extra special this year and have a day of 10 surprises. Below are each of the surprises.
Number 1 - Alex and I woke her up with bubbles

Number 2 - Alex gave Amelia a beautiful necklace

Number 3 - Alex and I drew a huge colored chalk Happy Birthday sign

Number 4 - I bought those mini boxes of sugar cereal

Number 5 - We took Amelia to a craft market and she spent the money Nanny Donna gave her for her birthday. She was a great bargainer! She managed to get a hat, shorts, a shirt and still had $20 EC left for treats!

Number 6 - Graham and I paid to get Amelia's hair beaded

Number 7 - We gave Amelia a new tube for swimming with

Number 8 - Veggie Chow Mein!!! Her favorite

Number 9 - Passion Fruit and Mango smoothie

Number 10 - Fabric Paint

Amelia made a cake the night before and we had the neighbor kids and our new friends Wei, Ross and Ishbel over to celebrate!

November 03, 2008

Perfect Sunday

Yesterday we got invited to a friends boat in a marina that isn't to far from our house. They even offered to come and pick us up. We were all excited because Sunday's feel so long, since the buses don't run and we feel stuck!

Our new friends are Ross and Wei and their 18 month old baby daughter Ishbel. When we arrived at the marina, it was as if we had entered a different world. It felt so posh. The resort/marina is run by a Swiss couple and is very well maintained. There is an old boat that sits at dock, that they have restored into a museum, movie viewing area, bar, showers/bathrooms. It was really cool and just added to the cool vibe at the marina.

Ross prepared the most amazing meal. I was almost embarrassed at how much we all ate. Luckily they totally understood, as they also have a love of food! We had Pollock fish marinated in garlic, ginger and curry, bean salad, rosemary potatoes, coleslaw and buns.

After lunch we headed out in the dinghy to go snorkeling. The kids loved it. The freedom of being on the water is huge. Everything just feels better and the heat is bearable. After the snorkel we went for a dip in the pool and then back to the boat for carrot cake (compliments of Amelia).

It was a fantastic day and we loved being around Ishbel. We are soooo craving the cruising life, it is crazy. We are "x'ing" off the days on our calendar. We have another 4 and 1/2 weeks, if everything keeps on track, like it has been! Definitely will make the weeks fly by if we keeping meeting new friends!

November 01, 2008

I live with a "Holiday" junkie.....

Yesterday was Halloween and unfortunately they do not celebrate this holiday here in Grenada. Amelia was so sad. She lives for the holidays, she is a holiday JUNKIE. Luckily we brought along a large ziploc bag full of Halloween decorations, so our apartment looked great. We have been trying to get rid of spiders since we have arrived here and now we were laying them around our apartment....go figure!

I bought them each of them a bag of candy, so the moment they woke up they began eating. Amelia also got busy putting together her costume. She decided to dress up like the wood elf fairy from Lord of the Rings. She has just started watching those movies this week. She looked beautiful. She has a real knack for putting stuff together.

It still was nowhere near as good as home. We laid down together with the fan on us and talked about all the Halloweens we have had and what she dressed up as. We talked about what she would be doing if she was at home in Toronto and what her friends would be doing. We talked about the parade they would be having through the neighbor at school. A few tears but we came up with a plan. We decided to ask Aunty Ann-Marie if she would do the webcam during the trick or treaters and put the computer at the door, so we could wish each person Happy Halloween from Grenada and also watch her cousins getting ready to go out.

It was a HUGE success. The webcam was up for 4 hours and we saw everything. The trick or treaters played along for the most part and said hello to us. The kids yelled funny things at them. We even got to watch the Sparks (cousins) dump out their candy and sort through it (our favorite part).

You know technology is great and I am so glad that the kids got to have a touch of Halloween here in Grenada but MAN it made my heart ache to see them all and not be able to reach out and hug them!

Thanks Annie for making it possible, you are "THE BEST"!

October 30, 2008

From our bedroom window...............

You won't believe what we witnessed from our bedroom window. The other day Amelia went off to the bedroom to watch guessed it "REBA" and all of sudden she comes running out to the kitchen yelling, "mom, come quick I think the neighbors are doing something to that huge bird they have."

From our bedroom window, we can see the house next door. The have quite a bit of land and they raise goats and ......these huge looking birds. We thought they were geese but our landlords say it is a turkey.....doesn't look like any turkey I have seen? Regardless, this huge strange bird is kept in this coup and we have been spying on it for a while.

As Amelia and I return to the bedroom, these two women are helping the bird across the lawn. One women has her hand around the birds neck and the other women has the body, but they are still allowing the bird to do the bulk of the work by letting its feet walk on the ground to the middle of the lawn. It was a really strange sight to see.

Once they got to middle of the lawn, the women holding the body, pulled the feet out from under the bird and laid it down and then grabbed this wooden box and placed it over the bird. There was a open end that the head could lay outside of. So at this point the birds body is under the wooden box and its head and neck are outside of it. I know full well what is going to happen. Amelia (who is a vegetarian and will be forever more!) turns so her back is to the window and hugs me and I can not pull myself away. I know, I am 37 and have known for a long time that somehow chickens, cows, pigs, turkeys.......are killed, so that we can enjoy their meat but I never actually had given it any thought. Now here before me was this beautiful creature we had been studying and watching, about to die. It felt really odd.

Unfortunately, the ladies must not have had an axe because much to my horror, they got out a serrated knife and this is how they removed the head. It is at this point that the two women and their son, choose to look up to our bedroom window. There we were, looking on in horror. It didn't seem to phase them though and they continued. We couldn't take it anymore and we left the bedroom but Millie couldn't stay gone for long. I got a play by play for the rest of the tasks they had to complete and Millie got an education.

Last night Amelia, saw the neighbors move their goat from the pasture to the front lawn. She started screaming, "They are going to kill the goat. They're going to kill the goat." Graham, Alex and Amelia tear off to the bedroom with the video camera in far, the goat is still alive but it is very strange that they have it tied close to the house in the short grass.....we will let you know what happens.

I think I might be closing the curtains for the rest of the week!

October 24, 2008

Our new "BUG" normal.....

The first couple of weeks here, I was jumping and screaming and calling Graham or Alex to kill or scare away freaky bugs or critters, but now they have become our normal. Each time we walk outside you catch sight of a lizard scurrying away from you. They are really quick but Alex and Amelia are quicker and they managed to catch one and then they put it on our boat to eat any bugs that may have made their way inside when the roof was off! They named it Mr. Greenbeans. Graham saw it the other day in our forward bathroom, doing his job!

The cockroaches are the yuckiest. The other night I came out to the kitchen to get a glass of water and there was a huge red one with what looked like a suit of amour on. It ran so fast from the stove across the counter and under the sink, it was insane. The next morning we tried to find it but it is gone.

The funniest thing I have seen is when Graham took the cabbage out of the fridge last night and he jumped and yelped and there on the floor was a little frog that had jumped out of it. Unfortunately it was half dead and Alex did the honors of removing it.

The most beautiful bug we have seen is this really colorful, acrobatic, catepillar. I probably never would of noticed them but Graham seems to have an eye for these things and called our attention to them. Once we saw the first one, the trees came alive and we saw MANY! Funny how that works.

The grasshoppers here are 10 times bigger than the grasshoppers we know. It is like they are on steroids. You can't help but stop and watch, it is like a freaky movie. I still feel a little scared when I see them.

We have a huge abundance of these ummmm cross between a fly and hornet thingy's. They don't seem to bother us but if you do get in their way they sting. Alex was stung once by one. The "no see ums" seem to be the worst though. Our feet and ankles are all chewed up.

Our normal is slowly changing........

October 20, 2008

Pure Happiness

Today we headed out on another adventure. We looked on our map and found out that the tallest waterfall on the island was on our side of the island and only one bus ride away. It is called Mt. Carmel and is located on a fellows land. He charges a $1 and lets you hike in. Let me tell you, it was well worth our buck. We loved it. It was neat to hike through the lush landscape and then through the trees see an spectacular water fall. Alex kept saying how much cooler this was than the Concord fall. He really liked the trek part and that we were the only people around.

The best part of my day was when he asked if I would climb up on the rocks with him and stand under the waterfall. My usual answer to questions like this is ....."Ask your Dad". Once I see Graham do it, then I will usually follow suit but this time, I said "SURE"! He was shocked. While Amelia and Graham swam, Alex and I made our way up the slippery rocks and stood under the rushing water. He let out the loudest hollar you have ever heard. Pure happiness is what I felt. This new plan of getting out the house is working out!

October 18, 2008

What the heck happened to us????

Graham and I were talking about our backpacking days. It occurred to us that we backpacked thru Egypt without so much as a bandaide in our packs. We didn't even think about where the nearest hospital or doctor or the police were for that matter. We would never have considered a paid tour, never would of taken a taxi, never would of carried sunscreen and bug spray with us whereever we went. We were always looking for something out off the beaten track and getting there without a herd of tourists with us, was an accomplishment!......the conversation ended with...."What the heck happened to us???". We decided that even though we have kids and we do have to have a bandaide in our packs, it was time for us, to get back to our roots and start adventuring!

We were going to pay $25 US each and do the island/waterfall tour but under the new family guidelines, this was out of the question. Time to figure out how we see this island and the waterfalls without tour or taxi. As a family we pulled up the tourist map of Grenada and picked a the Concord Waterfall's for our first adventure.

We took two buses to get to where they let us out on the main road at Concord. Then the locals began harassing us, to take a guided tour or a taxi. They seemed shocked that we planned on walking all the way with two kids. We didn't let it affect us and off we started on the road to the falls. People we passed on the road seemed equally shocked that we were going to walk all of the way. It turned out that the hike was 2 miles UP, in extreme heat. We had lots of water with us, so we all stayed hydrated and we took plenty of breaks. The only worrisome thing was that Amelia's face, turned into the elephant man. She gets this freaky red blotchy face when she gets extremely hot and sweaty. We decided it was time to cool off in the stream that was coming from way up at the top of the mountain. We used their hats as buckets and pour hatful after hatful all over us. Once we were sufficently cooled we began the second half of our journey. Even though it was hard, we were all having fun.

When we arrived at the top, we all felt proud as the locals kept asking how we got there, with no car, bus or taxi. I am sure you can all imagine us proud as peacocks! We went down the stone stairs and there was the prettiest waterfall. It wasn't huge but there was a nice pool below it that you could swim in. It looked straight out of a movie. We were all so hot that it didn't take long to strip down to our suits and jump in. HOLY was so COLD. Didn't matter to us though, feeling cold was wonderful. Graham took the kids for a swim behind the waterfall and we ate our P&J's at the top of one of the mini falls overlooking the beautiful scenary. It felt like we were sitting in Jurassic park. Really cool and lush.

The hike back down was pretty easy and seemed so much quicker. We all had such a great time. We can't wait to go and explore the other parts of the island. The other benefit is that the kids are obviously not getting enough exercise because they woke up this morning, VERY SORE. It is hard to exercise in this heat but I think the hiking to waterfalls is the way to go, because it ends with a swim!

So, Graham and I have managed to recapture a little bit of our adventerous spirit. We both realize we are now parents but we want to teach the kids that sometime the best time is not the waterfall at the end but figuring out how to get there!

October 16, 2008

Spending Uncle Rob's Money.....

Today was the day that the kids have been waiting for, for a while! Uncle Rob gave both the kids $30 bucks when we left Toronto, to buy themselves something. The $30 has been burning a hole in their pockets ever since.

We headed by bus to the capital city of St. George. The first thing on the agenda was a hair cut for me. We found a great little beauty shop with AIR CONDITIONING and a TV with Fraiser on???? We all could of spent the day in there. We then headed up and down the streets and into all the little shops, so many interesting things. Alex found a great wallet for $2 and a beautiful necklace for Amelia for her b-day for $12. They both split the cost on a couple of really nice presents for Nanny and Papa, in hopes they come down for a visit! Amelia found a really cool shirt with "Yes I'm Pretty" written in bedazzle across the front, for only $4 and she also got a keychain.

They were both really happy when in amongst so many different shops and smells, we came across a SUBWAY! Amelia got her favorite veggie sub and Alex his, the BMT! A little taste of home.

Amelia got in a fight with a nasty shop keeper. She went in to ask how much the bikini was in the window and the lady said $30ec (which is about $12cdn) and Amelia said oh thats to much for me, since she didn't have that much money left. The lady thought Amelia meant that $30 was too much for a bikini and she proceed to blast her. I walked in, in the middle of it and explained to the lady that Amelia was spending her own money and didn't have that much left. Once she realized she started laughing. Geeesssh!

Our last stop was the fruit and veggie market. We got a bag of mangoes, passion fruit and sweet oranges for $2 a bag. We got a bunch of tiny bananas for only $1.

We got home and Graham was already home from the boat and making fresh lime juice, with limes from the tree out back! He then whipped up an amazing curry for inside the four Rotti's I bought at the market. Right now we all full and have finished a tournament of battleship and are just waiting for survivor to begin. All in all, a pretty cool day. THANKS UNCLE ROB!!!!

October 15, 2008

My teacher doesn't beat me.....

One of the things that the kids really notice here is that people discipline their kids by hitting them. The first we became aware of it was when we had the landlords over for a drink and Mrs. Blackette asked us in front of the kids if we beat them. We were shocked but laughed it off and said something silly like, "...only when they deserve it".

The next time we saw evidence of this fact, it wasn't so simple. The kids and I took the bus to a new beach and the bus let us out at the main road and we needed to walk down the side road. We all got out of the bus and as the conductor and I worked out my change, the kids looked down the road we were taking. They saw a women and her two sons (looked to be 12 and 13), she had a stick and was beating one of the boys over the head. They tugged at me to hurry up and as the bus drove away and I tried to make sense of what they were saying, I looked to see the women throwing the stick away. The kids said that at first they thought they were all kids playing but then they realized it was more brutal than that and they saw it was their mom. As we walked past them on this narrow road, they all walked single file. She placed the boy she had not beaten in front and then herself and then the beaten boy behind her. The kids mentioned how angry her faced looked and she held the boy behind her close but we managed to catch his eye. He was crying and looked embarrassed, his one eye swollen. The kids and I did alot of talking as we walked to the beach. They were very disturbed by this.

Last night the kids were playing out front with the two youngest neighbor kids, Dana and DJ. Amelia asked DJ if he liked going to school(they just moved here from St. Vincent) and he said, "Yes, my teacher doesn't beat me". The kids asked him to repeat himself because they weren't sure they heard right. I was up on the balcony and I knew what he said. Amelia said, "Our teachers in Canada don't beat you at all". Alex said, "In Canada it is against the law to hit children. If an adult hits a kid they could go to jail". DJ and Dana looked happy with that answer.

As the four of them played I couldn't help but wonder, how often on this trip Alex and Amelia were going to realize how fortunate they are to live in Canada.

October 11, 2008


"To swear off making mistakes is very easy. All you have to do is to swear off having ideas."

We have been asking ourselves, as have others, was buying "Artemo" a mistake. I hate admitting to a mistake. It feels like failure, poor judgement, stupidity. Graham and I have been talking about this though. It seems with each job he begins on the boat, the job leads to 6 more jobs. It isn't often if ever he finds something done well. Our list of "To Do's" gets longer and longer. We continue to prioritize with "must be done before we sail" and "can wait til after we have begun".

So here is where I take a big gulp and say it...."We made a mistake buying Artemo". We only knew what we knew at that time and the boat met alot of our criteria; 1) Full Keel 2) Center Cockpit 3) Ketch 4) Dry Hull 5) Lots of living space 6) Easy access engine room .........the good news is that it still meets all of these criteria...the bad news is that all of the other things wrong with Artemo have cast a shadow over these. Graham said to me the number one thing we should of looked for is a boat that was being SAILED. Artemo had been sitting for a few years and we had thought Harry was actively sailing her but now on reflection we realize he was not. I wish the surveyor would have found the dry rot or would have found the bad wiring or the list goes on but now here we are with our mistake (so hard to say that word).

Now there are so many great inspirational quotes about mistakes and I am sure off the top of your heads you can all think of a few. We are not beat and we are not walking away from Artemo. We have learned a ton from this mistake(man that's hard to say)and a lot of great things have happened because of this mistake. We are going to know Artemo from the inside out and this is going to be a HUGE plus when something goes wrong.

So where are we at with the boat, you ask, right now the boat manager said they would be off Artemo for 2 days and now here we sit at 2 weeks and still no workers. They have about 6 weeks of work left ahead of them. Graham is going to the boat everyday and working on replacing all the seacocks, the anchor chain, re-wiring, new toilets, new flooring, installation of the wind generators, the self steering geer, the water maker and the SSB. It feels like there is alot to get done right now and it feels strange to be putting out money for boat repairs and living expenses (rent, etc) and not having any money coming in. I am sure we will get use to this (maybe) but this is the first time in our lives together that our savings are getting less, not more! It also worries us with the markets the way they are. We definitely need to give each other pep talks every once in a while and reflect on how amazing our journey already is and if things were easy we wouldn't be able to feel that huge sense of pride when we overcome them.

We want to be in Curasco for Christmas and we saw that it only took Dad 3 days to sail there, so we have lots of wiggle room between now and then, if they get the heck back on our boat and get working! We have to keep focusing on the silver lining and focus on the fact that ..."this mistake is going to be the safest, prettiest mistake anyone has ever seen when we are done!!"

October 08, 2008

Making an Oil Down

We were really lucky to have our landlords spend a Saturday, showing us all how to make an "Oil Down". It was a very unique experience that we all really enjoyed. Now in the spirit of keeping the blog "real" and "honest".......none of us really enjoyed the actual eating part. Now don't get me wrong, it was edible but we found that so many of the ingredients were really quite dry, such as the green banana, breadfruit and the cornmeal dumplings. The flavor of the stew was actually quite good but it was a really heavy meal with not enough gravy. Luckily the oil down is so much more than the eating. The eating actually only took up about 1% of the time. We had so much fun, picking the ingredients from around our house, drinking from coconuts, peeling Caliloo, seeing what the inside of a breadfruit looks like and making new friends. Enjoy the video!

October 05, 2008

Church in Grenada

Today we went to church and I thought it might be fun to have a blurb from each of us on the experience. We all feel very lucky to have found such kind and generous landlords in Grenada, who would welcome us into their church the way they did. Enjoy!

"Church with the Blackette's was an intense and intimate experience. I liked the sense of community and fellowship in the church. After the service many people came to greet us with that trademark genuine Grenada warmth. The service was so different from anything I have ever been involved in. The service was the polar opposite of who I am: being loud, animated and intense. I know that the collection of money is a part of the service but it always bothers me to see it. The drive for cash seems to taint the message that was given." - Graham

"Church today was the longest and the most non-understandable. I sat through it for 5 hours. One person was suppose to come up and say "Thank You for inviting me" and she had a two hour speech. I spent the whole night before trying to find a dress to wear and I wish I would have had something more fancy. At least the muffins they handed out were yummy. There was lots and lots and lots of singing and Halleluiahs and Amens and Praise the lords." - Amelia

"The 1st hour was ok, the next 6 hours were boring. There was a band that played in the first hour which was nice. Then the two hour lady came up as I would put it. Then just when I thought it was done, it wasn't. The people here let their emotions out, for instance they yell helejuhah and amen randomly." - Alex

"I felt very out of place in the church. Everyone showed their emotions by waving their hands, clapping, shaking, dance, and Halleluiahing! I was interested but fully aware that I was awkward. The singing was fun. It isn't often you see an electric and bass guitar and full set of drums in a church. The sermon had some great messages and I did feel inspired. I believe in God and I truly felt his presence in the church. There were moments during the sermon where it got to much for me. Too much yelling and messages I didn't necessarily agree with. We left our house at 7am and we got back home 1:30. I think it was an overdose of church after being absent for so long but I still wouldn't have wanted to miss it!" - Julie

October 01, 2008

Back on the horse

Yesterday we went sailing on my Dad and Cheryl's boat. This was the first time the kids and I have sailed since our entry into Grenada in the squall and without steerage. It felt good to be back on the water. It wasn't long before my fears and nervousness had vanished and I was letting the kids hang their feet over the edge of the boat as "Mystic Journey" cut through the water on nice heel.

It is so strange how much better we all feel on a boat. I was thinking it is because when you are on your boat it is like you are in Canada. When we are at our apartment in the jungle, you are very aware that you are far far away from home and in a different country. The heat is also so much more manageable on the boat. There is a nice breeze and you can always jump in the water for swim. Also, as I looked around the bay, there were so many Canadian boats/flags it was crazy. Directly ahead of Dads boat was "Bonanza" from Calgary. It really feels good to be a part of a community.

Dad and Cheryl are sailing away to Bonaire tomorrow. It has been really comforting knowing they are nearby. Amelia has had some weird bites on her arm and having Cheryl the nurse check it out and ease my fears is always nice. We are going to miss them and our field trips to see them but Christmas is around the corner and COME HELL OR HIGH WATER we are going to have Artemo finished and be sailing to meet them for the holidays!

September 27, 2008

She's a Vegetarian

We swam today at the pool and on our way home we were waiting for the bus and the strangest thing happened. Across the street was a road side barbeque. They have these all over. They are usually roasting corn on them for sale. This barbeque though looked like they were cooking something different.

All of a sudden out of the jungle next to the barbeque comes this guy dangling a HUGE iguana from his hand. The iguana was still struggling and wriggling cause it still had some life in it. The guy throws it, back down, onto the pavement and puts one foot on his belly.

So there we are 3 Canadians looking on in silence and horror. Two other locals were waiting for the bus with us and I am sure they were amused.

Amelia says, " he going to beat it now?". I say, "No", but I really had no idea. Then she asked why they killed it and one of the people waiting with us says, "..cause they are making soup out of it". Amelia makes her best DISGUSTED face and says, "EWWWWWWW".

I am a little embarrassed at this point and I say, ".....Oh, she's a vegetarian!"

September 25, 2008

Our Life from my point of view - by Alex

As soon as I saw my boat in complete disarray I did not know what to think. It was a little overwhelming to see the roof ripped off of our boat. Dad said that the boat was about 45% done because they finished the mast step and the sides of the coach roof. We also just found out that the anchor chain is rusted, which will need replacing. Although it is a little overwhelming the boat is ahead of schedule.

Getting adjusted to here is a little hard. One of the main reasons is the heat. The temperature is between 30-35 with humidity, which makes things harder to do. Another reason is the bugs. We've seen 4 roaches and we've caught two. There is lots of mosquito's that bite you in the night. We have made some sailing friends. They are super nice and they're allowed to do stuff my mom doesn't like. It is hard to get adjusted but we're getting the hang of it.

As you all know the main percentage of people here are black, but I'm not, so there has been laughing about the ginger kids. The kids here are either really shy or they are not. The most scary thing happened, I saw this kid hiding a dagger in his hand and he was dancing....weird huh! There has also been a time when a crazy old man was carrying a machete around.

My favorite thing to do here is to go to Grand Anse Beach. I really think it is picture perfect; beautiful white sand beach and the water is the clearest thing I've ever seen. The only thing that is bad about it is the people who sell stuff. We know that people won't steal our bags but to be sure we usually keep one person watching our them.

Just to tell you, we have a spare bedroom!

By: Alex

September 23, 2008

Taking the Bus in Grenada

Hey Guys, Things are getting so much better here. We are getting use to things. We have a system of managing the heat now with both showers and fans!! Hopefully this video of the kids will redeem themselves from the last few CRAZY videos :-)! Sorry for the quality of the video but when you make it small to upload, you lose the integrity.

September 22, 2008

Better to beg for forgiveness, than to ask for permission

I learned this lesson early on in our travels. I remember the day as if it was yesterday. Graham and I were taking a ferry to Corfu, Greece. We had obviously bought the cheapest tickets available and the ferry was overnight. There we sat in the crowded boat, rocking and rolling and so uncomfortable. We went off for a walk and came across a hallway with a bunch of suites. As we proceeded down the hallway there tucked out of the way was this glass wall cabinet with all the keys to the rooms in it. Graham told me that the boat didn't have anymore stops to make and that we should just take a key and see if the room is empty and sleep in it. If someone was in it, we could just say...whoops our mistake and leave. I was so scared but we took the key and went to the room. Sure enough it was empty. It was also beautiful. It had a shower and everything! I just couldn't do it though. I was so scared that someone would find us in there, to scared to stay. The funny part was that there was no way Graham was leaving. So I sat in the uncomfortable chair all night and he slept in the cabin and even had a shower in the morning!!! I learned my lesson big time, that night!

So you are probably wondering how this relates to Grenada, wellllll....the kids made new friends with some kids from Rhode Island, who are sailing to Australia. When we asked the kids what they do for fun around the marina, they said ...."We swim at the pool"! The kids and I were in SHOCK because the marina is out in the middle of nowhere and there isn't even a store for that matter. The kids said they go to this resort on the hillside of the marina. I spoke to their mom and she said they just try and not make any trouble and be almost invisible and so far so good. The kids asked if they could all go together and check it out and away they went. Little did I know that they get there by dinghy, driven by the 9 year old!!

Regardless, they all lived and I even let them going swimming again alone the next day. Later in the day, I went to check it out with them and WOW. A little piece of paradise hidden in the mountain side. So far so good. No one has kicked us out. I hope it last for the next two months! Wish us luck.

September 19, 2008

Our last month in Toronto

(We were so busy in TO that I didn't get a chance to write about our final month. I need to regress for just one post, so I don't forget this chapter in the adventure.)

We spent our last month in Toronto, living at my brother Robs. He lives right next to the Royal York Hotel and across from the Union Station. It couldn't of been a more perfect location, right in the heart of TO for our final month.

For those of you who don't know Rob he is my little brother. He is 11 months younger than me. I taught him how to crawl, walk and climb out of his crib. We were and still are best friends. We grew up building forts together and playing hide and go seek. I can't tell you how many times I told myself when we were kids to never speak to Rob again. No one could get me as angry as Rob could get me. We are both stubborn 100%. It would never fail though....a couple of hours later we would be out playing again...and so the cycle would continue and still continues to this day!

When Graham and I made this new plan to leave in May and come back and live/work in Toronto for August, the only missing piece was where were we going to stay. Rob didn't even hestitate, he said of course we would stay with him. A family of four moving into his two bedroom condo. Rob is the most generous person I know. He has made sure that our family has remained close over the years. Rob has planned and paid for holidays ranging from Houseboating on the shuswap, to Disneyland, to a motorhome!

This month with him was really good. We ate like kings and caught some movies, we played Rockband way too much, we got addicted to Entourage, we went for lunch, we talked, and we laughed. We hardly noticed that the four of us were sleeping in a 9*9 size room!

I also got to spend a month at work, with people I love hanging out with. I should of been paying them. I miss it already.

We had a really nice send off in Rob's party room. Yet another good bye party. Our family from Kingston even made it down (thanks Theresa, Brian and Alan!).

Toronto was 100 times better than I ever could of imagined when we first moved there. I can't help but think about all we wouldn't of seen, if we had stayed in Alberta and hadn’t swallowed our fear and made the move. All the people and experiences we would of missed out on.

I am hoping that someday I can reflect on our time here in Grenada the same way but for now we are at the beginning and each adventure begins the same way...with a bit of fear, trepidation, anxiety and of course....EXCITEMENT! internet yet!

September 16, 2008

Graham says I complain too much

Graham says I complain too much

Ok, so maybe I do complain a bit too much but geesshhh I am not looking for anyone to solve my problems, I just am saying what I am feeling. It is way too HOT and my back hurts from the new pillow and my throat hurts from who knows what and even though the water tastes great I worry that it might not be good to drink and there are huge strange caterpillars I keep finding on the walls and I spotted a cockroach next to the bed yesterday and did I mention that it is crazy HOT here.

I am trying to adjust and we are getting into a routine. Today was day one of homeschooling. It went pretty well....ok, to be totally honest, we had a few moments of tension. We all need to get use to each other's styles and the kids have to realize that we won't always just know the answer, that we need to work it out together and we need to realize that not everything they do will be A+ work. We will get there I am sure but day one was a little stressful. At one point Alex was looking at me and I swear if I could have read his mind he would have been punished for a year!

During the day Graham bought me a pile of wet laundry that needed to go out on the clothes line. I was at the table schooling with the kids and I looked at him in shock. I thought I would refrain from fighting in front of the kids and we went to the laundry room and I asked him why the heck he couldn't hang the clothes on the line...? He said that in this country men had roles and women had roles and that we should respect this and that if we didn't we might be viewed a bit differently by our neighbors. I didn't have the energy to fight about it (cause did I mention how HOT it is) so I took the laundry and hung it up. Given that Graham actually washed all the clothes, made breakfast and lunch and had swept the floor, I didn't think I had much of an argument! Dad and Cheryl decided to stay in Grenada for awhile longer, so this is great. It feels so much more normal with them nearby. We had a really good time staying on their boat and Grandpa Griff is a big kid, so the kids love it. Dad and Cheryl have both really embraced Grenada and they know about everything here, from buses to doctors. Dad also went and talked to customs about our things that we took off his boat and he sorted it all out with them. Thank goodness!

So remember my favorite saying...."Bite off more than you can chew and then chew it".....I am thinking I might need to spit some out!

I will get the kids to write the next couple of blogs.


September 13, 2008

Naked Artemo

We checked on Artemo and work is well underway. She basically looks naked. The coach roof is stripped down to nothing and you can see right inside her. When we arrived, there were about 5 guys working hard on her and the woodworking guy was off to the side, shaping new wood to put back in. The fiberglass for the new roof is also sitting there. It was strange to see her in this state. On one hand, I felt relief that Artemo would be completely looked over and refinished but on the other hand, I wondered it she would ever be back together. It seriously looks like an impossible task at this stage in the game but I am sure it has been done before. We definitely have at least 2 months of work left.

Graham is going to come down on the weekends and start with some of the jobs that will be easier when everything is stripped out like it is. Such as wiring and plumbing. We are going to focus on homeschooling the kids and getting to know Grenada.

The kids went last night to stay on Grandpa Griffs and Cheryls boat. In order for them to stay on the boat we needed to grab a couple of items we had shipped to them and bring them to our apartment. We didn't realize that this was actually a little shifty with customs. After we loaded up the taxi with our dinghy and self steering geer and tried to leave the yard, customs called us back and so began our first run in with the law.

The customs official told us we weren't allowed to take stuff off another boat and that we were breaking the law and there would be HUGE fines. We were already sweating from the heat but we started to sweat even more and our hearts started beating and our hands started shaking.....Our first instinct was to lie! I don't know what we were thinking. We told the fellow that we were just taking the stuff out of our Dads front room, so that the kids could spend a couple nights on the boat. Eventually after he spoke to his boss and had us sign a sworn statement, he let us go but told us we needed to checked back in with him when we put everything ....BACK ON THE BOAT!!! So now we need to figure out a new plan.

We should have just told the guy the truth but we weren't sure which rules we were breaking. We don't want to take all 6 boxes and the dinghy back to Dads boat, so we will let you know what new plan we come up with.

Last night was strange alone in the apartment without the kids. I like it better when they are around. We went for a walk and met a crazy guy with a couple coconuts and a machette, and I think he told us some stuff about his girlfriend but his accent was so thick it was hard to make out, all I have to go on was his actions, which were very graphic.......very strange.

We are heading to Dads boat today and we will spend the night with the kids and them. They are heading out on Tuesday for Venezulla so we need to get our visiting in.


September 12, 2008

Amelia said, "Mom, I feel werid inside"

Amelia and I laid awake last night, on top of the covers, in our bed, in our new apartment, with the windows wide open, listening to the sounds of the crickets and the frogs and the fan and feeling so weird inside. I told Amelia I knew exactly how she felt because I was feeling it to.

We arrived in Grenada in the dark. Grampa Griff and Nana Cheryl met us at the airport and after brief hugs and making of plans to meet up the next day, we jumped in our taxi and we were off to our new temporary apartment.

To arrive at night was a little unsettling. We drove and drove and then headed up a bumpy dirt road. Alex, leaned over and said he was getting a little scared. I was thinking the same thing but then we rounded the bend and there nestled in what felt like the jungle, was our beautiful 4-plex apartment building.

The owners Justin and Gail came down to meet us and made us feel so welcome. I asked Justin if there was any problems with crime or breakins and he said he would "Guarantee" me we would be safe. Their house is right behind our apartment on the hill. Justins wife Gail is a teacher and I just feel really really safe with them so close. Gail has already offered to take Amelia to school with her one day. She has been teaching kindergarten for 23 years.

Regardless of how nice the place was or how nice the owners were. It felt weird to be dropped off with our stuff in the middle of nowhere. The heat was also crazy insane. You guys have no idea how HOT. Like oven hot. Red, sweaty faces hot. Wet back and sticky legs HOT. Yuck. We all fought over the shower. There is no hot water but there is no need for it. The cold water runs warm from the sun.

The good news is that the apartment is brand new. We are the first people to live in it. They even hooked up the cable for us and we will have Internet in 12 days. The mattresses are new. The kitchen is huge. The balcony is pretty. We have a washing machine and lines to dry our clothes. The apartment is surrounded by fruit trees too, very cool....oranges,star fruit, breadfruit, avocados, limes, mangoes, papaya, squash, corn, bananas, newnee, golden apples, coconuts....

I know this freaky feeling with go in a few days but for now we will just push through it and try to resume some regular routine stuff, like grocery shopping, family dinners, games, and Gilmore girls.....

September 09, 2008

7 years in the making...

Tomorrow morning at 6am we leave for Grenada! 7 years in the making and tomorrow is the official beginning of our three year journey.

As I was packing today, I found a picture of the kids standing at the wheel of the first sailboat we ever stood together on as a family. The picture was taken at the 2006 Toronto Boat Show. I remember the day as if it was yesterday. I remember walking up to the Humber sailing college booth and I blurted out our dream, just as I always do and unfortunately the two fellows workin' the booth, weren't the most positive in the world. I guess in hind sight. We must of sounded crazy. We had moved to Toronto and we wanted to sign up for sailing lessons in the spring because we needed to learn how to sail since we "Were going to sail around the world!"...who could blame him for thinking we were crazy.

I remember Graham whispering not to tell anyone else. Of course anyone who knows me, knows that I don't keep secrets to well!

So here we are 7 years after Graham came home with his dream. After he came home with the book that inspired him. 7 years after he told me that we didn't have to be sailors to live this dream.

Where did the time go? Is it really happening? Are we making all the right choices? Oiyyy, my head is spinning. Some of you have asked..."How am I feeling?"...Well, I am feeling so strange. I thought it would be easier to leave. I feel worried this time around, doing this life changing thing, with my kids. I am in charge of making sure they are happy and healthy. I want to do my job 150%. I wish life had some guarantee that we will all be safe and sound.

I have to say that the chapter of our lives in Toronto, has been amazing. The people we have met and the amount we have all grown is HUGE. I think back three years ago and Graham saying to me..."Maybe we should move to Toronto"...I thought he was NUTS!!! My mom thought he was crazy. I remember her describing an inner city green space...gangs....I thought there was no way in hell I would move to Toronto.

Now here we are three years later and I can't wait to come back. The city provided us with everything we needed. Work, Good Friends, School, facilities to learn to sail, great food, great green spaces..everything. We will miss it.

I can't wait to bring you all along on this journey. I am scared. I am excited. I am worried. I am happy. I am sad. I am feeling a little lost. I am also feeling really really right. I know you all want
honesty and I am going to tell it like it is as we live our dream. Thanks so much for your support. We feel it.

Miss you all already....Julie

August 24, 2008

Alex and Amelia visit the Sparks! - by my sister Ann-Marie

The Perry kids stayed with us for 19 days, and man did we have fun. The time flew by so fast! I tried to convince Julie to let the kids stay a while longer, but I guess she missed them too much.

So what do you do with 7 kids for a couple of weeks? What didn't we do? These kids know how to have fun! They organized cooking contests, made a travelling juice box sales business, walked to the candy store and Dairy Queen numerous times, and played at the park every day. They made a movie, 'Pepper in the Pasta II', played in the backyard pool, and even gave me a foot massage. There was never a dull moment. They made jewelry, made a Barbie tent, and even did some homeschooling. All the kids had so much fun playing with their cousins, especially the girls who would disappear for hours at a time. They always had big plans and lots of energy. They were even nice about including Joe in some of the play. We all wish Alex and Millie could have stayed longer!! Come back and visit any time!

I asked everyone to tell me their favorite memory from the visit and this is what they said:

Zac - I liked staying up late with Alex every night and watching movies and TV.
Katie - I liked walking downtown and going to the park and playing grounders.
Sarah - I liked making 'Pepper in the Pasta II' and going to the park with the red slide and playing tag.
Mandy - When we went to Big Hill Springs
Joe - I liked when Alex fed a hotdog to a spider at the cabin (Okay, this isn't a memory from the visit, but Alex obviously made quite the impression on him at the cabin!)
Shane - Shane remembers having to kick Alex off Runescape every time he wanted on the computer and how happy the girls seemed playing together all the time.
Ann-Marie - My favorite memories were meal times. I loved looking at all the happy faces around the kitchen table, and the conversations were awesome.

We are all sad to see Alex and Millie leave. Sarah's journal entries pretty much sum up how we all feel.

August 15th
Today we packed for Millie and Alex to go. We went to Dairy Queen. Millie and Alex are going to go soon. Then for the rest of the day we were crying.

August 16th
Today it was so HOT!!!! We were still crying because Millie and Alex left. Joe pooped on the floor. Today was a bad day!!!

August 09, 2008

Living at the Sparks - by Alex

Before our trip across Canada Amelia and I thought that maybe we could stay at our aunt's house for a couple of weeks in August. So we phoned her up and she said yes, even with her 5 children at home. Which is great!

So here I am now at the Sparks house. So far it has been great. We've gone to the parks, watched movies, played hide and seek and yes...I played some video games. The Sparks are the same as always, there is the occasional cry of....."Joe hurt me". I barely ever see my sister, she is always playing with the girls. Here is the funny part....Zac called me "homeless" a.k.a. my cousin. He is repeating parts of the movie Eight Crazy Nights, which gets annoying. Lol :-)
Over the past few days we have cooking contests. I came in third, Amelia second and Sarah first. The girls are addicted, so everyday they keep on making breakfast. Yesterday me and Zac went to Blockbuster to rent a video game. The girls went to the candy store, I don't know which one is better?
Anyway overall it has been a good time at the Sparks house. I know for sure it will continue to be fun, even with the screams and shouts of everyone here at the Sparks household.


July 31, 2008

We left our kids in Alberta

Well we are off. Our month long goodbye tour as a family of 4 has drawn to an end. We said good bye to Alex and Amelia and left them with my sister (Ann-Marie) until the middle of the month. After everything we have been through these past two months it felt so strange to say goodbye to them and it feels so strange to be alone.

My sister has five kids ranging in ages from 3 to 14, two boys and three girls. I was shocked when she said she would love to have my two for a couple of weeks. She even suggested we leave them til the end of August but we are still thinking on that one.

Ann-Marie home schools her five kids. She has strong opinions on many things but never pushes them down your throat. She quietly educates and thank god she does. She is the number one reason for so many great experiences in my life, home birthing, breastfeeding and attachment parenting.

She believes in the law of attraction and I have seen it at work in her life. She never settles and she and her husband Shane have begun living their lives with no fear. Instead of wishing for the life they want, they are living it! It is very inspirational.

Ann-Marie, Shane and the five kids are saving to meet us in Egypt. They have set their goal and we cannot wait for us to meet up and explore that amazing country together.

I will try and get the kids to write a couple of times over the next two weeks about their time at their cousins. As for Graham and I, we are about 3 hours outside of Chicago and excited about returning to work next week. We are both craving a bit of focused work time. We also can't wait to see our friends and Rob, and sit on a few patios with no worries of kids to run home to! Thanks Ann-Marie and Shane, Graham and I will enjoy these next two weeks alone.

July 30, 2008

Finding your inner strength

This story happened a few days ago but it really signified for me how we each need to find that little piece of something inside that drives us to overcome our fears and challenge ourselves.

Mom, Graham and I, my sisters five kids and our two kids, headed out for a picnic at the Discovery Canyon. Discovery Canyon is a little man made river and beach that kids tube down. When we got there mom and I quickly figured out that it was going to be a bit of an exhausting day. One of us needed to walk up to the start of the river with the kids and the tubes and the other needed to wait at the bottom at the beach and watch the two littlest ones (Joe 3 and Mandy 5). Now Alex and Zac were up and gone and of course needed no assistance. Amelia and Katie were also self sufficient. The problem was that Sarah needed a little bit of help in certain parts of the river. Mom or I would need to enter the river and give her a push in the right direction or help her out of a bind at various points. Not fun, so after quite a few runs, I asked Graham to take a shift going up with the girls.

After a few minutes I looked up the river and could see Graham standing on the side. From my vantage point I couldn't see Sarah but I knew he must be looking at her. He didn't look angry but right away I knew that he had decided that if she wanted to tube the river she was going to need to do it herself. Part of me wanted to run up there and smack him and tell him to get in there and help her but part of me also wondered if maybe his approach was the right one.

Amelia and Katie made it down the river and walked back up to the point where Sarah was stuck and Graham was standing. Graham told me later that they both begged him to enter the river and help Sarah down. Graham wasn't budging. Finally after a while, Sarah realized she couldn't do it and got out and climb up to where Graham was. She began to cry and Graham and her started walking back. She was walking behind Graham. I felt so bad but I thought better not to focus on it. I went to the picnic blanket and called everyone for lunch and mass chaios began, "Who wanted ham?..." ...."This sandwhich has mustard on it..."..."Where's my juice..." and then I came to Sarah's sandwich and I looked up to hand it to her and she was nowhere to be found.

We began looking and then I realized that one tube was missing. We were shocked, never in a million years would I have looked back up that river for her. Graham had already started over there and I was quite a few paces back but at the same moment we had scanned from the start of the river, all the way to the base and our eyes reached Sarah finishing the ride and getting ready to come to shore, at the exact same moment.

We were literally in SHOCK. We were witnessing, a child who I have known since the day she was born, find that inner strength that each of us has. She was NOT going to let the river beat her. She didn't need Graham, she didn't need Katie, she didn't need Amelia...she was going to do it all on her OWN. As she walked towards us I was surprised that she wasn't smiling or looking proud. She was crying and to be honest she looked angry. I think the anger and sadness truly signified the size of her accomplishment. We all erupted in a round of applause as she approached.

I asked her later who she was mad at...I was wondering if maybe perhaps her anger at Graham had driven her but she said...."I was just mad because I wanted to do it!"

There it was for me, my life lesson, from my beautiful, complex, brave niece. It doesn't matter if it is a river you tube down or sailing around the just have to WANT to do it and anything is possible.

July 29, 2008

Mom's House

We visited mom on the same week that she was babysitting my sister's five kids. In total mom's 900 sq foot home with one working shower, had 11 people and 1 dog staying in it! The kids were over the top happy to have all of their cousins there and to be spoiled rotten by mom. She managed to take them all horseback riding, tubing, swimming, water parking, hot tubing, had a camp fire, to the park, rock painting, the movies, the farmer market, church, and the list goes on and on!!! You could tell that her goal from the get go was to "SPOIL"! Well.....goal was achieved.

Now the volume level in the house was way beyond acceptable, especially at meal time but Mom just kept on trucking. She is truly amazing. Graham and I were done on about day two :-).  I figured that the easiest thing to do was just to GO NOWHERE....but mom insisted on not letting the numbers intimate her. She even invited up Jason, Chantelle and Justin on Friday night to stay over (now we were up to 14 people) and she made a couple of roasts and a huge dinner. Ok, you get the point......this is one Nanny who isn't slowing down anytime soon.

It was funny to watch her parent young kids again. I realized that so much of who I am is made up of her. She has huge emotions. She doesn't mince words. She doesn't often hold her tongue. She needs to talk out any problems that appear, to death. She loves with such intensity that I have never seen it matched. It is the kind of love that you feel to your core. You never doubt it; you know there is never anything you can do to lose it. 

Mom's unconditional love is the super glue that binds our family together.  It hasn't mattered where we have lived (from Australia to Dawson Creek) we have all remained close. She has raised kids with both "Roots" and "Wings". I love you mom and I can only hope that I can follow in your footsteps and raise my kids with the same sense of security and strength that I feel from your love.

July 24, 2008

Candle Lake - by Alex

Over the past few days we heard a lot of great stories but I will only touch on to a few.

Our grandparents were fishing in September, when a flying saucer came overhead. They said it sounded like a flock of birds taking off.  Grandpa Elwood said he pointed his rifle at it but great grandma Donna said don't because last week a boat was recovered and people were missing on the same lake. Abduction?  Lasers? Who knows? But it disappeared in one zip.  They went back to town to tell people about their experience, but all they got in return was....are you drinking?

You might not think this but my Great Grandma use to hunt and fish. For instance she shot moose and deer from her boat. Actually she's won trophies for hunting and she catches pickerel a type of fish.

I was surprised when my Grandpa said that he could feed wild deer out of his hand. In a day or so we had pancakes and since we had extras we feed the deer out of our hand and we kept on going back for more pancakes.

Over the past few days in Candle Lake we have had something like a family reunion because we have been meeting so much family, some we have never met before. It was great to see my Great Grandparents alive and well. We even made some new friends like Matthew my cousin that I had never met before.

Well Candle Lake is going to be one of the highlights of our trip

Miss you all


July 23, 2008

History taken down a notch

Ok, so I have learned about WW2 in school. I have heard about it on TV. I have read about it in books and magazines but the truth is and I hate to admit this, it kind of bored me. It just didn't touch me close enough to home. It was a time that I just couldn't comprehend.

Well things are very different now. We were all at the kitchen table in Candle Lake, Saskatchewan and the kids and I were doing a puzzle and Graham and his Grandpa Elwood were talking. The conversation came around to WW2 and the allied invasion of Europe in 1944 and Elwood began to recount for us the Canadian invasion of Juno Beach in France.

"We arrived at Juno beach in boats and we were all unloaded into the water. We were in our full gear and boots and heavy packs and guns. The water was up to our necks and for some of the men it was over their heads. Right away we started to struggle. Trying to make our way to shore with all the weight on us, was hard. Several men began to drown and we were trained to keep moving and we weren't allowed to stop and help. We made it to the beach facing a hail of bullets from the German positions: there was no time to stop and catch your breath or take a break. Gun fire was on us and we had to "clear" the German bunkers on the higher ground at the edge of the beach. We fought in lines. The first line would go forward and fight and then drop and then the second line would go forward and drop. It gave each team a few moments to reload, etc. As your friends would get hit and wounded around you, you had to just keep running. Months of training had been drilled into us that if you stop you would never get started again. We fought for a week solid with no rest. We had a bit of reprieve from the gun fire at the end of the week, enough so that we could get a bit of rest. We ate biscuits that swelled up in your stomach and made you think you were full. We drank any water we could find and put tablets in it to purify. "

As we sat and listened, it became so real. History wasn't something we couldn't see, it was one soldier, telling his story. It hit us all. The kids had stopped their puzzle at this point. I had moved closer. We were pouring over pictures and memorabilia. Everything seemed so clear now.  The gratitude I felt was overwhelming.

Wouldn't we be lucky if all history lessons could be taught by someone making the history. Taken down to an intimate level that we can all comprehend. The kind of level that makes us ask all the questions that fill in the blanks because we are so drawn in.

Elwood went back to Juno beach for the first time in 1995. He had a picture of it. It looked beautiful. He described how strange it felt to stand there. He also had a picture of the endless rows of graves of all of the Canadian soldiers. He said that this is when his emotions really rose to the surface, as he walked around and saw so many of his friend's names.  

I can't thank Elwood enough for sharing his stories with us. It was a couple of hours that none of us will ever forget.