Six reaons NOT to go canoeing with children (and why we do it anyway)

1.  Packing

Packing for three days in the back country takes me at least one full roll-up-the-sleeves-and-set-your-jaw kind of  day.  Especially when my daughters are simultaneously playing, eating, and creating like it’s the last day they’ve got left to live.

Mama’s thoughts: “AUUGGHHH. Can’t you children just sit in one spot for the whole day so we can leave this house clean???”

2.  Leaving

I hereby challenge any loving, mature couple to strap themselves, their kids, their gear and two boats into/onto a small car.  If you are able to manage the feat unscathed, you have my utmost respect.  I owe you even more if your child has diarrhea at the side of the road, five miles after setting off from home.

3.  Repacking

…from the car to the canoe, from the canoe to the campsite, from the campsite to the canoe, from the canoe to the campsite, from the campsite to the canoe… you get the idea

The trip starts with a small river… and a bit of a sprinkle

I know this is supposed to be a “con” picture, but do you see that long natural beach!

4.  The weather

Heard on the radio as we pulled out of our driveway:  “Rain in southern, central, and northern parts of the province… plan on staying at home on the couch with some blankets and a movie…”

Fortunately the rain didn’t turn out to be a problem.  We did encounter wind on the second day.  And, since wind = whitecaps = swamping our canoe, we piled all our gear into the biggest canoe, sent the men off to battle the waves, and then hiked 7 km to our next campsite with the three kids.  I’m not sure who had the hardest job.  Weirdly enough, Stan said it was the highlight of the trip…

Honestly, those whitecaps were bigger than they look!

This was our first trip with another family. It was wonderful having another 2 adults around for situations such as this one.

5.  Winged insects

I spotted approximately two mosquitoes this weekend so I feel sheepish claiming this one, but Susanna did get stung twice by hornets.  Stan looked at me immediately, then at the ground, and asked, “What do we do for this?”  I didn’t get it for a moment and then my eye caught a plantain leaf.  In the next second we were both chewing on plantain to make a spit poultice for her fresh bites.  Plantain acts as an anti-histamine and an anti-inflammatory.  It is also used to draw out poison from snake and insect bites.  Although Susanna wasn’t thrilled to have her parents saliva dripping off her, it did seem to help.

6.  Wildlife

Shalain and I were about 25 meters from our campsite when we heard a rustling noise in a nearby berry patch.  The kind of rustling that makes your blood feel like fire in your veins.  I gripped my bear spray and she got her bear bangers ready; then we met her husband Kent.  He had just run into the same bear.  It stared at him, he stared back, and then it ambled into the raspberries.  Not an epic story after all.

homemade bear bells

So why do we bother to go at all?

I could answer by recommending Last Child in the Woods or reflecting on how it feels like time travel to be in the back country-as if cell phones and blogs like these cease to exist.  Instead, I’ll just post a few more pictures.

I didn’t pack any toys, not even the stuffies, and they survived.

Shalain, Lake and Kent with Belén

Fish from the first day. Belén caught the whopping pickerel (walleye) in the middle. Next time I’ll pack less wieners and more lemon and butter.

Thanks for the bow saw, Derek.

Susanna took this from the car

How do you and your family enjoy the back country?

Any canoe trip recommendations out there?

PS.  About that kayak Stan made… it turns out it needs a few tweaks before we’ll take it on another trip.

We started the trip towing the girls behind us in the kayak. It didn’t track well and the whole thing resulted in a lot of screaming and two soaked kids. After five minutes on the water we ditched the kayak in the bush and repacked.

Ode to a sister

My sister just pulled out of the driveway with my mother, and left three of us waving frantically from the window.  She and her kids spent a week and a half with us; birthday-ing, camping, and just plain living.  Yesterday, as we sat outside folding boatloads of laundry, pitching a baseball to her littlest one, making snacks, and everything in between, I said, “Some people actually live like this.  Women all over the world are living in family groups, managing their house and children together.”

Shade, fresh snap beans, clean laundry, and a sister.

Doesn’t it sound good to you?  It’s so Red Tent-ish.  Imagine always having someone around to ask if your hair looks too greasy to go out, to take over flipping the pancakes while you set the table, or to hash over decisions you’ve already made (sparing your husband the torture).  We may have two cars, flush toilets, independence and all the privacy we want in our society but I think we are missing out on that kind of daily community.

So what are we to do?  Not all of us have sisters close by or any siblings at all.


Somehow we have to wriggle into the lives of other people, and let them wriggle into ours.  It’s a long, slow process adopting sisters though, and it would be so much easier if I had mine around to start with.  If you are lucky enough to have a sister nearby today, tell her to come over!  Trust me.


Besides doing laundry and beans we celebrated a birthday and went camping with the rest of the family.

My sister had a unique idea for the prize at the end of the treasure hunt:

Each child was given a block of ice (frozen with food colouring in a margarine container the night before) and a fork.  Inside the chunk of ice was a bracelet and ring.  The kids had to chip away at the ice to get to their treasure.  The more aggressive types took to smashing their ice blocks on the sidewalk.

Grandma partaking in birthday fun

The raft project: The cousins assembled the logs and Stan helped a little (okay, a lot) lashing it together.

sitting around the fire with grandpa

The kayak is just about ready for its maiden voyage.  Stan made it so we could nest it inside our canoe and car-top them both easily on our Saturn.  Let’s hope it holds water!!

Garlic update: It’s got one week left to cure before I cut off the root hairs and green tops and store it in my basement for the winter.

Starting this blog

I’ve always said I would never start a blog.

It’s a waste of time.  Why not live my life instead of write about it? was my motto.  And now, here I am sitting in front of my computer screen while my kids bang in and out of our screen door on a hot July Saturday.

I changed my mind this morning when I saw Stan bent over his half-made kayak, surrounded by tools, dirty rags, bikes, piles of sawdust, butterfly nets and other paraphernalia crammed into our single car garage.

“I’d like to see this picture in a blog,” I told him as I snapped a photo, “with all the junk and chaos exposed.”  I added after a minute,”I guess the finished product would be nice to see too.”

Just like snapshots of mountain panoramas don’t capture the grandeur, this one doesn’t reveal the full extent of the mess. Check later posts to see it in use!

So that was the straw that broke my never-starting-a-blog back.  I realized I wanted to record the mess of the garage but also the reward of a freshly painted boat.  Of course, this blog isn’t really about boats at all, but the messes we get into and anything we are able to salvage from the process.