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Lessons from a family vacation-the west coast edition

September 19, 2016


Dear Children,

A change is as good as a break.

We have just returned from another grand adventure all through British Columbia.

If there was one overlying mantra for this trip, it was this "a change is as good as a break". This wasn't a restful trip, but it was instread a big change. A change from and Edmonton summer to a Vancouver one. A change from "5 kids to get off to school" routines to "5 kids living in a 500 square foot condo" routine. A change from my family driving in 7 different directions, to all 7 of us driving for 5537 kilometers. Some of the changes were actually harder than had we stayed home, but they allowed us to do some great things together. A fresh perspective and some novelty does the mind good every now and again. So if you every find yourself feeling trapped and a rest isn't possible, find something you can change and give it a try.






Be curious and ask questions

It was so fun to witness your first ocean experience. Later, at the Vancouver Aquarium during the "wet lab" you bombarded the marine biologist with excellent and thoughtful questions. He told me after he hadn't been challenged with questions like that in a long time. Questions like, do beluga whales have a dominant flipper (like right or left handedness)? Turns out, some do. Don't ever lose that insatiable curiosity for life. If you ever feel yourself losing it, see section 1 above.






Family surf lesson

As a parent I often wonder if my efforts are really worth it. Family outings seem to take so much work. I am always tempted to just to stay home and hide under the blankets.  Getting 6 people into wetsuits and 6 surfboards down a long path to the beach and then spelling each other off so the baby was always being supervised and didn't drown while the rest of us were surfing WAS SO MUCH WORK. But it was also SO WORTH IT. It was worth it because it was so foggy and lovely on the beach. It was worth it because then the sun came out and it was still so lovely on the beach. It was worth it because we tried something new and we did it together. Your father and I didn't let having 5 kids or having a baby stop us from doing something we'd been dreaming about. You just had to come along with us to our dream. And somehow, that makes the experience better than if he and I had left home and done it ourselves. I can't explain it any more than that. That's just the magic of families.



Our 4 hikes were as follows:







In case you didn't notice, all our hiking trails, had a theme: disaster and destruction!


We did this intentionally. Your father and I want you to learn about real stuff. Did you know that Tofino had a military outpost before it was a surf town? Or that one hundred years ago, Bankhead was the place to be, not Banff. The mystique of these wrecks and the stories behind them captured our attention and imagination. When you are on the site of a wreck you can't help but wonder about the people. What would it have been like to be them? Their narratives did all seem to have one common thread-expect the unexpected. History tends to repeat itself, so take heed.

There are 7 of us—7!!! I am constantly counting, checking and counting again (especially around large bodies of water like the Pacific Ocean). At your age, that is the meat and potatoes of my job. When I get to take just one of you out alone on a date, it's like dessert. And when that outing is a chocolate tour of Seattle (Karen), it's really like dessert!!!



The challenge to become

I, like most parents think a lot about who you will be when you grow up. I'm not talking about your profession or how you earn a living. Don't get me wrong, I'm excited to see what you do with your life and what path you follow vocationally speaking. Far more often, I find myself considering the kind of person you will grow to be. The character traits that will go with you into any job, into any city and every relationship. I thought a lot about these traits on our trip, actually. If family life is the school where you have a chance to learn and internalize these values, then family vacation is where you work overtime at practicing them. When you are squabbling in the back seat I turn to you and say "be a problem solver and figure this out". Or when you are whining about having to carry a heavy load, or walk forever, I will tell you that you are a hard worker and that's what I love about you. If grumble that you are hungry (which, from my point of view, seems to be almost constantly), my rhetoric is "you are patient, show me what patience looks like in this situation". No matter what you decide to do with your life I can guarantee it will go better if you grasp a few key character traits now. Teaching you those character traits is a job that I take very seriously and weighs very heavily on me. After all, someone else can teach you how to be an architect, or a doctor, or a chef, but I am your mother, so if I don't show you how to be a problem-solver, or hard worker, or show patience, who will?




My children, let me be perfectly honest with you. I don't love every single minute of mothering you. Some stretches are just cold and hard and exhausting. This past month with you was still very exhausting, but it was also light and fun and breathtaking. Our month away has taught me that our house may be in Edmonton, but our home is wherever we are. You are my home. It is my privilege to be a member of the same family as you. You are what makes me feel at home, and for that I will be forever grateful.

Until our next adventure,





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