Our awesome daycare

When we brought Arthur home from the hospital, both Julia and I had shared strong feelings of wanting the best for him. This is normal for parents to feel. After a year of mat leave, the hardest thing for Julia was giving him over to someone else to raise. I was right there with her on that that too. With hearts wide open, children absorb their environment and the actors within in, sponging up whatever that environment is. If we want to raise children to stand tall and strong, they need a deep foundation. They also need fewer screens and more outdoors time.

It was with this in mind that triggered a high degree of anxiety when looking for a daycare for Arthur. However, the universe shined light on this for us, after the last daycare that Julia called that first day returned our call, indicating there was an opening. We took a deep look at the website, went to visit, and were a little stunned with what we found.

An ECE III (Early Childhood Educator Level 3), Cheryl raised five kids of her own. She has been raising kids in her daycare for 21 years. Her child care environment is meticulously created with child-size play facilities, and occupies the entire first floor of her house. Her philosophy of child care is as follows:

I believe that a childcare program should be modified to meet the specific needs of the children in care. Each child is a unique individual and requires a flexible program that responds to their needs and strengths and allows them to achieve their developmental potential.

My program is constantly changing depending on the ages, abilities and support needs of the children currently enrolled in my care. Activities are adapted to include all children regardless of their age, gender, beliefs or abilities.

Curiosity, discovery, creativity, cooperation and independence are fostered through play-based activities, active exploration and meaningful learning opportunities. I strive to include activities and experiences that allow all the children to develop socially, physically, emotionally and cognitively.

And you know what? She delivered. As two parents who care deeply about what their child is doing at daycare, we couldn’t be happier having Cheryl as our son’s caregiver. She has embodied her philosophy every step of every day. She has been proactive, informative and fun. Arthur has a deep trust for her. This speaks volumes. She has kept him outside, interested and playing outdoors getting to know the bugs, birds and trees. They go for near daily walks, spend time in free, risky play, and creating with loose parts both inside and out

As our family prepares to move into Whole Village, Arthur has already been prepared for a more natural, harmonious life within a cooperative community. He hasn’t been raised with screens, and his curiosity is high. He’s used to being outdoors, he’s social and likes people.

Thoughtful and careful, Cheryl has delivered beyond our wildest dreams. And it feels so right. She’s been our greatest resource on our son, suggestive when we request it, but never pushing anything. I really can’t say enough good things about her.

She is a member of the Manitoba Child Care Association’s Board of Directors, and is the chairperson of the MCCA Family Child Care Committee. She’s smart, engaged, active and compassionate.

It was also by way of a question when she asked me to submit a request for proposal about what ecovillages are for NatureSummit that she started a small snowball rolling that I have picked up and been running with for a few years. In 2016 I presented my first presentation about ecovillages at NatureSummit. I have presented several since then, learning lots and enjoying getting to know more people with ecovillage interests in Manitoba.

Cheryl, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you for everything you’ve done for our family, for helping raise our son. It will be so very different not having your influence on Arthur. Thank you for giving him that foundation, for creating the roots of empathy and trunk of resilience. We will miss you.

Gee, where did September go?

It’s mid-October as I write this, and so much has changed already.  The leaves have fallen (overnight), we’ve been through a good several weeks already of low single-digit weather, and our house is beginning to look rather empty.  The newsletter I produce was renamed from ‘The Co-Creator’ to ‘Our Co-Creators’ as I wanted to give it a more inclusive name.  With the theme of ‘children’ this third issue has received a lot of attention.  It was at NatureSummit on September 14-16.  The article with Rowan Dakota received the most attention our website has ever seen, which was exciting!  October has breezed by before I have finished this post, so I need to wrap this up.

The family is gearing up for a big change too.  I plan to write about this very soon.

August 8, 2008

August 8, 2008.  8/8/08.  Ten years ago, I had a big part of my soul crushed.  It was just before going out to Jeremy’s cottage.  I had been trying to work out visitation with my six, soon to be seven-year-old with his mother.  She flat out wasn’t being cooperative, and I didn’t understand what she was doing.  All I understood was that despite having a court order stating I had visitation, I would not be seeing him.  And at this early point in the high conflict, I was seeing things more through his eyes and my head was in a whirl.  Nothing his mother said made sense and my head felt like fluff.

I had been putting aside my own feelings for a while and just trying to do what was necessary and connect with him.  But I couldn’t build a consistent relationship because visitation wasn’t being consistent.

Jeremy stopped by my house to pick me up for the trip to the cottage, and I smiled and treated him like a good friend.  But I didn’t want to talk about what had happened just beforehand.  I didn’t want to bring him down.  I didn’t want my shit to make an exciting weekend difficult for him or anyone else.

And so I was quiet.  I was like Will Byers in Season 2 of Stranger Things, trying to hold in this huge awfulness so that it wouldn’t impact the people around me.  I went through the weekend perhaps a little quieter than normal.  And that evening, the stargazing lifted me up a little and helped me to connect to that larger universe that I felt I was slipping out of.  The tubing also definitely helped to lift my spirits.

Today, ten years later, I’ve learned a lot.  I’ve changed a lot.  I’m in a fundamentally different place in life.  That six, almost seven year old boy I was trying to connect with is now 16 turning 17.  I have heard very little from him for the past four years.  A few text messages a year.  He walked away from me at 13 because I had a fight with his mother over the phone, and really started cutting into her on her manipulative behavior.  And like I anticipated, she manipulated him into leaving me and never coming back.  The weaponization of my child was clear, deliberate, and reduced me to tears every time.

She has primary custody.  She has controlled all access I have to him, including censoring my communication with him (even kicking me out of shared social media games if I said something she didn’t like) and only carrying out court orders when it was convenient to her.  I was working temp jobs, had some credit card debt and no assets.  My legal aide lawyer stopped returning my calls.  His school stopped talking to me and would only send report cards to her to forward to me.  (The school thing was where I started really getting angry, because I expected at least them to be adults.)

I had to make a very difficult decision.  It would have been easy to fall into depression, to harbor thoughts of hatred and deserved justice.  But I didn’t.  Because that wasn’t the kind of person I wanted to be.  I never ‘wanted a day in court’.  I just wanted her to treat our son like a human being, like he might actually want to be with his Dad and have a relationship with his Dad.  Instead, she couldn’t and wouldn’t let him have that.  And no amount of attempted communication would change that.  I know that I did the best I could for him.  I can look back and know that even if my son wasn’t fully aware of everything I was doing, the people around me who I was talking to about this knew that I was.  This was my business and not something I wanted to burden people with.  The few times I did, the people I was talking to got really weirded out by it.  I suspect it was because what I was grappling with was so far off the mark of basic human decency, and I didn’t want to burden others with my garbage.

In the end the situation became absolute shit and I needed therapy for it.  Recovering from watching your child abused takes time, therapy and tools very few of us receive when we’re raised as decent human beings.

After his dramatic exit, I had to consciously decide to let go and move on.  I would go crazy trying to push a boulder up a mountain when the boulder was part of the mountain, and I was not Sisyphus.

Today I understand that my son’s mother has what is called narcissistic personality disorder.  This means that she would gaslight, lie about little things for no reason, manipulate and abuse.  She and him wouldn’t be present for visitation, and she would never return calls.

And that’s what had been done to me before my friend picked me up and took me to his cottage.  I had felt my son’s feelings be completely ignored by his mother, and it crushed me.  I had always believed that parents cared for their kids, and had my beliefs, and heart, broken.  I felt utterly broken inside, and was just barely holding it together.

The time at Jeremy’s cottage was wonderful.  My disposition was a little down, and when I look at the pictures from the weekend, there was definitely something big going on behind my eyes.  That was me trying to not bring everyone around me down.

Today I have a different life.  I have a wife I love, a four-year-old boy who I love like crazy and we are moving to Ontario soon to start a new life together in an intentional community with shared values.  My first son crosses my mind sometimes, but I’m not part of his life.  I’ll think about him, and sometimes I romanticize about having a relationship with him.  But that romanticism dies quickly when I think about just how much conflict would be reintroduced into my family’s life.  Any decisions along those lines in the future would need to be weighed carefully.

As it stands, I have thrown myself into social action that helps to address climate change.  I feel that if there is anything I can do for both my sons, it’s take action regarding climate change.  Because they very likely won’t have the planet to play on the way I did.

For my birthday, I want you to visualize.

Yeah, today’s the big, Four-Oh.  It’s crazy to think that I’m actually this old sometimes.  At the same time, I’m also happier.  Things in my personal life are pretty damn good, considering where once was.

Early this week, the internet exploded with images that evoke horrors that kick parents in the gut.  The weaponization of children is one of those things that can send a decent, respectful person into an emotional tailspin.  I’ve been there and clawed my way out.  I’ve had my kid weaponized against me, and the legal system threaten to drown me.  The utter lack of empathy for a child and willingness to completely disrespect the emotional needs of a child can hit like swallowing an acid bath.  The callowness and vile of certain humans can be deeply unsettling.  I discovered the hard way, that to a narcissist, other people’s emotions don’t exist.  Even children are there to be manipulated and used to the narcissists own ends.

But this blog post isn’t about narcissists.  It’s about finding hope and empowerment when the darkest of human nature comes out.

So here’s what I want for my birthday.  I want you to take information from the images, and as clear as you can, picture yourself walking through the cages. You can be whoever or whatever you want as you do this visualization.  You could be Iron Man busting through the ceiling.  Maybe you’re the Buddha, floating through on a cloud, or the Doctor, teleporting in with your Tardis.  Or an angel bringing in heavenly music.  It doesn’t matter.

Once you’re there, open your heart.  Open your hands.  Open your mind.  Send in positive vibes, healing energy, calming effects, whatever it is that you get from this image you are picturing yourself as.  For just a moment, take a moment to set aside the horror you feel, and send those kids some love.

The point here is to do some mental activity that reduces both your own stress, and possibly, just possibly, reduces the stress those kids are feeling.  If you can, include those heartbroken parents too, because they need it too.

If you can do this, I would consider you having given a gift.  It’s not a gift to me that I want, but rather a gift of calm, loving attention those kids need.   And if you could, do it again.  And again.  As we do this, let’s also remember to be unattached to the results.


Returning to your world

For the past three weeks I have been out of touch, and for that I am sorry. The first two weeks were at Whole Village, an ecovillage in Ontario. The past week I was at a stateside retreat.

There has been much growing, much seeding, and there is fruit coming to bear as well.

I am in the process of getting social media back up and percolating through it’s various membranes. Some will take longer than others.

Thank you for your patience with me as I return to your world.

Whole Village – September 2017

In September of 2017, the Buller family visited Whole Village near Caledon, Ontario.  I had originally read about it in Finding Community, but hadn’t looked too closely.  It came up again when we started googling for other communities in Canada.

This time upon looking closer, the family was very interested.  We visited during the community’s September 2017 orientation.  We arrived a day beforehand, staying in one of their AirBnBs.  In the meantime, before the orientation, we checked out Orangeville and St. Jacobs.  We find this area of Ontario just gorgeous.  It’s so very different from the Great Plains that both Julia and I have grown up on.

Whole Village is a community with well over a decade of establishment.  Their intake process is graduated, and membership has a number of different tiers.  For ten dollars a month we became Supporting Members, and are subscribed to their meeting minutes so we can start getting an idea of what is talked about in their meetings.

A lot of thought had been given to this, and I am a fan of intake procedures.  A great reason why intake procedures are a good thing is when potential members ask weird questions and current members get a feeling of this person being clingy and high maintenance.  An intake procedure screens people and doesn’t destabilize a carefully cultivated equilibrium in a community.

John Gagnon conducted the orientation, giving us a good idea of the community policies, why they do what they do, and their plans for the future.  The fact there was an orientation was a plus for me.  Seeing the community take steps to bring ecovillage aspirants up to speed is important to me, as it gets people onto the same page as the community quicker, staving off potential conflict.  This is particularly helpful if people are visiting and want to get an idea of what the community is all about.

Another feature my family really appreciates is the residential building, also known as ‘Greenhaven’.  With about 20,000 square feet subdivided into eleven different suites with anywhere from one to five bedrooms per suite, it affords a great balance between having our own space and shared space.  Suites are spread out in multiple wings, and because it’s horizontal development, it doesn’t feel like an apartment either.  Laundry is shared, and we don’t have to go outside for it.  There is a playroom for kids right next to the kitchen, as well as a play area outside.  There is also an office near the kitchen.  The dining space is the size of a double-sized yoga room, and there is a separate library.  This sort of arrangement changes the carbon footprint of multiple families, severely negating the expenditure.  It’s a great blend of the dormitory-style housing found in Twin Oaks and the individual housing of say, Northern Sun Farm.

The big thing about the suites is that there are no ranges for a full stove, rather each has a kitchenette.  The builders had to keep it to just one shared kitchen due to zoning restrictions.  Already Julia is working out ways of cooking and baking without a full stove and oven.  Electric induction elements are one option, and are about $80 at Costco.  Tabletop convection ovens are also available for about $150 at Costco.  The community runs a CSA farm, and residents buy shares, so there is always organic vegetables to eat.

There are shared meals during the week, giving community members the opportunity to get to know each other.  The community asks for 5 to 8 hours of work a week, which is unpaid but includes things like building maintenance, gardening or other responsibilities of home ownership.  As a current homeowner, this is exactly the kind of arrangement that I like, as it lets me do work that is appreciated by my neighborhood and benefits more than just me and my family.  I’m at a place in my life where I’d rather my work go directly towards my community.  Win-win, right?

In addition to Greenhaven is the original farm house where more people stay, as well as campers where people have their own space too.

The property was designed in the beginning by a Masters of Landscape Architecture with permaculture in mind, which is also pretty cool.  It gives the layout a very organic feel. The community runs permaculture design courses on their land, which is not only a great method of living their ecological values in the world, but a potential revenue stream for them.  A swimming hole can also be found on the property, as well as a fire pit.  The land was beautiful and felt spacious, despite having a large facility like Greenhaven on it.

The September visit was a great time for the family, and we are headed there again on April 22, 2018.   We will be there for a two week immersion, discovering more about Whole Village, the people that live there, and what life is like for them.  I will post another write-up after we get back.

(Edited 4/19/2018 10:43 PM)

View the photo gallery on ecovillages.ca here:




As far as my views and beliefs of the world, let’s start with that proverbial glass of water.  Most people like to look at a glass of water from the side.  It limits you to only two perceptions; half full or half empty.  If you look at it from the top, it’s likely a round circle with the surface of the water visible.  If the water is clear, you’ll see a diffracted bottom.  You can tell water is there, but actual level is debatable.  It may even appear full.  If you look at it from the bottom looking up, you may not see very far at all, vision will be hindered by the bottom.

It’s a matter of perspective.  That glass is full as far as I’m concerned.

Scooby Doo, Where Are You?

An oldie from my April 12, 2007 entry on LiveJournal.   Seems oddly relevant for today.

Right now the Mystery Machine is stuck between two pairs of tracks.  The first, is a runaway president.  It’s horn is loud, scary and we can’t tell if it’s a freight train or a caboose, but there’s lots of smoke and definitely oil cars.  The second–and this is one in the distance–is one of climate change, the smoke from the first obscuring some of it, but we can begin to make out a long freight train approaching.

The Mystery Machine doesn’t start, and it’s not going to.  These old vans moves verrrry slowly on their own.  However, you can’t just leave the van and run, because unfortunately, it’s our reality.  We don’t have a backup plan, yet.

What’s the choice people are forgetting in their panic?  To get out of the Mystery Machine and push.


An oldie from my July 17, 2007 entry on LiveJournal.

If a vortiquat falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, did it really fall?

Well, you have to know what a vortiquat is before you can determine what happens when it falls and what–if any–sound occurs.  So without an understood symbol for the frame of reference, it’s just abstraction.

If a video camera with a microphone records a tree falling in the forest, it still falls and makes noise.  If a video camera with a microphone records a vortiquat falling in the forest, it’s still abstraction because there’s no symbol in consciousness for reference.  Whoever views the tape will see and hear the tree, but the flexibility of their consciousness will determine whether or not they can sense the vortiquat.

Kids and Screen-time

I recently read this article on PsychologyToday, and it really drives home a lot of my intuition about screens. I’ve always been hesitant to put screens in front of the very young.  It’s captivating in a way that leaves me unsettled.  When we’re older, being captivated by a movie or show we enjoy is a real treat.  It’s an escape.  With the young, there is a vast developmental difference.

Now I’m not a neurologist, just an observer.  When I observe the very young (say under three years old) being captivated by a screen, I find myself unsettled.  This unsettled feeling delineates from a knowing that this is very new technology and we do not know the full extent of it’s effects.  It’s one thing for adults to design a technology that can help other well-balanced, reasonable adults share and communicate.  But when that technology gets in front of people who haven’t learned critical thinking faculties, much less communication, who are still in their very formative phases of human development, there are more unknowns here for me than knowns.  And when it comes to the healthy development of children, I like knowns.  I like knowing that something is beneficial and constructive.  Just because I grew up with something doesn’t mean that it’s beneficial for healthy human development.  And the knowledge of people like Steve Jobs not letting their own kids play with the technology they developed adds more weight to my suspicions.

The message of this article underscores one of the reasons I pursue ecovillages.  Their communal environments are facilitate nature and it’s wisdom, and not the escape of screens.  With all the challenges facing our planet today, I do feel that Richard Louv’s statement of ‘the health of children and the health of the earth [being] inseparable’ all the more relevant.  We need a generation of children more connected to nature, and that isn’t going to happen with screens.