living with Autism (ASD)

What is ASD

(Autism Spectrum Disorder?

ASD is a neurological disorder that affects how the brain functions.
The exact cause of ASD is not known.

The way ASD affects an individual can vary a lot from person to person.
It depends on how many symptoms a person experiences
and how severe each symptom is.

A person with ASD may find it hard to connect with other people.
They may:
· have difficulty communicating
· have difficulty with social situations
· repeat certain patterns of behaviour
· show interest in a limited number of activities and interests

These behaviours can happen at school, home or work.  Having ASD can greatly affect everyday activities.

Because no one person with ASD is the same, treatments and therapies are based on each person’s needs.
This boy loves all the soft fuzzy feeling fabric. He has his own style and loves to show it off.

I decided to start this blog post with a definition because the reality is the Autism we live with in our home most likely doesn’t look like any other person you know with ASD. ASD covers a broad spectrum of people and abilities. Just like “typical” people, people living with Autism are all unique. The definition above, although broad, gives us a starting point for what is all classified under the Autism Spectrum.

If I can say one thing we have learnt since receiving our sons diagnosis, 3 years ago, it is to accept each other for our uniqueness not try to change it. We may be slow to adjust and embrace some of this but in our own home we have 5 very unique and sometimes clashing personalities that all bring so much to each others lives. How boring would it be if we were all the same. However some of these unique characteristics can come with bigger challenges.

April is Autism Awareness month and I like to take this opportunity to educate and share with others our experience with Autism. I like to think that I share all year long and am as open about our experiences as possible but I also know as Autism has become more of our “norm” I sometimes forget to share and explain what has all gone on or how hard we are working for things that come so naturally to others.

Took this picture today. He had been to OT this morning with two of his best buddies
and is refuelling with a smoothie before his EA arrives and they do some school work.

Currently our son is 6, and this is a pretty important age for kiddos living with Autism in BC in regards to funding. Under 6, families with a diagnosis have access to $22,000 a year for specific and certified professionals and therapies or programs. I would like to add this is not “free” money and it actually takes a lot of work to even access it. I know for my very first year accessing and using funding took me many hours of online learning and even nights of submitting bills, paperwork, sending emails, etc. Like most things with more practice and experience I have gotten more familiar with using our funding but it still involves a lot of paperwork on my end. Obviously the work is worth it but so often in our society we think of government fundings as hand outs and this is not one of those cases, it has involved countless hours, some tears and a lot of hard work on our end.

For us, the last 3 years were spend researching, applying and hiring/seeing an amazing team of people who supported our whole family. These people became like family to us and helped us with developing goals, communicating to school and even working on things within our home. They were our biggest cheerleaders and supports, they came with me to any school interviews, went above and beyond at making Rowen comfortable and building relationships with him.

One big thing with Rowen is that he cannot be forced into doing anything. He needs to be comfortable and feel safe with someone, which takes time, before he will do any “work”. Anytime we would introduce a new person into his life it would take time to build that trust before they could even start working on his goals. This might seem reasonable and to be expected but here is where the budget matters. Most of Rowens team charges from $130-$160/ hour so if you are spending a couple hours a week with each therapist and you need a couple weeks to build that trust its a lot of $$$. Just like in life when things don’t work out or therapists change you start all over again, and cha-ching cha-ching the whole process sure adds up.

Birthdays were so hard, Rowen would always be so excited for them but a big party was overwhelming
and he would often cry when people sang happy birthday to him.
We are learning to change up the parties (pandemic birthdays have been his fav)
but he is also learning to prepare for the singing.

So Row’s birthday rolls around and he turns 6. At 6 it is assumed children are now entering the education system and a lot of the supports and programs they were receiving and using funding for are now expected to be accessed through school. In fairness I think it is also believed that early intervention has such a big impact (and I completely agree, as I think Rowen is a poster boy for the power of early intervention). Basically when they turn 6 and enter school, it is expected that kids might not need as much support because they have been learning skills from their previous therapies that will help them transition. In theory this is all sounds reasonable and good. Except depending on your needs you might not be able to easily access these resources through the public school system. Like most publicly funded programs the waitlists are long, and the services are shared through out the whole district. So Rowen would not be seeing an SLP or OT weekly at school he would be lucky to see this person once a month or less.

Wanna know the magic number we get now? $6000 thats right, it goes from $22,000 to $6000. This is a complex funding plan and there are many factors, like now a lot of his funding is being allocated to whatever school Rowen is registered with. Essentially the school will get “extra” funding as he is a child that comes with extra needs. Again in theory this is fantastic news, Rowen needs help, Rowen carries funding that will help with costs to get said help, Rowen succeeds.

The reality is all kids have needs, our school system is set up to be efficient, budget friendly and educate the majority. So lots of kids can fit into that mold, but would they be more successful with a different school model? I think possibly, but unfortunately we are working on big picture and sometimes that means individual cases get a little lost. Throw in a pandemic and additional strains on the big school system and it is an opportunity for kids like Rowen to slip between the cracks and get lost, or missed. Not because teachers don’t care or because public school sucks. I think it has more to do with the way our systems are set up, that education has so much to consider and there are many needs within a school system, budgets mean making sacrifices and in a school those sacrifices can include limiting supports to kids who might be able to excel if given the right resources.

First week of kindergarten and all smiles. September 2019

In our school district there are 24 elementary schools, 7 secondary schools and nearly 16,000 students. That means the funding all goes into a big pot for the district and although I believe our child’s school receives the funding specific to the students attending it isn’t necessarily spent on Rowen, but instead they must determine the needs around the school. So, if you have a school where maybe a lot of kids are undiagnosed but require help his funding would be going towards getting access to support multiple kids, or maybe there is a child with more severe needs who’s funding isn’t enough to support the needs he or she has then Row’s funding could go to help support that child. I absolutely am of the belief that each child should receive what they need to be successful and a teacher who is supported in her classroom is going to be much more effective at teaching but we do not live in this “perfect” world. We are all just doing our best and like at home when we have to make decisions regarding our finances and how we can best make our money stretch and please our household the school districts are also trying to do this on a much larger scale with way more people to please.

For us we considered public school but after doing some research we knew that if we were able to give Rowen a different education that might be able to better support his needs then we should and would. It was actually a big picture decision for all of our kids because although we have one child with an ASD diagnosis we actually have three kids who we want to be given the best opportunities at school. With this in mind and seeing so many teachers frustrated with the limited resources in a classroom, we actually realized this impacted not only the child with special needs but all kids in the class. If a teacher is being pulled away by a challenging student it might mean she doesn’t have the time or resources to help a student who is maybe bored or excelling and looking for a challenge. So, in the end we opted to attend an independent Catholic school. While we do pay tuition our school is also partially publicly funded and is also supplemented by the church. Again this is a funding game, and one that is important because it means the school is operating very differently than a public school board. It also means our tuition was what we considered to be fairly reasonable.

Last year was our first experience with elementary school and it was with Rowen entering Kindergarten. It far surpassed any of our expectations. We were so thrilled with our choice in school, the open communication we had with everyone at the school including the principal, vice principal, learning assistance teacher, classroom teacher and his EA (education assistant). This was a big deciding factor in our school choice. Rowen can be easily distracted, requires many body breaks in his day (sitting still is exceptionally hard for him), he has a really tough time with fine motor skills (his muscles work very hard to write, pen to paper) and he can be very easily overwhelmed or overstimulated in busy or loud environments. When he is feeling overwhelmed he will often breakdown or go hide. This can be very hard to dealt with, often requires someone one on one with him and can be time consuming if it was taking a teacher away from the class. One thing we knew he wouldn’t have at a public school is a dedicated EA, at his independent school he would have one for as long as he needed one.

I love that our goal was to not have an EA for Rowen, but for as long as we felt it was beneficial and necessary he would have one. Rowen has come so far in the three short years since his diagnosis largely because of his own hard work but also because of all his amazing supports.

Pre pandemic times Rowen would sometimes get to bring his sisters or cousins to OT and it was a highlight for all.

A giant chunk of his funding was about to change and that would mean we either contribute the difference ($16,000 a year) to continue his programs or find a school that would have enough supports for him and us. I think we did that as best we could! Not only did his school have amazing teachers, his teachers appear to be supported by the school and all the programs they could afford to fund. The school has an active PAC with yearly fundraisers that generated good funding, as well as a healthy church parish that help with funding when needed. I have been amazed at watching the school work so seamlessly at finding ways to make sure everyone (parents, staff and students) have what they need. It has been really cool to watch and something I hope my kids will learn as a life lesson from attending a place where this is just part of the culture. Hi school even employs a private OT to visit weekly and it was an option to have a half hour session in school (we would never receive this at public school).

So after ending last school year from home (enter pandemic) we were very nervous about how this school year would go. Rowen had adapted so well but lots of things were unknown about the 2020-2021 school year. We knew how important routines were for Rowen and also dependability and all of those things were changing quickly in this new world of ours. In addition to Rowen we had Grace entering Kindergarten and we were worried about a pandemic year at school being her entrance into elementary school. It left me researching homeschool options.

Living with Autism may have been a shock and an adjustment but we wouldn’t change a thing and love this boy!

We ended up deciding to take the year and give our kids as much predictability and safety we could. It also had me back to learning a whole new funding game…. homeschool funding works a little different than traditional brick & mortar schools. So our homeschool actually has contributed roughly $11,000 towards services Rowen was already receiving. Again, not “free” money and certainly had to meet strict requirements. It has meant that our homeschool has helped fund our Speech and Language Pathologist weekly, our OT weekly and we have a private EA who works with Rowen from home 4 hours a week. This has been huge in helping have a successful year of homeschooling.

If it weren’t for a pandemic we would not have considered homeschool. However after experiencing this year it has given me a whole new vision of what school systems provide and don’t provide. I love the way we have been able to tailor the kids learning to reflect their interests, our local community, industries and ecosystems and also so much flexibility. We do not do much work from a desk, however we work from a table, outside, in the garden, on the trampoline, at the beach, on the boat… I mean school is not defined by a building or a space. We have flexibility in school hours, and even days. Why not do some school on a rainy Saturday afternoon, sun looks good on a Wednesday we can head out to a park and “skip” school that day. We aren’t really morning people so school starts a little later for us now and that works great, we eat and play in between and we see how we feel and check in with our bodies! It hasn’t been all kumbaya but we are trying to find joy in a year that has been challenging. We miss out friends and our school but we are registered for September and I am confident that the kids I am sending in September are a little more mature, little more secure and feeling prepared for the world out there waiting for them.

Overall living with Autism has been a big learning curve. The learning has been as a family though, it has taught us how to embrace and build on each child’s interests and talents. Instead of trying to make them fit our image of what we thought they would be like we are learning how to support them to find their own interests and strengths. We are all learning that not everyone is the same and that although some things we think should come naturally and easy don’t always and that’s okay. We are learning to accept when others are different than us, to not judge and to find ways to support others. It is okay to he emotional and we are learning appropriate ways to express our emotions. We are also learning ways to calm down or relax, ways to ask for and give space when we need it and just lots of overall life skills. I am so proud of all of my kids, living with Autism is something our whole house lives with and learns from and for that I will forever be grateful for.

If you ever have questions or want to chat about our journey and what it has looked like for us please feel free to message.

Whistler Farlow Family Travel Guide

We have never really been a “Whistler family”. On occasion we would make a day trip out of it and go to play at the playground, enjoy the snow and some good eats! We also have been known to take the scenic route from the cabin in Bridge Lake (Cariboo) and swing by Whistler on the way home. However enter a Pandemic and all of a sudden you start to appreciate and explore places that you took for granted previously.

We did end up making a vacation out of a few Whistler trips over the past year, the hotels we stayed at were Pan Pacific and The Westin. I would say both resorts were great. We were happy with the rooms at both hotels in terms of space and affordability and most important was the pool. Both resorts were doing pre-scheduled pool times which was really nice as it felt like we had a private swim. Both resorts had good locations for walking into the village, but the Pan Pacific was closer to Olympic Village and also offered a complimentary breakfast so it was probably a better value. That being said the beds and pool can’t be beat at The Westin.

Playground in the Olympic Plaza
Nan helping Row do Whistler Nature Kids activity
Base Camp at Vallea Lumina
My favourite was the music (Vallea Lumina)
Lights at Vallea Lumina


The top attraction for our kids in Whistler have always been the playground in the Olympic Plaza. It’s funny because I don’t even know if the play area has a name but my kids have always loved it. We have never even taken them up Whistler Mountain or Blackcomb but they still love the town.

This year I actually did look into doing family lessons but was surprised at the cost to rent equipment, have a family lesson and a lift pass for us and we opted to try a less expensive mountain closer to the cabin for our ski school stuff. It just goes to show that even if you aren’t heading to Whistler to ski there is lots to do and see. However if you are thinking about skiing Whistler look into the Epic School Kids program. It offers free lift passes for K-Gr 5 BC residents. It is a great program and was easy to register for.

The first trip we took was in September just as school was going back into session and it was our kick off to homeschooling, we went up with my sister and nieces and my mom. It was fantastic, and was one of the last group trips we have taken since stricter restrictions came out. We considered it one big field trip for our homeschooling.

I actually found the Whistler Nature Kids website and had some fun using their activities for our homeschool lessons. The activities are just fun and informative and would be good even if you aren’t homeschooling.

One of the big attractions we went for was Vallea Lumina. Our first visit, in early September, was fantastic. No snow yet, dark early enough that the kids did okay and the music and lights were phenomenal. The second time we went it was late November and there was snow on the ground, it was a lot colder (and darker) and was pure magic. They had altered the route, so the experience was a little different which was nice if you are planning on going more than once. I would suggest going early as part of the experience happens before you even start the walking.

Base Camp is really beautiful and has opportunity to sit in a picturesque setting and enjoy s’mores and warm drink fireside. Plus the music is really great. My kids were pretty good at walking the whole route and had fun doing it (ages 3,4 and 5 at the time). I probably wouldn’t recommend bringing a stroller, the earlier performance did have stairs and the winter version was a little slippy. The only recommendation I would give is make sure you have an idea of where the turn off is for Cougar Mountain as they are not running the shuttle currently with covid and the signage is not great for the entrance into the park.

Another first for us this year was skating outdoors at the Olympic Plaza. The kids haven’t really had any exposure to skating and Rowen had no interest but the girls had been asking lots. So, Fraser went out with them and they gave it a try. I wish we had one more adult to help with the two rookie skaters but overall I would say it was a hit with the girls and a great experience. Definitely worth checking out and was something we could drop in to do which was nice. We never checked out the skating at night but it did look very beautiful and like there might be some sort of light show they do after dark.

Drinks at Caramba
Pizza and Salad at Caramba
Breakfast included at The Pan Pacific

Favourite Meals. This can be tricky as we have fairly unadventurous eaters but I would say our best experience most recently was The Keg. The Keg is an easy dinner out for us as a family. We do not have many restaurants that please the whole family but The Keg really is that place for us. We find their kids menu fantastic and has something for all three of our kids. It was actually one of the pandemic perks that we went in at prime time on a Saturday night and had no problem getting a table for 5, kids had a great time and so did the adults. Another great Whistler restaurant experience for us was at Caramba, the kids loved their pizza, pasta and caesar salad. Plus they had gelato & sorbet for dessert options that were a hit! We also did some take out and delivery, one nice thing about the Pan Pacific is they partner with Earls so we received a discount when we ordered take out and the room comes with complimentary breakfast. The breakfast was ordered the night before and then you made in your room once the items were delivered. It was actually kinda of nice way to cook but not have to bring groceries.

Aside from Whistler being a great escape from the Lower Mainland, because of its great proximity, it also has lots to offer on the drive up.

Mining at Britannia
Run Wild and Free (at Shannon Falls)
Train Wreck fun

Mentionable Stops

We have enjoyed stopping and exploring Britannia Mines which was a huge hit for the whole family. We did call ahead to book a scheduled tour time, but it was almost empty and we didn’t have a hard time getting a spot.

We also enjoyed stopping along the way for some scenic little walks including Browning Lake Trail, Shannon Falls and the Train Wreck. All three of these trails were easy to walk and fairly short (train wreck was probably the longest). Plus my kids were willing and happy to get out and explore, which isn’t always the case.

Another great stop is the Sea to Sky Gondola. We haven’t been up in a while (mainly thanks to continuous vandalism which had shut the gondola down temporarily). However when it is open there is so much up on top. The kids enjoy wondering around and taking a short trail to explore, grabbing a hot chocolate or treat from the restaurant on top and of course they love the playground. I also think depending on the season they sometimes have special events or fun “extras” going on (like Santa at Christmas, etc).

I think Whistler is another one of those BC destinations that has something to offer almost everyone whether you are an adrenaline junkie, outdoorsy type, foodie or maybe even like to be pampered (did someone say Scandinave?) Whistler and its surrounding areas have something to offer you!

Ucluelet/ Tofino Farlow Family Travel Guide

Vancouver Islands Pacific Rim is a pretty unique and beautiful place to visit. We first visited two years ago as a couple and just recently returned with our dog and kids. The first trip we drove over on the motorcycle during the summer. It was a fairly easy ride and short distance! This time we took the truck over but it was just as great of a drive.

We made a point of stopping to break up our day, there are so many great spots on Vancouver Island, Coombs is always popular with our kids (ice cream is a no brainer) and Rathtrevor Beach is another great spot .

Definitely worth noting they are doing a fairly extensive highway improvement going into Ucluelet and Tofino so you might be delayed entering or exiting town. I would suggest checking the updates on We never waited longer than half an hour.

We are certainly no experts on Tofino or Ucluelet, but would love to give our reviews after staying.

The walkway down to Terrace Beach.
Eleanor loved all the kelp and seaweed she found at Big Beach.
View from our room at Black Rock.

First, the beaches in both towns are incredible. Our family is full of beach lovers. The kids are happiest searching for treasures, playing pirates on logs or swimming. I was shocked how the weather didn’t discourage them from wanting to enjoy the beaches.

Before booking you need to decide if you want to stay in Tofino or Ucluelet. We have done both. The first time it was because we booked so late the only accommodation we could find was in Ucluelet (at Black Rock). The second time we split our stay, with half the time in Ucluelet (The Cabins at Terrace Beach) and half in Tofino (Pacific Sands and Tin Wis). If it was up to just me I would pick Tofino always. However, both have lots to offer and these are some of the pros and cons of each.

The town of Ucluelet feels less touristy, which is nice and more like a small community. It is definitely a much more affordable spot to stay but we find it has less to offer in terms of shopping and restaurants. We love the beaches here for beach combing, finding treasures and watching/ discovering sea creatures. We didn’t bring our kayaks or SUP and we will not make that mistake again. However we have only seen rocky beaches in Ucluelet so if you have your heart set on the photos of riding your bikes at sunset on sandy beaches for miles then you would probably be happiest in Tofino.

In Ucluelet we stayed at Terrace Beach, and although it is small beach, it is private and was often only us there. What I love about Terrace Beach is how calm and shallow the water is. Low tide was incredible for exploring, the kids walked out and found star fish, hermit crabs and a giant sea snail. We played in the tidal pools and watched sea anemones. It felt very safe and if you had very young kids or even kids who weren’t totally comfortable in the water this would be a great spot to avoid big swell.

We also spent some time at Big Beach with the kids, and last time we visited Ucluelet we stayed at Black Rock on Big Beach. The views are beautiful from Black Rock and the beach there is basically my kids dream. It has so much to explore. Tidal pools, driftwood, “caves” and just lots to climb and see. The sea-glass, seaweed and sea creatures are plentiful so bring big buckets:)

We liked Black Rock when we stayed there, but we didn’t love it. The food was okay at the resort itself, we tried both the restaurant and lounge. The biggest dislike for me was I found our room dirty. I actually wonder if it is was a one off thing and wish I had let the front desk know. In terms of location it was a beautiful spot and the room layout and size was fantastic. However it was just two of us and we would definitely have had to try something larger if we brought the kids.

This time we had the kids and dog and were looking for somewhere that could accommodate a family of 5 (not always the easiest to find without having to rent two rooms). We were able to find a room for us at The Cabins at Terrace Beach. The accommodations exceeded our expectations. I was shocked when I found something for $199 a night. Then we arrived and I was so surprised by how spacious and well laid out the cabins were. It was two floors with very comfortable beds and nice bedding. The kitchen was so well stocked, and between the two bathrooms we had a rainfall shower and a jetted bath tub. Plus we also had our own laundry in the cabin which for a family who often gets dirty or wet is a big deal. The downside at the Terrace Beach was they didn’t have availability for an ocean front room so we were in the forest. It was beautiful but you could see other cabins and for us when we vacation to the beach we prefer to be ocean view. They also do not have hot tubs available and although I actually preferred and loved the rainfall shower the kids, particularly Rowen, didn’t find the tub replaced a hot tub. Our biggest complaint about the cabin was the living room, the couch was uncomfortable and it wasn’t a ton of seating. If you were visiting in the summer and maybe not spending much time in your room then it would be fine but for us we were doing a mix of exploring and lounging. I like to be able to read a book or to play games as a family and it wasn’t the best living room for that. Another downfall could be the amount of stairs you take to access the beach, particularly from the forest cabins. I actually think the walk to the beach is fun, but it would be more challenging in the summer or when you are trying to carry more down to the beach and/or the smaller your kids are. Mine were able to walk it all on their own and we never took down our wagon or really anything besides ourselves and the dog.

Overall I would recommend both Black Rock Resort and The Cabins at Terrace Beach and we would probably stay at both again.

Shipwreck Pizza was delicious.
Delicious breakfast from Heartwood Kitchen.

Now I know not everyone is like us and looking for food or even shopping on vacation but it is kinda of a big deal for me. So, some of the things we tried and would recommend in Ucluelet are:

Shipwreck Pizza (the crust was amazing!!!) We ordered a large pizza for the kids and two smalls for us to share as we wanted to try a couple different flavours, it was way too much food but nice if you want to have leftovers.

Heartwood We had tried to go here last time but they were closed the days we were in town. This time they only had take out breakfast available on one of the days we were there and it was incredible! I can’t wait to try their lunch or dinner menu and I will definitely be going back for Breakfast. We may have ordered 3 meals for 2 people just so we could try it all!

Zoes Bakery known for their cinnamon buns we went in for the kids but left knowing it has something for the whole family. I would highly recommend making a stop. Fraser and I had drinks that were great. The kids had cinnamon buns and weren’t too sure. Fraser tried and said they were great! I think they are handmade and maybe not as processed as our kids are used to. The shop had so much offerings in terms of bakery items and sandwiches I wish I was hungrier and could have tried it all. I think we will definitely be back and maybe next time stay long enough to enjoy their great outdoor eating space.

Ucluelet Brewery, was a pick up spot for us. As a non-beer drinker I can not comment on the brew but I can say it was Frasers favourite and we drove back from Tofino one day to restock. The building itself is really beautiful and I love the take out window option. Check their hours as they are only open about half the week currently.

Relic Surf Shop was huge and had an amazing selection. I regret not buying the kids hoodies as the little logo was super cute and Row loved it. We actually went to rent our surf gear but were unable to as they are currently only renting to islanders. They were super nice though and I would recommend checking out the shop, the one in town is huge!

If you are looking for the soft sandy beaches Tofino is where you want to be. If I think of a Canadian Hawaii I think of the beaches in Tofino. These are the beaches that look endless and that you can ride your bikes alongside the ocean. The swell can be large, and maybe harder for little kids to play in (didn’t stop ours though). The sunsets were magnificent at both Ucluelet and Tofino but I dare you to find a place where sunset isn’t amazing.

Tofino is definitely geared more for tourist but it means there is more selection for shopping, food and even excursions. We didn’t do any booked excursions with the kids but we do have a wish list of ones we want to do. I am not sure what was all available currently during covid and how that is working. When we came as a couple we did a float plane ride and saw the Clayquot Sound from the sky. It was incredible, we actually even saw whales from above. I would love to do that again and take the kids. I would also love to visit the hot springs, but they are currently closed.

As I sit down to make a recommendation list for must eat or see in Tofino I realize we really crammed a lot in during a short time. The one thing I can say having done a few local trips over the pandemic is we really do our part by supporting these small businesses as much as we can. So, the must eat and see… I mean seriously in my mind the answer is everything but a few of the ones we have done and would recommend include:

Grace approves of Rhino Donuts.
The kids are running not walking they love 1909 so much.
Tofitian had great treats for all of us.

Rhino Coffee. You should know that I actually don’t drink coffee but my standard London Fog order was fantastic here. The real highlight though is the donuts. My kids were very happy and would say you should try them.

Shelter. I had a great dinner and was impressed how good it was even as take out. We have eaten in the restaurant and it was good but wasn’t sure how take out would be. I love how local their food is and that they menu isn’t overwhelming.

1909 & The Hatch This was our only in restaurant dining with the kids and it was fantastic. The fries and pizzas were delicious which was all my kids cared about. I had Streak Frites and it was fantastic, plus they had a great drink list (get a margarita, you wont regret it!). The best part though is the views of the harbour. The kids actually asked to go back which says a lot.

The Common Loaf Bake Shop. This was actually recommended by friends and was fantastic. Bakeries will always have my heart, but I doubt you could find a person who could walk by here after smelling the fresh baking and not go in for a snack. I may have ordered one of everything and we may have loved it! We went for lunch but the breakfasts looked real good.

Chocolate Tofino is a great spot for kids to grab an ice cream. I love the little area where they are located which has a few good food spots and a little shopping too!

Tofitian is another great spot for coffee and baked goods. We had breakfast treats and drinks one morning and it was hard to narrow down what to try. They offer a variety of dietary options (including Keto, GF, DF, Vegan)!

Surfside Grill was great! There menu is what you would expect and perfect for a beachside meal or even a quick and easy take out to bring back to your room! We tried it for Lunch and Dinner and were happy with everything. I love their fireside dining options and convenience if you are staying at Pacific Sands.

SALT is my favourite for Tofino Souvenirs. We made a quick stop in on our way out of town to grab my third Tofino Towel Blanket, somehow my kids are always stealing them! So I guess now we have one for each kid. We also picked up a Tofino Candle, but the whole shop carries beautiful local products and easy to shop in!

Merge was a new find and I would totally suggest taking a detour off the main drag to check it out. There shop was full of beautiful brands and items including children’s clothing and books, candles (my favourite Brand & Iron) and a unique collection of pottery.

Long Beach Surf was fantastic with getting the family fit with wet suits. The kids had fun and I was grateful for the staff at making it such an easy rental. They aren’t just rentals, so you can shop lots of great brands while picking up a wet suit.

Sunset at Pacific Sands
Making s’mores at Pacific Sands
Views like this from both floors, living room and master bedroom. Basically wanted to stay in bed forever.

As for Tofino accommodations we struggled to decide where to stay and what we wanted. Our biggest limitation was probably our family size. 5 is not the magic number when it comes to travel or accommodations and then add a Rottie into the mix and well you are left with a few less options. I think besides The Wickanninish (which is the only large resort in Tofino that is currently closed due to Covid) was Fraser’s first choice, Pacific Sands was a clear winner. After much looking a few misses we decided to just book it. It actually met all our requirements so easily, beachfront, hot tub, food available at the resort. However it came at a cost! Our compromise was staying just two nights here and splitting up our trip. I think this was a good choice for us. By far my favourite part of our trip was staying at Pacific Sands. The accommodations were beautiful, the whole family had something they loved about the resort and I thought the beach was by far the nicest of the beaches we have stayed on. Sunset was amazing and the kids loved exploring but they were also able to ride their bikes one the sand. I would definitely recommend staying here. Our suite was huge (spanning 3 levels) and had ample space for everyone to spread out. The kitchen was easy to use and well stocked and we had laundry in the room again which we love and use.

We ended our trip off by meeting up (safely) with friends who had just arrived for the weekend and booked a last minute night a couple resorts over at The Best Western Plus Tin Wis. This was a bonus night so we had no expectations and were happy to be delaying heading home. However, it was a cozy space for 5 plus a dog, and we most likely would not return again as a family. Unfortunately our room didn’t have a kitchenette or a bath tub which for us would be a must in future. The resort and location itself was beautiful. It was a communal hot tub that you booked a private time for and the views from the hot tub were beautiful. The kids loved the playground on the beach and we loved that you could have fires on the beach. The staff were all so friendly and nice and the price was right! It also came with a complimentary breakfast. For sure this resort offered lots in terms of value but the actually room was a bit too tiny for us.

As we headed home from a memorable and magical vacation one takeaway I had was Tofino has so much to offer. In terms of accommodations they have it all, including for all budgets and it really offers something for any type of traveler. It also has so much to offer in terms of nature, beauty and activities, I think Tofino is beautiful and worth a trip!

Vacation with Kids

Traveling with kids is not exactly what comes to mind when you say “vacation”. Vacation to me implies relaxing and traveling with my kids doesn’t really scream R&R.

Gotta love when they all sleep! This is not the norm.
Sometimes we make changes that are unplanned. When we took our first trip to Disneyland and we were finding it overwhelming we quickly pivoted to adjust and enjoy. This was an unplanned detour to Palm Springs. We rented a car and drove to have some relaxing pool time. It was fantastic. Then we returned for a day to Disneyland refreshed and ready for chaos.
Travel was always a bit more challenging with kids and now with Covid it has added a whole new type of challenge but I would say some of our best trips have been this last year when we stayed within BC. We just wear masks, pack sanitizer and plan a little more than normal. This photo was our second trip in the Fall up to Whistler (and second time seeing Vallea Lumina, I highly recommend checking it out!).

However, my husband and I didn’t really travel as kids with our families, I feel like travel was a luxury in the 90’s and something our families just didn’t do. I didn’t have a desire in my 20’s to go travel, my sisters were off in Australia and living in England but I didn’t have that same urge. It wasn’t until I had kids and started to see so many beautiful places and experiences as a family that I decided travel was worth the effort and was a gift I wanted to give my kids and do as a family.

I used to think to be a “traveller” you needed to be hardcore, explore far away places and go to exotic destinations. As I get older I realize a quick weekend to the Cariboo can be an adventure and a short trip over to the island can be amazing. I am always trying to remind myself travel doesn’t have to be expensive or high end, you can travel on any budget and go near or far!

I have a growing Wish List of places and experiences I want to do as a family. Some of the places include:

  • visit Yellowstone
  • explore Florida
  • visit Alaska
  • road trip for 6 months through the USA (homeschooling and traveling is a must now that we have homeschooled so much during a pandemic)
  • safari through Africa for my 50th Birthday (as a family, the kids will be great ages to experience it and so will I).
  • explore more of BC. I loved seeing the Kootenays this year and would love to spend more time there and explore more of it. Fraser and I have been to Bella Coola and we would love to visit again with the kids, even try to take the ferry there. I also have always wanted to do the Coastal Circle Route (Sunshine Coast, Comox Valley, Parksville, Qualicum Beach and Nanaimo) we have visited all those places individually but I think doing them consecutively would be beautiful and fun.

With our kids getting a little older (6, 5 and almost 4) we have discovered that it does get easier to go away. Packing has changed (no more strollers, diapers, play pens and bottles). I mean we have learnt how to pee on the side of the road, everyone has gotten better at holding it til the next rest stop and of course the kids have learnt to love hotels, exploring new places and trying new things.

Green Lake in the Cariboo.
Ski Lessons at Mt Timothy. We love warm weather summer vacations but I feel like I am always surprised at how much fun the Cariboo is any season!

One big thing about travel for us has been including our kids in the planning process. That can mean asking them about which accommodation they like, if there is a must have (our last trip it was a hot tub!), discovering ice cream shops or candy shops that they want to try or even talking about an amazing beach and the things we want to enhance our experience (ie Wetsuit in Tofino in the spring). I think by including the kids in the planning they are invested and excited about the trip. They also are able to have some time to process what it is we are doing and what our trip might look like or include.

Always exploring new places on our favourite island, Maui has a special place in our hearts.
This was at The Hume Hotel in Nelson. We actually had the most fun trip on our way up to pick up Snoopy Sam (our boat). I was so surprised at how much fun a quick road trip (solid day in the truck) could be with kids.
If you can’t be in Hawaii I suggest being at Pacific Sands in Tofino. This was the kids and dogs first time to Tofino and I have a feeling it will not be their last.

I thought I would do a series of posts about some of our travels over the past few years and the highlights and favourites as well as the things we would avoid next time. I am looking forward to a near future where we can cross the border again and visit places and people we have been missing.

spring break

Spring Break 2021 has a very different feeling around it. I am trying to make sure that my mindset is a positive one and that I approach it with the best attitude I can. There are certain things we cannot change and this year has been one giant lesson in restrictions.

Spring Break will officially mark 1 year of no out of province travel for our family and although we generally avoid travel during Spring Break I know for lots of families it is a time they do travel. Keeping in mind our current restrictions and assuming you are sticking local and staying safe during this years Spring Break I thought I would share some of my ideas for having fun at home or locally.

Lots of these ideas are things we have actually done last Spring Break or through out this past year. My kids are happiest outside or getting messy so lots of these involve one or both of those things. I know one other element that really impacts our days is the weather, sunshine makes us all happy even if it is cold or windy. However I tried to make a list of things that are varied or able to be adapted regardless of the weather. Check out the list and see if you and your family might enjoy some of these ideas too!



We love a good family movie night, but these are fairly typical for a weekend night at our house. Why not take it to the next level by setting up an outdoor movie night (weather depending) or building a fort indoors to watch from and order your snacks from your local cinema to give it that real movie theatre feel!!!

Doesn’t have to be fancy to be fun, we ordered an inexpensive projector last year and have had so much fun using it indoors and outdoors, at home or taking it with us to the cabin. This was just on a white sheet thrown over the trampoline but we have since bought a “screen” to elevate our Movie Nights!
Order your favourite Movie Theatre Snacks through Uber Eats or Skip the Dishes (depending on where you live and where your theatre is located). The kids love popcorn so this was a huge hit at our house. Definitely made our movie night feel special.


Order a DIY Flower Bucket.

I loved this and originally ordered it for myself. To my surprise my kids wanted to join in on the fun and it was a great activity for us to do together. We ordered a DIY Bucket of mixed stems from OLFCo but I am sure if you called your local florist they could put something together for you. The kids and I placed them through out the house and they loved having a bouquet beside their beds. My sister and nieces also did this and they actually had fun making little mason jar bouquets that they dropped off for family and friends. I think it really is a great way to welcome spring, play with scissors, cutting stems, pouring water into vases and even getting to smell the flowers. My kids love all those things and putting it all together was the perfect activity.

Flowers are such a sign of Spring and my kids all love using scissors, trimming stems, “playing” with water and making beautiful flower arrangements. Bonus is you have a bunch of beautiful bouquets to either gift family and friends or spread out around your house.



Gardening was fairly foreign to me last year but with Covid we just kinda took it on as something to do from home. It was so rewarding and quickly became something the whole family enjoyed.

I love how gardening can be whatever you want it to be. Whether that’s grow bags on a sundeck or patio, container gardening, trying to grow your favourite foods and starting a vegetable garden or growing a beautiful flower garden. You can really do anything that makes you happy and the worst that can happen is it doesn’t grow and you try something new.

Last year we built raised garden beds and that was a fun project the kids helped with, they actually painted all the boxes and helped fill with soil, as well as planting and watering. They just love digging and finding worms or adding water to make mud! They also loved harvesting their veggies, pulling out radishes, carrots, peas and tomatoes while we were outside and eating straight from the garden was a very rewarding experience.

We are looking forward to expanding our gardens, trying some new plants and seeing if we can help Nan with her cut flower garden this year. During Spring Break I think we will start some seeds as well as prep our beds and “play” in the garden.

Having fun during Spring Break doesn’t have to be expensive, or even over the top… I think my kids are often just as happy helping us do our errands as tasks as they are doing an extra special activity. So use the break to try and get some of your to do’s done too!
When you get the kids involved in from the beginning they are more invested and willing to help out later with watering and weeding and even trying new veggies if they took part in growing them.



Set up a spa at home and offer each other manis, pedis or facials. My kids have just as much fun setting up the “spa” as they do giving and receiving treatments. Don’t forget to get creative with your set up and include snacks, flavoured water, some warm bags or cucumber slices for the eyes. My kids love going all out, well lets face it so do I! I was even able to find some hand cut outs at the dollar store and my daughter will make nail polish sample cards on them for her “clients”. If nails aren’t the right thing for your kids and your feeling adventurous you could also try your hand at some temporary hair colours. No better time to attempt a temporary colour then while your kids are out of school for a couple weeks! That way in the off chance it isn’t fantastic they really aren’t going anywhere! We were able to get some great products from our local salon, Atomic Hair Studio.

Grace loves to set things up and organize, its a good reminder to enjoy the journey not just a destination. She is all about special details and the preparation. I also try to take any opportunity I can to slow down activities and make them last as long as I can.
Our local salon had fantastic temporary colour products that was safe to use in the kids hair so we played salon and had fun! The kids loved this and the colour washed out fairly quickly which was perfect.


Beach Day

We are huge beach lovers, so whenever we get cabin fever and have spent too much time at the house or whenever we have a super beautiful Spring Day we try to head to the beach. We are fortunate to have lots of local beaches close by and a few favourite spots that are less crowded that we can go to. Some of our most loved beach days include grabbing take out to bring down and enjoy a picnic or packing hot dog and s’more ingredients and roasting around a beach fire! The kids all have kayaks and last year I bought a SUP so if it’s a calm day we will go for a paddle. The kids are also just happy beach combing and building forts with driftwood, it doesn’t take much to be happy at the beach.

Rowen has gotten very strong with his paddling and has had a pretty good fall out in deeper water. It was great to see him recover so easily from falling out. I like knowing he didn’t panic and is okay if he tips.
Grace is pretty good with her kayak but we ended up catching a bit too much wind this day. It was great “practice” and she stayed nice and close to shore which turned out good because she got a little freaked out when the waves started to hit her. I try to watch the weather and pick the ideal times to go out but I also like the kids to have. a little experience with less than ideal or perfect weather
Little Surfer Grom Squad.
Weenie Roast.


Fun with Eggs

If you live in the lower mainland you are in for a treat because there are many amazing local farms that offer all sorts of farm experience type market shopping. One of my kids current favourites is called The Chicks of 96th (check them out on instagram @thechicksof96), not only is this a super clean farm but it is such an experience. You can collect your own eggs, the packaging is beautiful, the pricing is very affordable (IMO too low for all that they offer) and they offer some play items like a big sand box and digger. There are lots of easy to read informative pictures inside the barn and it is all self lead so super easy to safely socially distance yourself if you go during a non-peak time. They are open 7 days a week, 8am to 5pm.

If a visit to the farm and collecting the eggs has your kids interested in chickens then I suggest levelling up the whole farm and chicken experience and look into hatching some chicks at home. We just finished hatching three chicks from and it was a super cool experience for the whole family. Chicks hatch in approx 21 days, but it could be less time depending on when they were produced and on what day they are dropped off to you. They come with instrutions, all the equipment you need and they are super easy to hatch and to care for. You can keep them for a bit after they are hatched or return them as soon as you want.


Park Play

If you were to ask my kids what they want to do the majority of the time they would answer go play at a park. It is probably the most agreed upon activity and definitely something we try to do lots.

PLAY is what Spring Break was made for and I know we have our “usual” spots (including Memorial Park, Centennial Beach and before Covid the park at TFN). However I am a big fan of finding and trying new places. Lucky for us we are homeschoolers and able to venture to a park in the middle of a weekday when it is less busy. We rarely park play on a weekend because we don’t love the crowds. With that in mind you may want to plan non-peak times to visit some of these fun parks!

First, a few of our newest spots we have tried and really liked are Mundy Park (in Coquitlam), Penzer Park (in Langley) and Action BMX Park (in Surrey). These are just recent favourites and new ones we have tried but if you are looking for ideas I would suggest checking out @braveandfreeadventures on instagram. They are always outside exploring metro Vancouver and I have found lots of good spots to try from them.

Mundy Park not only has an amazing playground but lots of trails, dog friendly, frisbee course, outdoor pool and lots of ball field space too! We have only been twice and haven’t explored much beyond the local Starbucks and the playground but this is a fantastic spot.
Penzer Park is so diverse I love it. There are sports courts (BYOB, bring your own balls), huge bike park and then two different playground/ play structure areas. The kids loved all the climbing.
Action BMX Park is really cool. My kids surprised me with their fearlessness and I loved the way the park has a mini bike section behind the huge track.

I think the biggest things to remember is keep positive. When you feel the kids getting tired or you are getting cranky or any shift in energy just try to shake things up. Often for us it means getting outside but it might mean taking a team nap or giving yourself and your kids permission to have a rest day to recharge! If we have learnt anything this past year it is that we can control our own moods, and when we do things to make sure we are relaxed and fed, rested, maybe a bit challenged and just overly happy it can impact others and the feeling will spread. So take time to start Spring Break with the best attitude you can and try to enjoy this time with your kids.

I hope this list sparks some ideas for you and your family! I would love to try some new things with our kids this Spring Break so please share your own adventures and fun and inspire others.

Grateful Heart

Some years are better than others.

Some years bring weddings, babies, travel, financial gains and promotions, home improvements and more. So much happiness can happen over the course of one year.

Some years bring illness, deaths, financial losses, divorce and other hard or sad life events. It’s surprising how much sadness can happen over a year too.

And then a year brings a pandemic and you aren’t sure what to think!

Most of my 36 years have been filled with some highs and some lows and lots of in between times. I am fortunate enough to say that for the majority of my life and the majority of those years I have had more of the good stuff than the bad stuff. Although the bad is hard, lots of the “hard” stuff has given me perspective to appreciate and search out more of the good and appreciate people or moments more.

I am not naive and know somethings have no “bright side” or positive way to look at it. You have to grieve it, feel it and live with it. There have been deaths and losses that I have never “gotten over” and forever will be missing those people. There have been circumstances that make me so sad and struggle to understand why or how they can happen.

I am however a believer of creating your own happiness and being grateful for the things you do have. I can honestly say by having the “Farlow 5” (my husband and 3 kids), especially during this last year, it has been a big eye opener that if we are all together and healthy and happy then my life is pretty damn good.

This year has been hard for so many people, we had some losses including a loved family members pet and a four year old neighbour. To see our family and friends hurt badly, to loose someone so young and to have something happen so close to home has been heart breaking and again another eye opener. None of us know how long we are here for. We can’t predict or plan the future, if this year has taught us nothing else it has taught us that for sure.

However as this year comes to a close I can’t help but think of all the positives it has brought for us personally but also for family and friends. We have got to spend time with our kids we never expected to have, make memories together, bought our beloved Snoopy Sam II (made a road trip and adventure out of picking it up), cruised through the gulf islands this summer, spent more time at the beach then I thought was possible, embraced outdoors for every season, started a home garden that flourished, homeschooled (lifelong dream that I would have never thought I would get the opportunity or have the courage to do), and I even got my PAL and went on my first duck hunt. We have welcomed new babies this year (yet to meet them but super excited for friends)… mostly on the island so watch out when those ferries open to non-essential travel! We have heard from friends who are pregnant now and expecting in 2021 (some were after trying for so long!), we have had friends celebrate successes at work, purchase new homes (yet to see some of them but looking forward to when we can), celebrate milestone birthdays (crazy we are nearing the big 4-0!!!) and so much more. Our family and friends has shown us compassion and love beyond this year and in the most creative ways. Humanity has also just shown up and shown how creative they can get and how caring people can be.

Sometimes it is hard to celebrate or feel good about a year that has been pretty good when you know it hasn’t been the same for others. However, I think this is the way life goes. Some years are incredible for some and horrible for others, and then the roles flip… so I end this year feeling empathy and sadness for so many others. I also end it with the most grateful heart. I look back on this past year grateful for the life we have and the things we were able to experience despite a pandemic!

As we are about to celebrate a new year and move into 2021 I will look back on 2020 focusing on all the positives it brought my family. I will forever feel empathy with those who haven’t had the same experiences, and will hope that 2021 will bring more happiness than heartbreak. And of course good health.

Whatever your year has looked like, I hope you can find some goodness from over this past year and continue to be grateful. From my family to yours I wish you all a Happy New Year.

Facing Fears.

When is the last time you did something that scared you?  For me it was today, I went on my first duck hunt. 

I have been wanting to try hunting for maybe the last 5 years.  Last year I took the first steps and I went and got my CORE. It was a check mark off my bucket list.  However, it was kind of like I got certified and stopped there.  It is easy to take a classroom course and pass a written test (sort of) but to actually go out hunting was a lot scarier. I felt overwhelmed by all the information I had just been given and intimidated by all the experienced hunters around me.  The course did inspire me to learn more about conservation, hunter’s ethics and the responsibility we have as hunters to protect the land and animals.  I think it gave me a new opinion of hunters, but it didn’t get me out in the fields or forests hunting. 

Hunting is not new to me.  My family and friends and even my husband all enjoy hunting.  We grew up eating game meat and I love the idea of truly eating local and knowing where your food comes from.

Lately I have been envious of hunters and going out, and figured if I didn’t just jump in, despite being scared and nervous, I would never learn. I am not sure if it is COVID and cabin fever or the appreciation for where we live and the opportunities all around us but whatever it was, I decided to get out and try.  I have been so badly wanting some hands-on experience so I can understand the stuff I learnt and apply it to the real thing.  

I am always telling my kids to try new things, and that it is okay when new things feel scary but they can also be fun and rewarding.  I finally took the leap and went out.  I am grateful for friends who not only encourage me but also teach me.  I have two good friends who hunt and both are always encouraging and reminding me that I can do it.  These girls have inspired me to step outside my comfort zone and enjoy the privilege of hunting.  We can all do hard things, hell we are adapting and living through a pandemic!

I think it is hard for me to do self-care things inside my house or with my family around. I love my kids and husband but trying to work out in a living room while my kids are screaming and running around, or meditating in my bedroom while I see stacks of laundry that need doing can be challenging. Forcing myself outside in rainy weather (perfect for duck hunting) and just escaping for an hour to basically watch the sky is a whole new self-care. I left my phone in the car and left the family at home and just took some time for me. I actually think when you are dressed for the rain it can be nice and feels good to have fresh air. Plus, sunset has always been one of my favourite times and it doesn’t matter sun or rain, clear skies or cloudy cover the sunset is magic.

This year has been challenging on so many levels so it is easy to stray away from adding any more challenge to your life but sometimes it is that discomfort and fear that can bring great inspiration and leave you feeling more alive.  I have really been trying to come up with a bucket list and things that I want to see, do and accomplish however most of these things would include travel or experiences.  Knowing it could be a long time before travel outside of Canada is possible can leave you feeling uninspired.  However, realizing how many opportunities we have that are unique to BC and Canada has had me trying to learn to appreciate them and take advantage.  

I am a lover of heat and summertime so exploring in the summer is easy. We loved having our boat this year and getting to explore the Gulf Islands a bit. It is funny now that I think about our first boating season and the many things we did where I was super nervous and scared. I survived these moments and wouldn’t trade our time on the boat for anything. Scary things don’t have to be bad, when we are willing to face fears we often come out with an incredible experience and new perspective. We also learn the things we are scared of might not be as bad as they seem. So despite fearing the long winter and cold weather I’m going to really try to embrace it this year.

Tomorrow I am going to find a recipe and cook up the duck meat, that I actually butchered myself. I think I impressed and surprised my husband when I started to cut up the duck. I was nervous and unsure if I could do it but it was so much easier than I thought and I think with practice and experience it will start to feel like second nature to me. I also have registered for my PAL at the end of this month and am going to continue working towards becoming a hunter. I am super nervous about this two-day course but know that I need this to be able to own and carry a gun, so I want to continue to challenge myself and know that with that will come rewards. I hope you don’t let fear stop you from trying new things! What things have you always wanted to do but fear is holding you back?

Rollercoaster of Emotions

It’s been a rollercoaster ride over the last 8 months, and the last week had me feeling frustrated. At the start of November I was determined to start a new month with enthusiasm and positivity. I actually was hopeful this was going to be an amazing end to a challenging year.

Unfortunately Covid reality hit hard this month, and I really started to let it get me down. It is frustrating to feel like we are giving up so much, and making sacrifices and yet the numbers are so high and the restrictions are getting tougher again. We as a family have tried to keep a tight bubble, we are limiting our activities and have kept the kids home from school this year. In addition Fraser, our only working family member, has a job with fairly minimal contact. He works a graveyard shift and in his own machine. I know we are not the only family frustrated or the only people making sacrifices, but I guess it is nice to feel like we are making these changes for a reason but instead our numbers were going up.

Despite feeling frustrated I decided to still focus on the feelings I wanted and take control of whatever I could in what feels like a powerless situation. I started off November feeling excited to be headed into the kids birthday months, looking forward to Christmas and also was finally feeling like we had a bit of a plan for homeschool. With this in mind I came up with a list of the things I am grateful for and why the rest of 2021 is going to be good. I know not everyday is going to be good and that this pandemic is far from over but I am trying to choose to look at the positives.

  1. We have healthy kids who love birthdays and are excited to celebrate!
  2. We are still able to work, so far our income hasn’t been impacted (which I know is not the case for everyone).
  3. Christmas is Magic… our kids are young and there are many traditions that Covid hasn’t changed. We can still have fun with elf on the shelf (yup we are one of those crazy families that does this and I love it!), we can do Christmas baking, we are still able to go cut down our tree at the same tree farm we do each year, we love driving around and looking at Christmas lights, the kids love watching all the Christmas Movies (including oldies like Home Alone, Elf, The Grinch…), they also love listening to Christmas Music (and so do I), we are working on a covid friendly project to spread joy to our neighbours (something we probably would have never done without a pandemic). One of the easiest places to find happiness for me is to look at all the things I can do this year at Christmas not the few things I can’t. I know how hard it is with a big family and missing out seeing them or being able to do some of our favourite traditions (like our family booze cruise, kids annual Christmas party or annual holiday parties) but I like to focus on the positives.
  4. Our home school schedule is flexible and we have taken to movie nights on more than just Fridays, plus we can sleep in every morning and it isn’t stressful and panic trying to get ready.
  5. Fraser has been able to fit in some extra studio time at pottery and has come home with some beautiful pieces. He also has started working on creating a bit of a home studio (so far he has a kiln but still needs a wheel) and is able to spend some time for himself. We are usually so busy driving to and from activities it would be hard to find this time and I love that he has it now.
  6. We have been able to focus a bit more on our house. At the beginning of Covid and during the warmer months it was a bit easier and we tackled some fun projects like redoing our storage area/shed and creating a home veggie garden but even now we are slowly making changes inside that have been on the to-do list for a while but we never seem to have time for.
  7. How we spend our time. We used to spend a lot of time shuffling kids and driving back and forth. Covid has had us make some changes to the kids schedules and activities/ therapies which has us more home based. This forced home time has us with more “free” time and we have been using that time for play. It is amazing to watch all three kids learn to play together and play imaginary games, make believe and even barbies (nostalgic for me!). I love it and see such value in this extra time and these developing play skills.
  8. Netflix. I just love Netflix and am currently loving My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman. I mean I learnt so much about Kanye and have a new appreciation for him, loved the Ellen DeGeneres episode. I have never kept up on celebrities (be it pro athletes, famous leaders, actors/actresses, musicians), I often don’t even know who they are. Tonight I watched Melinda Gates and I was laughing, crying, inspired. It was a good rollercoaster of emotions tonight. I was moved and inspired. Plus I felt like I was learning and encouraged to take action after hearing about Melinda and all the work she does. First I am going to start watching Secret Millionaires Club and see how we can start teaching a bit more about money to the kids (Thanks Bill).
  9. We have started to appreciate local travel and love where we live even more. This spring we got to see the Kootenays and this summer we were able to explore more of the islands. The plan for this winter is to appreciate the beauty of where we live and to try and enjoy the snow and BC Climate. We are hoping to be Whistler bound at the end of the month and then head up to the cabin a bit this winter. I am grateful that my kids are learning to appreciate the trips they have already taken with us (pre covid). I think none of us realized how fortunate we were previously and don’t they say distance makes the heart grow fonder. I look forward to the time we can enjoy traveling beyond our own country and the appreciation we will have for the places we visit.
  10. Finally we have started to watch the news more. I never watch the news and know as little about current events (typically) as I do about celebrities. I really have always maybe lived in a bubble so the reality is although covid has forced us to live in an actual bubble I have been expanding my life to include some current events and some interest in influential people (including some celebrities).

As I look at this list and see all the things I have to be grateful for I am once again reminded how truly fortunate I am. Although the pandemic is challenging my family is safe, healthy and happy. I hope as we near the holidays we can find ways to spread joy and maybe help those who are struggling. Stay healthy and try to look at what you have not what you don’t have.

Kids Conversations.

I am not sure if I have just been more aware this last year or if it truly has just been a year of great loss, but it has been a year where we have experienced death. Some have been tragic and way too young and hard to understand, some have been older people who have lived good lives and it was just their time. Regardless of circumstance these losses have brought a few opportunities.

One opportunity has been having conversations with ourselves and our kids about topics we don’t usually talk about. A big one has been around death, it has included how or why people die, where they go, what happens to their body, why do we put them in a box and what does it look like, can they still see through the clouds on a foggy day and should we leave them out treats… I mean you can imagine the questions that have come up. Kids face death so matter of fact, they are able to speak so bluntly and truthfully, be insightful and also accepting. I am forever grateful of the things I am learning from my kids.

Some of our conversations have been around families, we have had funny questions like when they see “Grandpa W” in my baby picture. Except it isn’t Grandpa W it is my dad whom my kids have never met and don’t know. That was a conversation that Fraser loved sitting and watching as I responded.

It also opened up lots of conversation about Frasers family and why we don’t know or see them. It has been a good reminder to us about the importance of being open. Something that destroyed relationships for his family in the past was not having conversations and not being open and willing to communicate. It has also been a tough one for us, to explain actions we don’t understand to the kids that sometimes people make choices we don’t agree with or that make sense to us but that we cannot control other peoples decisions. BIG topics for our 3, 4 and 5 year old.

We aren’t always prepared for our curious kids and the surprise questions they have, we don’t always answer theses questions in the best way and our kids love to repeat what we say so we like to have a good answer for them. However at the end of the day I am proud of all of us for having these conversations and taking the time to make our kids feel safe enough to ask about all topics. I think one big lesson for us is making sure we respond in a way that allows the kids to continue to be curious. I truly believe they feel no topic is off limits and I want them to feel that way.

When we were growing up I don’t remember having tough conversations or feeling like we could bring up any topic. I think in our families (both Fraser and I) a lot of these topics were kinda of “off limits”. In that era it wasn’t about talking about your feelings, or at least it wasn’t like that with our families. We avoided hard topics and stuck to safe and happy topics. I don’t think we had a bad childhood or that it was “wrong”. I think we just didn’t know differently.

My Mom was a single Mom who had a lot to deal with (including raising 3 girls) and we knew she didn’t like to have certain kind of conversations. I think working and raising a family is tough and can be emotionally draining on a person. To add to it the time and patience it takes to sit down and discuss hard stuff with kids. I get it, it isn’t easy.

One thing I think we are trying to change with our own kids is being open with them and having conversations that might make us sad, or are hard to have. Some questions we might not have the answer to and somethings don’t make sense to us adults, so they are hard to explain to our kids. Over the last couple months we have talked about death (including funerals, burials, heaven), global warming and extinction, homelessness, racism and gay rights. So much in our world has changed for us over the last 6 months, things have become somewhat unpredictable and the pandemic has taught me that nothing is guaranteed.

Another opportunity that has come up has been self reflection in our own lives and how we live. Some things are little (like we started back composting again) some things were a bit bigger (like we bought the boat and decided to homeschool). It has basically reminded me to not leave things unsaid and to live each day the best you can. To take opportunities as they come and to have the strength and courage to go for the things you want. At the end of my life I want to know that I took advantage of my life, lived it and am happy with the way I lived.

I have really been reflecting on my life to date, and even been trying to come up with a “bucket list”. It was the strangest thing when I went down to write out my bucket list, it was blank. In my 36 years I have accomplished so much that I wanted to do and that makes me happy I realized I am living my mission of making the most of my life. ***(I have since started a “bucket list” that I have every intention of completing.)

This year we took the opportunity of time that has been given to us, thanks pandemic, to spend raising our family the way we wanted to. We work hard at having strong relationships and that is not always easy. We try to make sure each person has what they need (Fraser takes time out for pottery, has his workshop space, Rowen has supports he needs to be successful, Grace we try to take mom and daughter time or have one on one with Nan, etc). It isn’t always easy to make sure we all have what we want, but I think this past bit has taught us we have given more than what we need and for that we are forever grateful.

I wish everyone had the basics needs always met, pandemic has been a reminder of just how fortunate we are with rarely worrying about the basics like food, shelter, money. We are certainly not rich but we are loved, safe and supported by a very big group of family and friends and I am learning not everyone has that privilege. I think the best I can do is continue to have conversations with my kids, keep an open mind and grateful heart and take advantage of the time we have.

Life is not guaranteed to any of us and the end is inevitable so I want to know that I have lived the life I wanted. Lots of things are out of my control but lots of things aren’t. Are you living your best life? This past year has taught me our best life can look different than our neighbour, parent, best friend, etc but that’s okay and we need to embrace what is our “best”. We don’t have to have the most money, the best car or the perfect day to be living our “best” and to look back on our life and the things that we are most proud of are happiest with might not be what you expect.

Facing a Friend.

Friendships have always held high value in my life and in our house. Like all things in life they ebb and flow. Sometimes you are there to be a good friend to call and check up on people, drop off special cards or treats, or help out with daily tasks just because someone else could use a helping hand. Other times you need your friends to support and love and carry you.

The strange thing about living through a pandemic is no matter who you are you are experiencing some sort of sadness, change or stress. Maybe you have less work, your kids are struggling, you have had to make tough decisions, you have older family with compromised immunity, you live internationally and haven’t been able to come home… I mean I don’t have to spell out all the scenarios each one of us are living them everyday. Here is the thing those friends we rely on are also living them, and cannot be there for us in the same way they were pre-pandemic, during these tough times they are navigating there own issues.

I feel like there is so much about Covid life that I have come to appreciate and grown to like. Not the way I wish it came to be, forced because of a pandemic however I enjoy the excuse to do less, stay at home, explore/ travel local and most of all get to have “private” or small group experiences at places that otherwise would be crowded and chaotic. I even appreciate the year I am spending homeschooling my kids, something I would have never had the courage to do before but have always wanted to try.

Lately I have started to have moments where I see the toll this pandemic has taken on people I care about or even on businesses we have enjoyed. It has started to really sink in the larger scale impact this is going to have and is having on the economy as a whole, and on individual families. There are so many things that I haven’t had to think about but then I start to think about things, like funerals and celebrations of lives, and how they aren’t able to happen in the same ways and the impact that has on loved ones. This is just one example, so many “normal” scenarios that are completely different now. There is just so much heavy and hard stuff. I try not to focus or dwell on it but I also don’t want to live so far in my own bubble I loose empathy for others.

Everything feels new and different with COVID and some good and some bad but the biggest thing I have noticed that I have never felt to this extent before is the feeling of being judged or finding people being close minded. I have strived in my last probably 5 years (kids can really humble you I guess, welcome to parenthood) to really learn to be more open minded and less judgemental. This is not something that comes easily to me. I think without even realizing it I often judge others, when I reflect I realize how wrong this is and that I often don’t even know the situation/person/ etc. Reality is no one should judge others, so I continue to work on this. Sometimes I think for me, it actually isn’t even that I was judging others but the way I come across they might feel like I was (working on my delivery and facial expressions, always room for self growth). With Covid there are so many different opinions and situations, no two peoples life circumstances are the same.

I recently read a little booklet on making tough decisions and the importance on being able to voice your opinion and chat with others who have totally opposite views. I believe there is so much value in this and always felt I made friends with a wide group of people who had a big range of opinions and values. However since Covid I feel like I hold back voicing my opinion because it isn’t the popular one or that people aren’t currently open or capable of seeing others views respectfully. I also worry I am failing at voicing my opinion in a way that doesn’t leave others feeling threatened in some way or like they must defend there choices. I would never want someone to feel this way because of things I have said. I love hearing others points of views and often change my mind frequently based on others reasoning, it always makes me think a little harder or differently and I think that is what life is about. Seeing things from more than one perspective.

I am afraid one unfortunate result of COVID has been that we are no longer having in person conversations so it is a lot of written communication (social media, text, etc). Written communication is so hard to read emotion through, to convey sarcasm and tone and so much more that is lost in translation. It is easy to write something one way and have someone read it a completely different way. The result is people start to communicate less or are just angry and no longer listening and empathizing.

Last night I put the kids to bed and went out at 8pm, GASP! I know, late night living, I mean pre-COVID this would have been the time of night I would leave to hit up Bellingham Target for a little shop. Gone are those days! I digress. We went out to our local pub (because the restaurant we wanted to meet at closed at 8) and we had a drink and in a person catch up on life. It was amazing to me how much I missed seeing a good girlfriend face to face and just catching up, hearing about day to day life. It was also surprising how lonely I had been without realizing and how isolating “staying at home” has been. It isn’t like we see no one, we do leave our house and I do talk on the phone or text but nothing beats an in person conversation. To hear excitement or pride or surprise or see tears in their eyes, it brought back the emotion of communication.

I think the moral of the story is reminding us that we are all going through stuff, so don’t read too much into peoples out of character reactions/actions. Everyone is out of character, life is not normal for anyone right now. We are heading into the winter, which for many (myself for sure) can be a more challenging season and the “honeymoon” phase of this pandemic is over. Life is tough right now and we should continue to show empathy. We also need to work hard even when we don’t feel like it or don’t know how to for our self care routines like meeting a girlfriend for a face to face chat. These things matter and are what might just keep you going and give you some new inspiration. I know it sure helped me wake up with a smile today and gratitude in my heart. Remember to voice your opinions and get into conversations with others who think differently. You might be surprised what you learn.