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.

the “magic” of beginnings.

Over three years ago we started a journey with our family that we could have never imagined. Our son was diagnosed with Autism and we began seeing therapists in Richmond. One of our main therapies was ABA, it was a therapy we were not familiar with and we were struggling to understand. Desperate to get help we made the tough decision of choosing a program that involved a commute to Richmond several times a week.

Rowen was so young when we started going to ABA. Lots of tough days, but now looking back I don’t remember tough days. I see how far this boy has come and how capable he is.

Over the last three plus years there were days I wondered what we were doing loading three little ones up to drive to an early morning session and one or more child would fall asleep on the way there, or trying to kill a couple of hours in Richmond unsure if we had time to come home before picking Rowen up again. However looking back over the fastest three years I cannot imagine not having these services in our lives. I say ours because it has been an amazing learning experience for our whole family.

At the end of July we had our last day at our ABA program and although we knew this day would come COVID helped to expedite the process. Unfortunately the program that has brought us so much success and joy, over the past three years, has closed its doors. We are so sad to see such an amazing resource gone.

Post Covid Lockdown when we were asked to come back as one of the first families, this boy was so excited to be back to one of his favourite places. Funny how you don’t notice the change but somewhere along the way drop offs became easier.
Running into the program not away from! This is huge (and a good reminder that we will get here with our new activities).

Rowen has left the program with a better understanding of his emotions and those around him, techniques to use to calm himself or others down when they need it, ability to ask peers to play and take turns and even how to win and loose. I am confident the skills he has learned from Bounding Higher he will use for his life and for that I will forever be thankful.

I am grateful for what this program has all brought to our lives in terms of growth and learning. We have met so many amazing people. I know with growth will come change and outgrowing things but it still feels bittersweet to be moving on from a place and people who have been such a big part of our lives.

During the same time this change was happening I started to consider what the school year would look like for Rowen, Grace and really our whole family. With a lot of contemplation and research we opted to take a year of homeschooling. I spoke with anyone who would talk about the topic but I also went to some of our main supports and people whose advice I respect and admire. Not only do I feel these people have lots of credentials and experience in the education and psychological field but they also know our family.

With so much uncertainty and with the loss of our ABA program (and also our SLP because we received this service through the same program) we decided to attempt a year of homeschooling. We had a lot of reasons for going this route and most are unique to our family. One of the main reasons and benefits to opting to school from home was if I registered us with a Distance Learning Program I gained access to funding that typically would go to our school. This funding could help us hire a new ABA and SLP and start a new program. I was so excited, really seeing the results of the last three years I knew Rowen had more he could learn and we had more we needed before saying good bye to these therapies. (***When kids with Autism turn 6 they go from $22,000 a year of funding to $6000 so I had been worried about December and the loss of funding we knew was coming, we currently spend every penny and then some out of pocket). Accessing funding was a big incentive for us.

My first road trip with these three, and we made a stop at the waterfall. This transition isn’t just scary for the kids but for me too! However when we realized we could do it (and had fun watching waterfalls), it gave us confidence and hope.
Some transitions have been fun and easy like lazy mornings, no rush to get out of PJ’s and new treasures like Orbeez.

Fast forward to now, we have hired and started with two new therapies and therapists. Both companies are amazing and we are excited about working with them and the unique programs and goals we have come up with. However what I forgot to account for was how hard Rowen finds transitions, new people, new routines and expectations and unknowns; beginnings of something new.

The past week and a half have been challenging. Our kids have been so resilient during this whole Pandemic. During the summer we have had the ability to keep things as “normal” for them as possible and have also spent the last 4 months making things as much fun as possible. None of us have had big worries (I mean besides the obvious ones that come with living through a pandemic). We have had somewhat reliable/consistent work, safe housing, good food and access to some of our favourite places (beach, ocean, boat, farm etc). We have really been fortunate.

Tea on Tuesdays was one transition that was met with no resistance.
More time to bake and have fun in the kitchen has been a perk of our new schedule.
Learning new skills with Dad, like pickling! Not all learning takes place in books:)

Fall is here and has brought with it the reality that no matter what Fall brings we cannot isolate ourselves forever. We knew we would have to return to the world eventually and that it would look different. What I didn’t consider was the growing pains we would have along the way. I am so proud of Rowen (really all our kids) and his (their) ability to communicate his frustrations and feelings. However I am also tired and low on patience. The start of September has been a reminder to me to ask for help when I need it, take time for myself, take time to organize and prep and it makes for a better day and don’t be afraid to adjust expectations.

This coming week I am hoping to put all these reminders into action and start off feeling relaxed, supported and organized. I know that the more we go through the schedule the easier it will get. For now we are gonna enjoy the weekend!

As for the homeschooling part, that has been the easiest transition to make, and one the whole family is loving. Like all new things, we are working out the kinks and figuring out our rhythm but overall I am loving homeschool and surprised at how natural and “easy” this transition was. Looking forward to the fun field trips we have planned for the next few months as well as the group of homeschoolers we have met and are learning with.

Can’t wait to sharing our adventures with everyone and come back to blogging about our family! This may be the end of our old and familiar ways but it is the beginning of something magical.

Distance Diaries

Life sure can surprise you when you are least expecting it. This Pandemic has been an eye opener in many areas of our lives, and so I want to share what we have learnt as a family about our lives.

Before I share this I think I need to preface it by saying it is not lost on me how serious this virus is and the long term effects it will have on families, businesses and the world. That being said I have made a more conscious effort to avoid the news as well as following along with the updates too closely for my own mental health and sanity. In reality our family has been so fortunate to not yet have major impacts because of these changes happening in the world. My husband still goes to work, my family is all safe and healthy and we have not had too many additional stresses or worries because of the pandemic. I think one thing I have learnt about myself is I cannot take on too much outside stress. For me to stay happy and healthy I need to focus on gratitude and what is happening within my world. I also have realized no matter who you are or where you are, the pandemic has impacted you, so while I say we have not been majorly impacted of course our lives have changed and with change comes some stress.

The first lesson that happened fairly quickly into all this social distancing was the realization of how well prepared and stocked our house was. Fraser might look at it as proof that I have a shopping problem but I like to think I was just prepared. It really was “fun” to stay home for the first couple weeks. We had “sleepovers”, movie nights, tons of crafts, game nights and lots of creative ways of keeping busy. I immediately realized that previous to pandemic I would often find the things that I didn’t like about our house before realizing how fortunate we were. We have an amazing backyard, lots of outside space, my husband has a big shop for him to tinker in, we have lots of technology available to us and I have a very stocked craft cupboard. A shift in my attitude is that I am now more appreciative of the house we have. I think what I realized is that our home is our safe place, it is not a punishment to stay home but a privilege.

That quickly lead to my second realization, without the stress of social interactions I was experiencing way less anxiety… perhaps this means I am an introvert. I think I discovered that a lot of my anxiety comes from all the social stuff, and that staying home is where I am most comfortable. It doesn’t mean I think it is healthy to stay at home forever, but I think post pandemic I will make more of an effort to spend more time at home and be okay with that. Too often I said yes to too much because I thought it was the right thing for everyone else but now I know that the kids and family are okay if we stay home!

Photo by Shelby Rose Photography #distancediaries

I also discovered that we love to travel. Quickly into our isolation we decided to cancel our Hawaii trip scheduled for April. This was really upsetting for many reasons (including it was our first trip without kids, cancelling it meant it was the first time in 4 years we would not get to Hawaii our happy place and we were missing a friends wedding). Part of me was so grateful that we had made the decision before everything got crazy. I was envisioning being stuck in a different country away from our kids or worse getting sick and racking up a giant medical bill. So, although we are sad about the missing the trip I am grateful we have been able to travel before pandemic and that we will hopefully be able to travel after again. I realize now, 6 weeks into isolating, that I do love my home and staying in. However I also love getting to travel and plan trips with our family. We are still trying to be hopeful we will get to do our annual end of summer camping trip with some friends, Tofino in September and surprise the kids at Christmas with the New Year in Maui… but my gut is saying these are more like dreams! So with this news it has us all a little bummed. The kids have talked a lot about Hawaii and Disneyland (two of their favourite places) and it has got me realizing how fortunate we are to have taken them on so many amazing vacations, near and far. I also realize that these vacations are things they cherish so once it is safe we will continue to prioritize our family vacations. There are times I have felt so guilty for this being something I am sad about when I know there are others that have maybe never been on a family vacation or save many years to be able to do one big vacation. I also find myself thinking how privileged I am to be worried about when my next vacation will be when there are families dealing with way bigger issues like worrying about housing, food, money, childcare or their businesses and jobs. With this in mind I am trying to see this as an opportunity for gratitude. I think I always appreciated our vacations but I defiantly took them for granted, the next time we get to go away I will make sure to appreciate it!

A really cool realization has been the lack of screen time we have seen since isolation has started. I keep hearing and seeing that people are resorting to screens to entertain their kids but we have found kinda the opposite in our house. We are screen people and I am a little embarrassed to say we have an iPad for each child and we are fairly relaxed about “rules”. However since the pandemic and really the start of “back to school at home” we haven’t needed to let the kids use the iPads or screens. We do school in the morning and it is using screens for zoom calls, class meets and to watch videos that correspond with their lessons. After that the day is spent with play. With all the sunshine we have had the kids have been busy outside gardening, playing in the sandbox, jumping on the tramp, getting creative with sidewalk chalk, riding their scooters, water fights and the list goes on. I have learnt that our kids can play independently, are good at pretend play and have lots of toys considering my desire to purge regularly! Overall we have some very happy kids and I am proud of the way they are handling these “new norms”. Even my own screen usage is down. I will comment we have days where we resort to giving screens or turning on the tv but I just feel like we all have days we need to just veg out.

One huge realization I have is the support system and people we have in our life. I had always known we were fortunate to have family close by and that our friends are the best of the best. I had a good feeling about the team we have built to support us with Rowen and of course we have loved the school we chose to send the kids too. Pandemic has pushed every one of these people and supports to new levels, and I can honestly say they have all gone above and beyond. The amount of creative ways these people have adapted and continued to support us and our kids is unbelievable. Our family has continuously surprised us with Birthday parades, Easter goody crafts and activities, worksheets and new desk deliveries, homemade goodies, cards and of course FaceTimes or porch distancing visits. Our teachers and support staff have dropped off indoor shoes, muddy buddies, schoolwork packages and more. They are continuing to teach and support with regular correspondence and tons of communication. They have offered loaning out equipment if we do not have enough or the right stuff and really come up with some creative ways to continue therapy from home. I’m not sure we will ever be able to thank all these people are the way they have impacted the experience our whole family is having through this pandemic. It has meant that in a time that is scary and unsure we have some light and laughter. We have some consistency with our kids and we are all adapting. It has made our jobs as parents easier but it has also shown our kids that these people aren’t leaving us, they are here despite being unable to physically be here.

Photo by Shelby Rose Photography #distancediaries

I think when I really sit down and look at these last 6 weeks and how surreal it has all been I feel nothing but gratitude. As of today we are all still happy and healthy. That is all I could wish for in times like that. I know that our family will look forward to a post pandemic life but it will not be the one we had before. Our life is forever changed and I think that is okay. My sister just taught me about “we people and me people” and I am proud to see the way our friends and family are showing up as “we people”. It has got me thinking about how we teach our kids to help others and what we are doing to help others. I am finding some small and some bigger ways we can help out our community… and it has left me feeling a little bit better in a time when we can so easily be brought down. I think if we can do anything during these strange and sad times it is find ways to spread joy and judge less!

Riding B#@$%

The motorcycle has always been fun for me, but that was before we were responsible for 3 little kids. Everything changes with kids, and one big change is the way I view the world. I used to love riding, I was proud of getting my bike license and looked forward to getting on the bike.

Now the idea of leaving our kids both on the back of the same motorcycle can be terrifying. If you have ever been on a bike you know the feeling of being exposed. No one gets on and rides and doesn’t know the risks, accidents can and do happen.

Plus before kids I owned and rode my own bike, when I took on the new title of Mom I decided to sell the bike knowing it might be a while before we would get out enough to make it worthwhile. This has meant when we do get out for a ride I’m on the back. Now for those of you that know me it might not come as a surprise that I like to be in control. Riding on the back means I give up my control and trust in my driver.

Sunday was a planned ride with a group of our friends and family. A friend had told us about the Bikers for Autism group and their Shuck It Forward Event and we had got together a group for a fun day out for a great cause. Obviously this event was near and dear to our hearts as we have a son with Autism. Without fundraisers like this, public education initiatives and amazing supports and therapy I am not sure where we would be as a family or how well Rowen would have grown over this last year and a half.

Here is the really cool thing, because we have such amazing supports in place and Rowen has worked so hard we are able to take date days out and not worry about how our kids (particularly Row) will do. Plus our day doesn’t revolve around discussing the future of our kids or our concerns about them. We can truly go out and enjoy ourselves knowing our kids are safe and happy and when we get home they will all be there.

Despite all this it doesn’t mean I just hop on the bike and let my hair down without a care in the world. As we were making our way through the tunnel and I was focusing on my music and breathing I realized that I needed to relax or my nervous energy would impact Fraser, who was riding with a passenger, driving downtown to a place we had never been and leading a group of others bikers. So I decided to trust in my partner, breath and listen to the music, slow my mind down and just enjoy the moment.

Sometimes we can get so caught up in our feelings or emotions we can miss what is right in front of us. In front of me was a beautiful blue sky, snow capped mountains, alone time with my hubby and good friends plus yummy food and great drinks at a beautiful patio downtown. It is so easy to get caught up or be rushing to whatever is next to miss the right now. As I near my 35th year around the sun I am trying to find ways to slow moments down and enjoy this time right now. I am trying not to stress when we are late or things didn’t go as planned.

It’s funny how hard and easy this idea can be. It got me thinking about parenthood and even marriage and learning to trust in each other. Much like riding on the back of the motorcycle and trusting Fraser to drive while he trusted me to co-pilot and google map our route, we are learning to trust each other in parenthood. It is a constant struggle with wanting control over every decision and knowing how important it is for my sanity and for the greater good of our whole family to share these decisions, responsibilities and control of parenthood with my husband.

Before I turned 30 learning to ride a motorcycles was on my “30 before 30” List and was a challenge I set for myself. I realize I still love it but the challenge is different now that we are parents… and as I near 35, getting closer to 40 I start to think about things I want to accomplish before my next decade approaches. I realize parenting is a big challenge, and just when you think you might have got a handle on something a new thing pops up… my kids are a constant challenge. So my biggest goal is to continue to work together with Fraser, trust in each other and share our responsibilities and know that not every day will be easy or perfect but if we slow down and take time to enjoy it we might surprise ourselves. To continue to check in with our feelings to help keep each other calm but also to help teach our kids how to manage our emotions.

I think my biggest lesson is every day is different and we might feel like we got it one day and the next day might be a huge struggle, that is human nature and no one is perfect. Plus we have a fresh start anytime we want it, so don’t let one action define your whole path! It’s okay to ride B#$@& sometimes, I don’t always have to be the driver. I’m gonna try to take time and enjoy the scenery!

Realistic Expectations

I was raised Catholic. It is funny to say now as most people don’t consider me very “Catholic” and I wonder what that means. However the religion isn’t the point in this story it is the fact that every Sunday my Mom would take three girls to mass usually alone and every Tuesday we would go to Catechism (Bible Study). It was expected that we would dress up for Church, sit nicely through Mass and of course listen and behave.

There were so many expectations and as far as I can remember and even as far as my mom is concerned the three of us were fairly good at meeting expectations, especially when we were younger.

Fast forward to today. Easter Sunday and I decided to attempt Church with Grace, Rowen finds out and says he wants to come too. I am immediately nervous as I know for him an hour long Mass that is most likely very busy and potentially loud isn’t his optimum environment. I am also nervous thinking about everyone around me and their expectations of me and my kids.

Then I remember it doesn’t matter what other people expect as long as I know what to expect and what I am willing to tolerate. I didn’t expect to be able to stay for the whole mass, I didn’t expect my kids to be silent or even to sit still but to be respectful. We opted to go into the “crying room” which meant the kids could walk around a bit and make noise without disrupting the whole church. I also didn’t expect Rowen to dress up, I think he looked nice (no sweat pants) but he didn’t have a dress shirt. I wanted him to be comfortable, as well as Grace of course but she loves dressing up.

I was nervous to take my kids to Mass and had been avoiding it for a while, or chickening out whenever it actually came around to it. The kids are attending the school at our Church and will be participating in religion as well as all the regular school curriculum. I think it is important for me that they know about the Church we belong to and that they are able to sit through Mass, go to special occasion Masses (or more if they choose). I know that by adjusting my expectations I am not disappointed in today, but I actually am happy with todays achievement. Making it to Mass and sitting through part of it, plus leaving without any major incident is an achievement to me.

We made it half an hour so halfway through the service, the kids were fairly quiet and played nicely with the other kids in the room. Rowen knew and interacted so nicely with a couple of his classmates from school and Grace genuinely seemed interested and happy to be at church.

What I have been learning is I am more disappointed when my expectations are unreasonable then when I do not have expectations and wait to see how things go.

Friday night we took the kids to the pool, which is not always my favourite thing as we are two adults responsible for three very brave and confident toddler swimmers. If you have ever taken one child to the pool you will understand they go in and they are off, so when you have three kids all swimming in different directions it is hard to be close enough to catch them when they start to drown (because usually mine do). Fraser thinks I exaggerate but it feels like that is what is happening. However Friday night I suggested swimming knowing how badly my kids have been asking to go back to Hawaii and the pool… since I couldn’t do that I figured lets hit up the leisure center. I had no expectations but gotta say the night was perfect. The kids had almost the whole pool to themselves. The lifeguards were great and we were able to “save” our kids and stay close enough to them. Best part was everyone came home exhausted and went to bed easy.

Saturday we attempted to scooter and bike ride to a park and meet up with my sister and nieces. My kids don’t have the best road safety or fear of traffic so it is always scary when taking them anywhere on the road. Plus they also aren’t made to walk or ride places that often so I wasn’t sure about the distance. Without any expectations for how the day would go it went fantastic.

I think sometimes we place all these expectations on our life and our kids that are completely unreasonable and then we are so focused on making sure they happen the way we expect we don’t allow things to naturally unfold. Saturday was a perfect example because we kinda let the kids take the lead on what they wanted to do and for how long and it turned out better than I could have imagined. The other thing is instead of focusing on the unmet expectations I am able to focus on enjoying the moment and having fun.

I ran into a friend of ours with a son Eleanor’s age on Saturday while we were at the park and he mentioned they had just been at a organized sports class for his 3 year old. His first comment was that the instructors had these expectations for the kids that were totally not happening at all and that they just kept teaching. It took me back to our first dance class we had where the teacher, although nice, was very young and no kids of her own. Her expectations of the kids who at the time were only two was so far from their capability. It was interesting to me to see someone’s expectations be so different too, mine were literally to have something to get us out of the house and to have fun, dance literally meant dance around to me. It was Graces first experience dancing in a lessons as well as my first class with my two year old. Halfway through the class I stopped taking Grace because I was so disappointed in the class and I felt like we were not meeting the teachers expectations every class and it was just frustrating. The crazy thing is, had she looked around and even asked what everyone wanted out of the class I bet she could have easily adapted and had a class full of happy two year olds. Expectations can really alter our experiences and how much joy or lack of joy we get out of them.

I think it is unreasonable to say you can live your life without expectations, but I think whenever you can keep them in check! Or adjust them when you realize something isn’t what you thought it would be. You are not disappointing anyone other than maybe yourself. It is also good to remember expectations can change especially when life changes… your disposable income or financial status could change, the age and ability of your kids changes, your work schedule and free time changes through out your life as well as so many other things.

One area I have always had expectation with our kids in is extra curricular. I love all the fun activities, gymnastics, dance, lacrosse, art class. You name it, I wanted our kids to do it all. Especially while they are young, let them try everything. Now we have a son in a three day a week Autism program in Richmond and two of our kids in two days a week of preschool. It is a lot of driving and we are somewhere Monday to Friday sometimes more than one commitment a day. It doesn’t sound like much but for 2,3 and 4 year olds that is a lot (even to a 34 year old it feels like a lot). I can honestly say I have had to majorly adjust my expectations. It is something I have to do regularly, because I get caught up in what all the other families and kids are all signed up for and then my darling husband reminds me we are not all the other families. We are us, we like sleeping in and being lazy on Sundays, we like spur of the moment road trips or day trips, we don’t want to force our kids to play things they aren’t interested in and we have to look at what is best for our family of five not just one person out of the whole family. I also know that at 2, 3 and 4 years old they are not “falling behind” by missing a couple of years in a team sport. My expectations isn’t to raise Olympic or professional athletes, it is actually to encourage balance between all the demands of life, to allow choice and show that everyone has different interests and strengths and really to allow our kids to lead us into the areas they are interested in. I hope they will all play some team sport at any level, it does not have to be extreme or competitive I just think it is a good opportunity to build social skills and learn life lessons like winning and loosing.

Basically the reoccurring theme in my weekend has been one of adjusting and constantly reviewing your expectations. Not just expectations you have for yourself, which are super important, but your expectations of others. I know when I have these big expectations of others it can be crushing to me when they are not met but sometimes I haven’t even told the other person and the expectation is so unreasonable it couldn’t have even happened, so it was more like a dream than an expectation.

I challenge you to care less what other people think, and try to live in the moment and enjoy things as they come instead of getting too worked up in expectations (when you can), and to judge less because we never know another persons story and situation.

Cheers,
Carly

Far from Perfect Parenting

This week started off with missing school on Monday because when Fraser arrived home from work ready to do school drop off everyone was still in bed sleeping. That pretty much set the tone for the week.

We, meaning I, struggle with staying organized and mornings. Mornings have always been tough and now with three little ones in tow, being organized enough to get to school and programs “early” all while making sure everyone has eaten breakfast is tough. To give myself a little credit though, I gotta say this is the first time that has happened.

Monday Morning Shenanigans

Monday was pretty good after the whole school thing, I mean it made for a great day with no obligation or responsibility. However Tuesday ends up rolling around and the efficient Garbage Men come and do pick up before we get our garbage to the street, we did however make it to Rowens program on time. If only the drop off went well. Rowen is only 4 and attends something every weekday morning. As mentioned mornings aren’t the greatest for me, but I have had to find a way to make them work as most mornings the kids need rides and we have somewhere to be. For some reason ABA is his least favourite activity and he really knows how to put on a show when we take him and drop him off. Tuesday ended up being a bit of a struggle and hard on Fraser who was doing the drop off. Not a nice feeling to leave a child crying about being left somewhere.

Tuesday Pick Up and Cousin Time

The day included some meltdowns, many fights usually initiated by Eleanor who has become our family mean girl. She loves hitting. Then I decided to try and clean out my car… I can’t even begin to explain to you how disgusting my car has become. We let the kids eat in the car, we spend time everyday driving and often the kids have food. It had reached a point of being unbearable. Although I am not sure attempting to clean out the car with three little helpers was a good idea. Fights over the vacuum then of course realizing the vacuum can suck your skin, then spraying windex everywhere to help clean, then playing with the hose, then fighting with the hose… and so cleaning the car went.

When it finally came time for dinner I asked my very cranky and tired kids what they wanted. 5pm and Rowen is requesting steak while Eleanor and Grace have a little easier request of pizza. So, pizza it is and I go to stick in a frozen pizza only to discover that we are out of frozen pizzas. I finally give in and run up to Little Caesars to get the kids their favourite crazy bread with a side of pizza. I get to the store only to realize I forgot my wallet at home… Tuesday!

We ended our day with a fire in our carport and roasting marshmallows around it for s’mores. I think it was a good end to a trying day. Most days are trying with our kids. They have moments of disappointment or doubt. Drop offs that go bad and you leave you feeling like a bad parent or when you loose your patience and yell at the kids for something small. Then there are moments in the day where you show patience or teach them something new. Or the moments where you see them interacting and playing together nicely or you see them making friends and being independent. So much is packed into one day and we really try our best but I also now that we are far from perfect.

Tuesday Campfire

I love hearing other people tell us how much they love watching our family. All the fun things we attempt with the kids or the experiences we have, how brave we are and how much they love seeing pictures of the kids and the funny things they do.

Thing is sometimes I feel like we are being fake, or it looks better than it actually was. When you see a couple pictures of the best moments of the day then you think we are pretty great. We are pretty great, but we are also pretty normal. Every parent is just trying their best and figuring out stuff as it comes up. We don’t know what we are doing, we are just doing what we think is best. Best is relative too, because it means making decisions for 5 people not just 1. Sometimes what is best for 1 doesn’t work for everyone and we need to decide how to make it work for our whole family.

I love the way we are raising our kiddos, and recently someone mentioned that it looks like we are having a party everyday. I think we are, because if I have learnt anything as I have gotten older it is that everyday is a gift and we should celebrate. Celebrate everything all the little things and the big. So I hope my kids learn that and try to have as much fun as they can.

I guess the thing I would like people to know when they look at my pictures is to know that my floors are stick (and chairs and walls), my laundry is endless and rarely ever caught up, no matter how many times I wash the kids hands and faces and change their clothes they are filthy, and my car… I can’t even tell you when my car is clean because it never stays that way for long. We feed our kids more fast food than I would like to admit and we sometimes yell in our house… which I absolutely hate and regret anytime I do it.

We also teach sharing, and try to be patient with each other. The kids always have clean bedding and clothes and get regular baths, they always get fed and we try to balance the junk with the good stuff. Grace loves salads, whole peppers and really would pick a vegetable over anything. Rowen loves his steak and eats fruit like its candy. Eleanor will eat and try anything. We take advantage of our unique schedule and that my lucky kiddos are growing up with two parents who are home with them. We absolutely are up for an adventure and will try most things (at least once). We are a perfectly unbalanced chaotically calm family.

Freedom 55

So for those who don’t know her, this is my mama. She was a single mom, who raised three girls all while working her job at CRA. I never remember my mom complaining about her work, she was always connected and involved with her coworkers, always taking extra courses or training and working her way up to more leadership roles. My mom worked for CRA for 30 years. 30 years is a long time for anything but especially a job, that is a commitment and a huge part of your life. This past weekend we celebrated my moms retirement from CRA. At 55 years old, after 30 years at the same job and lifetime of working she is about to have her first summer off that I can ever remember.

Typically we love hosting a big bash for any excuse and this definitely would qualify for a bit of a party but this time we set on planning a bit more of an intimate weekend away with a few close family and friends. My sisters did most of the organizing and they nailed it. From the location (Gibsons), the goodies upon arrival, the airbnb, the food, the laid back atmosphere, the music (Spotify by DJ KP), the games (charades, 31, Sake bomb) to the guest list I couldn’t think of a better way to set the tone for the next chapter of my Moms life.

It is kinda crazy to think about this small group of ladies… ranging in age from 32-59, two sets of sisters, three daughters, two former sister in laws, and two friends/ past coworkers.

I love how my mom has taught us the value of friendships and that you can find them in the most unexpected places. She has always been good at prioritizing friendships and relationships and showing us how important it is to make time for good girlfriends.

I love how this weekend was also a great reminder of how different sisters can be (the three of us, myself and two sisters are perfect examples), but also how no one has had the same childhood as your sisters. It gives you shared experiences that make you connected even when you are so different. Watching my aunts was a great reminder of what my sisters and I are like! It was hilarious most of the time, because honestly who knows you better and calls you on your stuff than your sisters. It was a weekend of so many laughs.

This weekend also reminded me to look at parenthood through the eyes of my Mom. When we were growing up she was a big believer in being your parent and not your friend. I don’t disagree with this idea, and try to keep it in mind with our kids. However what I saw this weekend is when you get older, although you never stop being a parent, you can become friends too.

I look forward to that with my own kids but also appreciate how hard it was for my mom while we were growing up and that many times she had to take the harder route but I definitely believe it paid off!

I hope I can learn from my Mom to show our kids hard work, and that the easiest choices aren’t always the best or right. I do not want to rush away these young years but I know that the older ones are looking good too if they can be spent like this.

Although my Mom is retiring from one of her longest jobs there is another job I realized you never retire from. Parenthood, is a lifelong job with no extended health, no overtime pay, no pension plan, but so many benefits. I look forward to my moms retirement from one job and the role it will play in her parenthood job. It is crazy to think back on all our summers and to know there hasn’t been a summer she hasn’t worked, so not only is it her only summer off that I can remember it is her first summer off with her kids (I know we are all grown up, but we are still her kids!). Let the fun times and memory making begin.

Success can be judged by many things and sometimes we like to have measurable tangible concrete benchmarks like money earned or the material items you have collected, but I think my mom has taught us that there is more to success than the tangible items.

There are the quality of friendships you have, the depth of the kids you raise and their impacts on this world, and of course your own impact on this world. As a stay at home parent who is approaching 35, it is crazy to me think I am a short 20 years away from my Mom right now.

What will I do to make those 20 years count? I cannot be at the same job for 30 years at this point, but I don’t think the lesson she is trying to teach us is to stay with a job and work as long as you can. I think it is to make choices that you are happy with, stay true to yourself but do what has to be done, whatever choices you make do them with a good attitude and don’t take anything from granted. I think I am doing these things and know when I am not, or are starting to get a bit sidetracked my mom will gently remind me that I have choices and to be grateful.

Thanks Kitten for taking your Mother job so seriously and doing your best. We have been lucky and continue to learn from you and your wisdom:)

Second Time Lucky

On January 29th, 2019 we had a sunset ceremony on a beach in Wailea with just the 5 of us. Our kids had their snack packs full of stuff they had picked out the day before, they had new buckets and shovels and even gum to keep them entertained with the promise of sparkling grape juice and plastic champagne glasses if they let us have a few minutes to get married!

It couldn’t have gone better. Rowen played in the waves, while the girls snacked and dug in the dirt. Each child came over at least once through out the ceremony to ask for help opening bubbles or a snack. It was so comforting to just have them safe and close but be able to concentrate on the vows we were exchanging.

The vows had a bit of Hawaiian tradition, the blowing of the conch, a Hawaiian prayer and a Lei exchange ceremony. I loved the mix of familiar and new traditions and the simplicity of what we were promising each other. Simple to say, harder to do. I cannot wait to spend the rest of our lives fulfilling these promises. Having never met our officiant until maybe 5 minutes before the ceremony we could not have asked for a better fit for us. He was fantastic.

The morning had started like most of our mornings on the beautiful island of Maui, laid back and relaxed. No rush to do much other than enjoy the day. Grace of course insisted on getting her nails done so we ran up to the salon so she should could get fresh paint! While Fraser and the other two decided to brave the Hawaiian sprinkles and wind and hit up the beach. Thank goodness they did because when we came to join them a whale was so close to shore the lifeguard had called everyone in to the shore for safety. It was amazing watching a cow and calf humpback swim so close to shore, followed by a big turtle. Talk about a sign that it was a special day.

After the beach I ran down to a salon and had my hair and make up done while Fraser got all the kids to nap. I came back with lunch from the 808 Deli for us, wanted to make sure we both ate. It was so nice to be so laid back and relaxed together before the ceremony and the kids woke up.

We did our short ceremony at 5pm on an almost deserted public beach in Wailea. We celebrated with bevies, a little play in the water and of course watching the sunset. Our favourite part of the day here in Maui. Then we quickly headed back to our condo to rinse off the kids and change them before heading to The Grand.

Dinner was a tough choice as dining late (7:30) with our kids can be risky but we figured why not try. I am so happy we did, the restaurant could not have been more accommodating or family friendly. Plus, like all things Grand, it was spectacular. Traditional Polynesian themed huts with thatched roofs resting over a lagoon along the beach it is a truly beautiful setting. It was such a great way to end a very special day.

We had planned most of the details from home and knew we were getting married while in Hawaii, however it had been a tough choice for us. There was no traditional proposal, unless you consider that I wrote “Will you marry me” in the sand last year for Fraser! If I waited for him we would never be married… so we discussed and went ring shopping together. Fraser is high maintenance and knows what he wants, BLING! He will be having a ring custom made as his 13.5 ring sizes made it hard to buy in shops. I knew I wanted stacking bands, preferably eternity or at least one eternity. We ended up with a brand I had loved called LIVEN, two eternity bands stacked together white gold dipped in black rhodium gives them kinda of a greyish look. I love them.

2018 had been a tough year with lots of sadness and loss towards the end of the year and it really reminded us that life is short and to live the life you want now because no guarantees you will have a later. So about two months before we were leaving for Maui I just phoned and booked with the wedding coordinator we had been in contact with a few times already.

It was so easy to plan and coordinate it all. The hardest part was committing to eloping and knowing it would mean a lot of friends and family who are so important to us wouldn’t be there to witness our special moment. That’s what was important though, it was OUR special moment not anyone else’s. What is so cool and has been pretty amazing is getting everyone’s FaceTimes and calls and messages and really hearing the true excitement and happiness for us. It just proves that these people are the best family and friends we could ask for and that they know us so well! So thank you to you all, you know who you are, for loving us always.

XO- Mr & Mrs.Farlow

For more photos from our ceremony check out our album

http://www.weddingsbymarbelle.com/vend/?/set/28b18/2019-01-29-fraser–carly/

WEDDING COORDINATOR| Deanne from Precious Maui Weddings

FLOWERS| Country Maui Bouquets

PHOTOGRAPHY| Jennifer from Marabella Media

OFFICIANT| Adam Gomes

CEREMONY LOCATION| Palauea Beach, Maui, HI

DINNER LOCATION| HumuHumu Restaurant at The Grand Wailea

DRESS| Ross

GROOMS SHIRT| Tommy Bahama

KIDS| Von Bon (Girls) & Target (Rowen)

RINGS| Brides is LIVEN eternity bands and Grooms is black silicone with plans to have a blingy ring made for him

Another Year Older.

I was always told life goes faster the older you get but when I was younger I would always wish to be older… when can I be 16 and drive, when can I be 19 and legal, when will I grow up and own a home, have a career, be comfortable financially (still look forward to this!)… I would reach one thing and then instead of enjoying that moment I would be looking ahead for the next “better” moment.

Life changed though, I turned 30 and became a mom. 4 years ago my life changed in ways I wouldn’t or couldn’t have imagined and its just gotten better every day since. I am finally now realizing this is the best… enjoy right now and don’t look for the better. If you are living life right, this is best.

Wednesday was Rowen, my oldest child’s, 4th Birthday. I cannot believe that he is already 4.

He usually sleeps in his own bed, through the night, doesn’t drink from a bottle, can dress himself, plays with other kids and has friends, is funny and so unbelievably caring and loving, can speak, plays nicely most of the time and can concentrate on a task for more than 30 seconds. He is able to be left with family or friends, loves school, can go shopping or out with us and so much more… some of these things may sound simple or like he should have been doing them for awhile but if you had asked me if he was doing these things one year ago my answer and outlook would have been very different. These things have actually reminded me that everyone changes, people grow and that nothing stays the same so enjoy it while it lasts because you might look back and wish you had taken a bit more time to appreciate certain stages.

Birthdays have always been bittersweet for me as I love celebrating a year of growth and learning but I also know aging means another year gone! This year has been a particularly hard one with lots of loss around us. It is true that when people you care about are hurting so are you. Not only have we had a big loss in our own family but we have many close friends who have as well and it has really impacted us as a family and me as an individual.

I really do try to find the “lessons” that surround loss and hardship, however somethings this year haven’t shown me a lesson and have been hard to see meaning behind. They have reminded me to be grateful and appreciate all the good things. SO with that in mind I have a few “lessons” from this year.

Enjoy right now, be present in this moment.

Life can change in an instant.

Tell people you love them and don’t waste time saying NO to opportunities to spend with those you love. When you are tired or haven’t seen someone for a while take the time to call and check in, send a quick text, write a card. You will miss those moments when they are gone.

If its important schedule it in, Make a standing date with your girlfriends, plan a weekly meal you always sit down with your spouse, make a monthly Thursday morning park play with the kids favourite friends. Whatever or whoever it is carve out time. I know when I schedule stuff in it is more likely to happen.

SLOW DOWN. Prioritize, what and who are really most important to you and how do you want to spend your time.

You can feel happy and devastated all at once. This year specifically has brought heartache but I also have moments where I am so incredibly happy in my family life or proud of my kids that I am both very sad and incredibly happy. Emotions are crazy.

I know for certain I work hard to find the positives in our life, some times it is easier than others but I know I feel better when I am positive, I am a better parent, better spouse, better friend, better employee, etc. I don’t just wake up smiling but when I look at how fast my son has grown up or I take the time to stand outside his classroom and hear him saying goodbye to all his little friends. Or ask him about his day and find out he had so much fun with his big buddy it is hard not to smile.

Being happy isn’t constant and it takes work. I have moments where I am frustrated, times when I parent in a way I never want to and am so embarrassed and disappointed. Something will trigger a memory or I will hear something sad about a friend or acquaintance and it is instant tears. Despite all the sadness though my kids, Fraser and the life we have created is full of so much good that I accept when I feel sad and take the time to cry or be frustrated or be mad but I also try to be grateful and appreciative and happy. I try to look at all things I have control over and make choices that I am happy with.

One thing I have always known I wanted for my kids is for them to be happy and to develop meaningful friendships. This is something Fraser and I could always improve on but work hard at our important friendships. Our friendships are genuine, old and deep. We don’t get as much time as we would like to socialize but feel so fortunate for all those people who are our tribe.

For me to know that Rowen has started to develop friendships and play and have fun feels like the biggest success we could have. Fraser and I have worked hard and have an amazing support system of friends and family that mean the world to us and I want my kids to have the same. Friendship is work, but what we get out of them is so much more than the time and energy we put in.

This time last year I had just finished a parent meeting at preschool with a big list of concerns from the teachers as well as my list of concerns, and had my Paediatrician suspecting Rowen had Autism. Fast forward a year later and Rowen has a big list of accomplishments, we headed into a school meeting on Friday where it included a big list of accomplishments. In addition our circle of friends and family has grown to include a team of people who not only support Rowen but also us. These professionals have become like family and are so incredible in helping us all to have more success day to day.

Wednesday was a pretty great day. Rowen woke up to a lot of excitement and it was adorable to watch all three kids unwrap and play with Rowens mound of new goodies. The thing is most of his gifts had been bought with intention and help from his OT in fun stuff that he can play with and it will also work on developing his fine and gross motor skills as well as help him to regulate his body.

That same morning Rowen went to see his OT and he was so excited to bring in a Starbucks for him and a hot chocolate for himself, birthday treats. Then he had ABA and he took in a big Texas Donut to celebrate with everyone. We ended the evening with Nan, Grandpa, Uncles and Aunties and of course his cousins coming over for cake. It was so great.

My mom commented later that night at how far Rowen had come and what a great night he had. The thing is last year Rowen’s birthday had been a bit of a tough time. We had been struggling with lots of tough behaviours and we were all trying to understand what was going on for Row and how to best support him. Fast forward a year and Rowen has figured a lot of stuff out (with lots of support and help), he knows when things are overwhelming and can express himself so much better and more appropriately. He feels so much more comfortable and safer with his people. He is able to listen and follow some direction, he was good at slowing down to do his gifts and even thank whoever gave it to him. It was truly a great birthday.

In addition to Rowens Birthday going well he had a few other super sweet days celebrating. On Monday he celebrated at school with cupcakes and it was one of his best days to date at school. He loved getting to go and share with his friends. He is really find his place at school and learning to play and participate with his class.

He also celebrated tonight with his friends at his Birthday party. Birthday parties are something I have always loved and have been known to possibly go a little over the top… I believe its a matter of opinion, but Fraser is the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to birthdays and parties and all that good stuff so we are often not in agreement. The thing is last year was a good reminder to me that the party and birthday aren’t about what I want but what each of our kids want. This year Rowen got to pick something he wanted to do. I gave him lots of ideas or suggestions and showed him some pictures. Then it was up to him to pick who he invited. This is hard for me as I often like to invite my friends (with kids) and I usually feel the more the merrier but his party package was for 12 kids and we limited it knowing he does better in small groups. The night was a huge success and he was so happy.

Rowen is a year older, and I am so excited to see what this next year holds for us all. He brings me so much joy and is so incredibly caring. I am grateful that he has made me a mom and that he has made our lives fuller. To another year of growing with Rowen. ❤️

Goodbye GADFLY

I like to think our vibe attracts our tribe and that we surround ourselves with people we want to be around but there are some exceptions and family falls in that category. The thing is you don’t choose your family and I think lots of time families aren’t close because they want to be, but more out of obligation. Or some families just don’t talk and aren’t close for whatever reasons.

My family is kinda unusual, I think for the most part we all generally like each other and we have always been close spending lots of time together. My mom raised us and she did a lot of it solo, but we had two extraordinary “extra” parents that were always there to help her and us.

Uncle Harvey was 20 years older than my aunt and married with the understanding he wanted no children. I wonder if he knew then what he was getting himself into. He could have never guessed he would get three girls and their mom in addition to his bride:) I think in terms of a typical family we definitely break the mold.

Uncle is a term used for fun extra special men who are related and get to do the fun stuff with their nieces and Uncle Harvey was definitely that but he was so much more. I feel like Uncle will never adequately describe what he meant to me or to my sisters. Our lives will forever be better because he was a part of them. He was the person we could ask for help or advice when we needed to, he was our secure and safe place.

I always thought that Uncle Harvey meant more to us than he knew and always made sure to send a card or recently a text with a quote on Father’s Day. It was hard to find one for an Uncle who was like a Dad but one year I found the best card, I never thought about it much after I gave it to him until years later I found it out on his dresser. I was so surprised as he is not sentimental at all. I knew then that we were just as important to him as he was to us.

More recently Uncle Harveys role had become even bigger in my life. Everyone needs a mentor or a voice of reason to keep you grounded and I think Uncle Harvey had become that for me. He was so busy, he filled his life with people he loved and things he loved to do. He could be scary (just ask us about the big Kahuna) and stubborn, but it was part of his charm. I mean he actually would have voted for Trump if he was American, we argued about it… some things we could not agree with. However sometimes he had valid points, like his annoyance with tax dollars being spent to replant the meridians and gardens on Ladner Trunk road each season, or the addition of all the new trees on municipal land. Politics aside he was someone I will always look up to and love.

I will always remember when we turned his brand new workshop into our slumber party headquarters, I mean I am sure it was his dream to have his new man cave turned into a bunch of tweens favourite sleepover spot. I will never be able to see a ledger or old school leather bound cheque book without thinking of having to write cheques when they were in Hawaii, paying all their bills with a mailed cheque, I mean he refused to online bank until more recently. Plus a lot of the bills were for the year. He paid MSP, cable and a few others yearly, just one cheque a year was easy I guess. I should have tried to learn more budgeting tips from him, but I luckily took after my aunts good sense of spend what you got and a little bit extra:)

I do love the way despite his declining health he never felt sorry for himself or even seemed sad or mad, he really did lead by example of working hard and enjoying his life regardless of circumstances.

In his later years he regularly told me he loved me and my family and he never was shy to say he was proud of me. Before I had kids he would often come in to visit me at work, I think it was to see all the women shopping and trying on clothes (always a ladies man) but he would say it was to see me! When I considered purchasing the store Uncle Harvey and I went through the process together, I think he was as excited as I was about a new project and he definitely had more faith in myself than I did. We both decided it wasn’t right for me but I know he was hoping I would open my own shop instead of buying an existing one, maybe one day. The most surprising reaction was when I told him I was pregnant (every time), he just seemed genuinely happy which was not reaction I was expecting and such a happy surprise.

He taught me more than money management skills (I am still working on that one, bit of a slow learner). He also taught me what it was to have someone who believed in me. I loved how he had softened over the years, not a lot but a little about certain things.

He knew no boundaries and I often had to remind him I didn’t want to hear or know about certain things in his life (most I hope were him just joking), definitely needed a lesson in TMI. I loved the way him and Auntie Mona would discuss anything and everything with us, even when we would beg them not to or be so embarrassed by them.

I will forever think of them when we go to Hawaii and all the wonderful memories and times they had there, I think it is part of the reason why I love being in Maui so much.

I will always remember the blue house that Uncle Harvey grew up in. I will still be upset that he sold the yellow house, I mean he had no sentimental attachment to things or places! Lol, I think it was something about a great investment not a sentimental home, always so practical.

I will never forget when he came over and cleaned our bathroom for us because we didn’t scrub the tile well enough, I swear he did an entire tile bathroom and shower with a toothbrush and then left us a lifetime supply of Tilex to encourage us to upkeep it. He was particular, some might even say anal.

The many Christmas’ that we spent Christmas Eve playing Jenga and watching Santa run down Massey Drive. The phone calls we got every year from Santa (AKA Uncle Harvey), and to be honest to this day I wonder if Uncle Harvey is really Santa Claus. For a guy who never put up lights or a Christmas Tree but somehow always was the first to arrive Christmas morning to watch us open all our gifts including three specials ones he had picked out for each niece he sure seemed to really get into Christmas. Or the year “Santa” brought us our first computer and how excited Uncle Harvey was.

The summer vacations we always took with our cousins that were a gift from Uncle Harvey, he actually never came with us but someone had to go to work to pay for them.

The back to school outfit from “the wallet” (aka as Uncle Harvey).

The fact that whenever he made a “bigger” purchase like when he last bought his car or his stem cell treatments in the states and I asked him all about it he mentioned he had dipped into our inheritance, I think he loved joking about it.

I love how he aged. Although his body got older his mind really had gotten sharper and he kept with the trends. He pretty much made coconut oil popular, he was into the healthy fads, wore skinny jeans and trendy clothes, loved to text (especially with emojis) and really was a modern man.

My heart is so sad knowing that we no longer have Uncle Harvey and Auntie Mona watching out for us on Earth but it is eased a bit by the idea that they are reunited and watching out for us from somewhere above. I also am often reminded of the importance and the roles Uncle Harvey played in so many other peoples lives, which I guess is how someone’s memories live on. I am so inspired by the way he lived his life and want to make sure I value and build friendships like his.

Wherever you are Uncle Harvey I hope you are happy and at peace. We love you and miss you, thank you for everything. XO