Living a life we love, managing stress and coping with anxiety

So, my first 30 years were the years I didn’t know how to manage my stress. I often felt overwhelmed, suffered from chronic headaches as well as feelings of depression and anxiety. Everything from relationships to money to work to any sort of responsibility would be stressful for me.

Today, I rarely get a headache and now instead of having them caused by emotional stress they are usually brought on by forgetting to eat, too much sun and not enough water or on occasion cheap wine or one too many drinks!

I have recently been really wondering what was so stressful before that isn’t so stressful now? Like seriously I am now responsible for three tiny humans, I should be more stressed. I am realizing though, with life experience you gain confidence, hopefully some coping mechanisms for anxiety and stress and of course the ability to recognize and ask for help.

I think there are a few things for me that lead to stress and the feeling of being out of control.

  • Overwhelm. Always saying yes to everything. With the best intentions but I struggled to set realistic goals.
  • Avoidance. Ignoring issues past or present. Not communicating and afraid to make changes. Avoiding confrontation or difficult conversations.
  • Caring too much about appearances and what others think, instead of prioritizing myself. Doing things to make others happy instead of being true to myself.

I think often people see my blog or even a picture I post or an instagram story and are happy to believe that my life is pretty good and I have it really easy. I agree my life is really good, but a really good life still takes hard work and compromise and everything comes with a price tag. As for having it easy, I think grass is always greener on the other side. We have chosen to try and see the bright side and the best in our situation. It doesn’t always work, but for the most part I think we have created a life we are happy with and really are living our best life.

I have been told “you make it look all sunshine and butterflies”. It has really got me thinking, and it has reminded me that I shouldn’t care what other people think. This is so much easier said then done. It is far from sunshine and butterflies we have lots of challenging moments. However it also has got me thinking about what has changed in my life that I feel less stress than I ever did. The truth is I don’t believe anyone lives a stress free life however I do believe that it is all in how we deal with our stress and choose to live our lives that impact our quality of life.

For me personally a lot of my typical stresses are gone but a lot are gone because of choices and actions I took.

Schedule. First I make a big effort at using our calendar and scheduling in everyone’s stuff (Fraser’s ball, Rowens ABA, kids activities, parties, family social stuff, work, etc). Then when things come up we can check the calendar and try to avoid over scheduling. This sometimes means saying no or prioritizing. It has taken us a while to get to this point but I found we were so busy some days or weeks running from thing to thing that no one was having any fun and I was super stressed. We like to be flexible and plan as we go but having a bit of a schedule to work from has really helped to alleviate stress. This has also helped us to see improvements in the kids behaviour. When they are over scheduled we see more behaviours that we don’t love, which is a good sign to slow things down or take a day off. I also have realized that although I use a calendar and plan ahead, on a busy week it is best to take one day at a time. That has been a huge stress reliever.

Rituals. These are hard to think of but they are things we do to keep peace and order. They feel good to everyone because we know what to expect and they are calming. I have worked really hard at trying to not only have rituals with the kids but for myself. Prior to kids Fraser and I loved being sporadic but now with three kids we see the benefits to having some routine and rituals in our life. For me these rituals include things like journaling, moon circles, using oils, meditation, taking time to work on the farm once a week and girls nights. For the kids some things are our bedtime rituals (bath, reading, talking about our day and what is happening tomorrow, etc), baking with the kids and even our dance parties (which weren’t always popular with Rowen but we found a way to include him). I think these help to feel safe, in control and just regroup without surprises or unknown.

***Side Bar on rituals is that I have just established a plan with the help of my naturopath of a few things to do to try and get back on track and one of her suggestions was setting an hour, 10pm-11pm, where I do the same things every night to prepare for bed. Similar to how we do for our kids bedtime. I love this reminder of how important these rituals are!

Setting Boundaries. This has been something that has been difficult and caused some upset amongst some family but we are learning to set our boundaries. What I am learning about boundaries is that even workplaces and friendships can benefit from boundaries. I love knowing what other people expect and want and when things are clear it eliminates a lot of stress. Setting boundaries often can avoid feeling like you are being taken advantage of or even getting into awkward or difficult situations. Some examples for us of boundaries that were difficult to set but helped eliminate stress were things like limiting our visitors every time we had a new baby, declining some Christmas family activities because it was overwhelming (limiting how much we do right around the holiday), trying to leave Sunday as a family day, and really being clear about how we like the kids being treated and raised.

Practice Self Care. I am really proud of how well Fraser respects this and is really good at acknowledging when I need some me time. He will often notice if I am nearing a breaking point and suggest I go out for some solo time. He also is good at taking time to go work on a project solo or go to ball, just be on his own. I wouldn’t have ever believed this would take persuasion as I have always been great at self care. However once you have kids things change it is almost like I feel guilty sometimes taking time for me. I do think the more you practice self care the easier it gets because you realize you come back refreshed and ready to take more on!

Self care for me is often taking time away from the family and doing some of my rituals. Self care is even something as simple as working outside of the house, its funny to say that but having three young kiddos has meant we made the choice to have me at home. It was a team decision and a lot of it was it just made financial sense but it was also logistically for the lifestyle we wanted (kids activities, Fraser and I being able to see each other, parent participation in things, etc) that it made sense for us. As nice as it is that I am able to stay at home we both know it would be nice if I could work a little, unfortunately working a little means hiring some more help, having Fraser help out a bit and just more scheduling… I realize that self care is a priority and we make it work but it is a bit of work to take the time for me.

I think that you do not have to eat the same meals every Monday night, do the same thing every Tuesday morning, etc to create routines in your life. I know my resistance to creating these healthy habits was loosing spontaneity but that isn’t true at all. These are just ways to help manage stress and anxiety. Everyone is different and sometimes it takes a bit to figure out what will work for you but I encourage you to try. Often we know what we need to do but we just need a push to get there so whatever that push looks like for you… maybe it’s having an accountability partner, hiring a coach, seeing your naturopath or maybe its as simple as a checklist. Whatever it looks like take the time to do it! Living with less stress and anxiety usually means you get to live with a whole lot more of other stuff!

Do you ever wonder… what will our children remember?

Last week Fraser spontaneously let two days off lead into almost a week and a half off and it was amazing. Fraser doesn’t have a regular Monday to Friday, 9-5 job and although it comes with challenges it has so many perks. One being flexible time off!

With him home it gave us evenings together. We would do bedtime for the kiddos and then have dinner just the two of us and an after dinner drink, cuddle or just sit around the fire on our patio, we even got to chat without being interrupted by the kids. It was so great. He typically works graveyards (1am-8am) and tries to go to bed around 7 or when the kids go to bed so it was nice to spend evenings together.

During one of our evenings together we started to chat about our childhood memories (or lack of). Fraser has a freaky good memory and I feel like I have no memory. It was interesting to see who we remembered spending time with and what moments we remembered. It then lead to us chatting about what we thought our kids would remember and what we wanted them to remember.

Since our chat the memories we are making have been on my mind lots and it has given me new confidence in how we are raising our kids and how I want to raise them. #18summers go fast, or so they say. I want my kids to remember that we spent time with them, really listened and connected and were happy.

Happiness and experiences are the two things that I want them to remember. Because whether you have a perfect memory like Fraser or you have no recollection like me you have a general idea of good, bad, sad, happy… memory can carry emotion and I know the emotions I want my kids to have when it comes to their child hood.

I like to think we are doing a good job of creating the kind of childhood I hope my kids will remember with fondness but some things that I have been trying to make an effort to do are:

LIVE IN THE MOMENT. Don’t get too caught up in the future but enjoy the present moment with our kids. Sometimes this is hard to do but I am really trying to work on this.

SPOIL THEM. If they want me to lay down with them at bedtime, if they ask for an ice cream, or if they are having a bad day and need a break from real life to go run and play at the park I am usually happy to oblige! I love being spoilt and I remember when people took the time to “spoil” me, which for my kids is usually what they want! I feel extremely fortunate to have the time to spend with my kids as well as the support from an extremely loving, involved and available partner and baby daddy. My mom had a full time job in addition to raising us as did both Fraser’s parents so they weren’t always able to “spoil” us with time like we can our children.

CREATE TRADITIONS. I think kids remember stuff that they do often so although we are not great at routine I am trying to do things more than once. For example we have tried to take a yearly winter vacation (so far it has always been to Maui but we are open to changing the destination). We try to spend time at Christmas taking in a “festive” activity whether that’s Bright Lights at Stanley Park, German Market, Enchanted, etc. We love exploring new parks and going to the beach. The things both of us remembered fastest were “traditions” or stuff we had done repeatedly. So for Fraser it was spending time with his Grandparents at their cabin, for me it was Sunday dinners at the beach house with our whole family and brunch at the T&C after church.

TALK NICE. This one is really important to me. I am really working on watching my temper, being patient and talking nice. Kids listen to everything and tone is so important. I think this is something we are pretty good at it but I never want it to change. It is amazing to hear how kids talk to each other and to know that they are learning that somewhere. I want our kids memories to include seeing a loving relationship between Fraser and I as well as learning how to treat people and how to have good relationships of all kinds!

PRIORITIZE. This is one I am always needing to remind myself of. I can’t have it all but I can decide what is most important. So although I want to paint the outside of our house, we would love a new truck for Fraser and we both loved going regularly to the our local small class gym it has meant giving up some of these things (or postponing them for a bit) in exchange for taking an extended winter holiday and being able to do lots of fun staycation type things during the summer (ferry and visit friends on the island, season pass to the aquarium, etc), signing the kids up for private two week swim lessons and not to worry if Fraser decides to take a week and a bit off instead of two days. Sometimes we focus on what we don’t have instead of looking at all that we do and for us it has been about choices and priorities. I think for me I just have to remind myself of our priorities.

I know we hear it and see it often but I find the days long and the years short and I know in my heart these are some of the best times with our kids and I want to cherish them. Every family dynamic is different so I try not to compare to other families but instead learn from and “borrow” ideas that I like or might work for our family. I also just try to enjoy my kids as much as I can, this is not always easy and it may look like we are #livingthedream but I think it is better described as #livingourbestlife. I always try to remind myself that a lot of times it isn’t how it appears that matters but how you feel and what attitude you take. If I think about memories it is so true about the emotions and feelings that looking back on childhood brings up and I want to be conscious about how my kids are experiencing theirs.

Remember when “I would raise my kids differently”

Becoming a Mom is something I never knew I wanted, if you ask anyone who knows me they will say “remember when you use to say I am never having kids”. I think this has been a good lesson in never say never!

Having kids has changed my life (for the better) and looking through pictures tonight has been a reminder at how quickly it all goes. I remember finding out we were expecting our first baby and the excitement, then the nerves and emotions at being 2 weeks overdue and having to be induced. I cannot go back and these moments went so fast!

Before I had kids I had lots of ideas of what “Good” Moms do. Some of my ideas were

  1. My kids will never sleep in my bed. Co-sleeping is odd and not for us.
  2. My kids will eat at restaurants and sit without an iPad or tablet. They will eat what we are eating (no chicken and fries) and they will sit with us at home until everyone is done.
  3. My kids will always greet everyone. Saying Hello is a lifeskill and it doesn’t matter how old they are they should say Hello.
  4. Bedtime will be at a decent hour and routine (Bath, Book and Bed).
  5. No TV. Family Movie Nights are a treat otherwise no need for TV.
  6. My kids will learn to behave while shopping with me and I will go shopping with them. (Grocery’s, the mall, Home Sense, the nursery). There is no reason you shouldn’t be able to take multiple young kids out shopping with you.
  7. No sweat pants. Stretch clothes are for the gym, I will wear jeans everyday like I did pre kids and I will still buy well made and nice clothes. I will properly launder my clothes, it is easy to hang dry most of your stuff. I love beautiful fabrics and having kids shouldn’t change how I dress.

The list could go on… I mean I cannot believe how many “ideas” I had about life with kids and how my life would be so different from all the people I saw and judged with kids.

Fast forward 3.5 years and 3 little ones later and I have broken every idea I ever had about having kids.

First lesson I learnt is don’t be judgemental or rigid with your thoughts, go in knowing nothing and being open to adapting. I felt like a failure in the beginning literally breaking every thought I had ever had about how to raise a child.

Now I am open to ideas and changing what I thought I would want, I don’t feel like a failure I feel like a person willing to do what it takes to survive. Raising kids is the hardest and most game changing thing I have ever and will ever do. I now know if I can raise these three little ones then I can pretty much do anything. LOL! Okay it sounds extreme but I am pretty sure it is true.

Motherhood is crazy, if you’re a mom you know exactly what I am talking about and if you are not you may not believe it (I wouldn’t have until I experienced it). Before you have your baby life has already changed in inconceivable ways. You grow a tiny human in your body, an alien of sorts. Your skin stretches, you often emotionally are a wreck and physically your body starts to do crazy stuff! This is small potatoes to what comes after the baby arrives!

A baby arrives and I personally I felt like I was going a little loco, this baby was so dependent on me and me only. There was no one else who could feed my baby and that is pretty profound. I think dads play such an important role in children’s lives, at least my babies daddy does. However it is so different from the role of Mom. I try hard not to compare because lots of the Daddy role I wouldn’t want to do but sometimes it is hard not to feel overwhelmed. Babies want their mama’s!

My kids have softened me, taught me patience, and humility, brought me more joy and pride than I could have ever thought possible and shown me what love is as well as what is important in life. They have strengthened any important relationships, as well as helped prioritize relationships that weren’t worth time or effort. They have helped us reevaluate our priorities . They are truly the best gift Fraser and I have ever given each other and they will always be the best collaboration we have ever had. Because of my kids I am a better human being and that is pretty cool.

On Sunday we will celebrate Mother’s Day, but I say celebrate everyday! To all you amazing Mama’s out there keep on raising beautiful humans and don’t forget to give yourself a little credit for all the hard work you are doing. To my own Mom, Thank You! I get it now. XO

Real Housewife of A Long Shore Man

I ran in to my mentor, coach and last employer a couple weeks ago. Both of our lives have changed pretty significantly in the last 3 years and we had lots to catch up on. As we were standing there chatting she gave me a huge compliment. She commented that I looked great (always nice to hear but that wasn’t the compliment) and that I didn’t have that over tired/stressed out mom look most moms with babies and young kids have. She then proceeded to say ” You did that, you have made choices to make sure that you are not too stressed or over tired. It is not luck but your choices.”

It totally stuck with me as I sometimes feel mom guilt or compare myself to others without meaning to and then feel bad that I am not your typical mom! However I feel like people see me or us out as a family and say how “Lucky” we are for many different reasons. I don’t think its luck, I think its hard work, compromise and prioritizing. Most times people mean well by the comment but it doesn’t seem quite right as we work hard to have the lifestyle and life that we have.

These pictures below are such an example. I love them but they were done on a super cold day at 6pm, because I had a conference all day and that was the time we could make work. Fraser had worked a graveyard shift only to come home to watch the kids (I had already left for the day so he took over from my sister). When I got home we frantically tried to dress our kids (hence why Rowen isn’t wearing a jacket, he actually wanted no pants or socks. We compromised). And sweet Grace had just gotten up from a nap. The pictures most definitely don’t tell the whole story, but they captured each of us perfectly IMO and I love them. That being said I wish other people knew when they looked at them these pictures were 15 minutes of a crazy day and don’t depict our full story.

Here’s the thing, we intentionally had three kids under the age of three and we knew it was a bit crazy and going to change lots. However, we both knew we still wanted to be individuals, to have time together and with friends to socialize as adults (we started as just the two of us, and we will end up just the two of us again so we want to keep the love alive, and we actually enjoy each other’s company and like spending time together).

I like working, or I at least like being a part of a team of people working towards something (not necessarily work in the traditional sense). However we both decided with the age of our kids and the hours we would both end up working it didn’t make financial or emotional sense for me to go back to my old job. That being said it wasn’t that I could never go back to work just need to get the kids into school. Just another trade off, I love my life and we both made the choice to stay home but I do not have my own income and people don’t look at a mom and see how hard she works, instead they see a lucky kept lady getting to stay home, sleep in, cuddle a baby and shop without paying for it. Trade offs. I do get to do all those things but I also rarely have breakfast (or at least fresh/hot breakfast), often don’t shower until 3 (and over half the time its with a child), have been puked on more times than I care to count, don’t remember the last time I slept without at least one child in my bed or the last time I peed alone and have you ever tried to shop with three kids under three (best budgeting tool ever)?

Here is us on Market Day, we had a babysitter but figured to make it easier on her and better for Eleanor we would bring her for at least part of the day, this was just what was best for the greater good! I loved planning and preparing for the market, Fraser loved getting to create a bit in his workshop and loved seeing me happy and my kids love being at the farm and “helping” on the days before and after the market. It is not easy, but it is rewarding and fun and was such a great day!

I miss the responsibility and independence and accomplishments that come with having a job outside of the home. Obviously this is always an area that will have pros and cons and I love the decision we made for our family but I definitely think it is a hard decision for every family and again it comes at a cost. I do look at a lot of my working friends in envy and with so much pride for what they are doing. The really cool thing for me is I think as a collective group of friends we are able to get the best of all worlds. I am around if anyone needs any help, etc and my friends are around for me to get to jump in on occasion (like at the farm, getting to work and do the market).

I have managed to find things that I can do part time or on contract and still get the feeling of some independence from the family but not have it negatively impact them. Instead all these things I do make me a better me and a better mom! This idea of self care isn’t new to me, it’s something I have always struggled with (I am an all or nothing type of girl but I am totally working on balance). I decided to start this blog, sell doTerra Oils, help train and teach the girls at The Urban Rack (my last job) and even take on some projects/ events like the Christmas Market at the Farm and my girlfriends long table dinner. These things are not making me rich, to be completely honest most of these things end up costing more than they ever make. But money isn’t the only measurement of success and what these things bring to our family in terms of socialization, feeling of community and happiness and fulfilment out weigh any paycheque they are missing.

Fraser is a longshoremen and he works nightshifts by choice (specifically graveyards). This is one of those choices that we make to provide us with our “lucky” life. The trade off for him working at night is a better paycheque (amazing shift differential), more family time, flexibility in taking time off (when you make more at work you can work less!). With these benefits come costs and the cost to us is nighttime’s alone for mom with 3 very young and not great sleepers, sleep deprivation for both of us (especially for Fraser who doesn’t get many hours a day of sleep), early nights (no more wild nights out TIL 2 am, home before the clock strikes 12… especially when you work at 1am). We feel the benefits out weigh the costs and we try to balance it all, so when we find it taking its toll on us Fraser might take some time off, or we just have some lazy home PJ days.

We were able to do a renovation last year and this year we are able to take a month off to go to Maui, some might consider us “lucky” for having such an extended vacation but I look at it as well deserved time to rest. Fraser has many weeks were he works 7 days a week, and on top of his paying night job he is a full time dad, and a part time handy man for our household as well as for all my wild ideas (like setting up a table at our first Christmas Market). There is also all the things you don’t see, like our less than extravagant vehicles that are far from our dream ride (but we have no car payments!), or the fact that I haven’t bought new bras in I’m embarrassed to admit how long or that Fraser’s gum boots have holes in them! I mean we aren’t poor and hard done by but we also make choices and go without a lot of things.

Its funny though both Fraser and I struggle with taking time for ourselves. It’s hard to leave the other parent with three kiddos and not feel a bit of guilt for it. We are good at getting a babysitter. I never feel guilty paying someone to come and be with the kids but leaving the other parent (who willingly signed up for this parenting gig), and doesn’t get paid, is much harder to do. Just because it is hard to do though, doesn’t mean we both shouldn’t still try. Fraser has a much harder time than I do with just popping out and doing something with the guys or just for himself. This will definitely be something we will continue to work on as we both think its important and something I believe will come easier as the kids get a bit older. It does mean our weekends or even days on a motorcycle are few and far between, or drinks with friends or days spent doing nothing by ours selves are not really a reality right now. But the odd time we do get to do some of these the more we appreciate and enjoy it.

I think the reminder in all of this and the lesson is that we make our own luck. Life is life and making it great is up to us. We really do have the power to make life what we want. We wanted chaotic and crazy and knew what we were getting into. The good so outweighs the hard (because it is never bad, its hard). In my opinion anything worthwhile is hard, so stick it out and the benefits are usually way bigger than you can ever imagine. Check in with yourself often and evaluate.

When we are overwhelmed we look at how we can simplify and what is important. We hire our amazing babysitter and take time out just the two of us. Or we try to see when we need a break and encourage each other, sometimes its me needing a nap after a rough night with the kids or Fraser needing to go out to his shop and do whatever it is he does out there:)

I have a large family who has been there when we need them and are always offering help but we certainly don’t have financial or childcare support that we know a lot of young families have. What we do have is creative help, my sister is always offering to take some of the kids or we trade off preschool pick ups which is huge. My mom is always dropping off meals, coming by to hold Eleanor just so I can get a bit done or even taking our laundry and returning it the next day cleaned and folded. These things are HUGE and I am learning to accept the help that is offered. We also recently hired a house cleaner, and I am learning that is a huge help! It took a bit of work (cleaning the house for the cleaners) and then being out of the house for them was a chore with three kids. However coming home to a clean house is always a good feeling for everyone.

I think another thing I am learning since having kids and more life experience is everyone’s life looks great but we see is just the good stuff not the compromises or things they have given up to get the good! It’s easy to envy or to think grass is greener but instead of doing that make a life you love and you will have no reason to feel that way.

What choices have your family made that were difficult? Do you consider yourself “lucky”? Would love to hear from you…

The Art of Gift Giving

Around this time of year it’s easy to get caught up in the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales and the “stuff” surrounding Christmas, I don’t know about you but I love a good impulse buy and am all about saving a buck or two! I also love good merchandising and anything in pretty packaging gets me… the more the merrier??? Or maybe not. This time of year we have a big influx of new “toys” come into our house as we celebrate two birthdays (Rowen and Grace) and Christmas. It’s a lot in a short period of time.

Our year round “policy” around toys and stuff is less is more, and for the most part I follow this and try to encourage everyone in the house to follow this principle. We aim for experiences over stuff and try to focus on getting out and going places (near or far). We love to spend time and money on vacations, outdoor activities and even seasonal experiences like boating in the summer or mountains and snow in the winter (who am I kidding, more like Maui and beaches in the winter 😉). However we sometimes need to keep each other in check and Birthday/Christmas season seems to be when we start to slip. So, here are some of my favourite gifts as well as tips and ideas to stay on track… also some of the traditions I am trying to start with our family.

First, we are through one of two birthdays and I wanted to share some of my favourite gifts!

I love love love when people give books. My kids all enjoy them and I feel like its a gift that will be enjoyed for a long time. Plus I love giving books! I think they encourage imagination, can be part of good habits like bedtime routines or spending quality time just reading with your kids and I also love that they can be such learning and teaching tools. I know my kiddos have learnt new words and I am hoping even a bit about emotions and feelings from books. Top two favourites that are new Birthday gifts in our house are I am Yoga and I am Peace, A Book of Mindfulness by Susan Verde. They are so perfect for kids with busy minds and bodies ( Rowen & Grace!!!). I love these so much that they will definitely be ones I give as gifts. Plus I know they are well suited to my kiddos because they received them from their auntie but their Nan came over and saw them and said “I saw this and was going to buy it for the kids”.

A surprise favourite is a toy I had never seen or heard of but it came from Rowens Aunt who runs a preschool so she knows all the best toys. They are magnetic shapes you can use to build all sorts of things. The kids love them and there is so many different ways they can and do use them. Plus they definitely encourage imagination!

Finally a gift I never get tired of is art supplies and Rowen received all sorts of great supplies including paint brushes, paint, sketch pads and canvases, plus stickers and stamps. My kids love to paint and we go through supplies quickly so its always nice to get new stuff!

Next tip to avoid over indulging is to try giving more than receiving. We have an annual kids Christmas Party with a group of our friends who all have kids now. It is pretty special as the parents are all childhood friends raising the next generation of friends.

We used to do a gift exchange and it was loved by all the kids but the last few years we have transitioned to ” adopting” a family or individual kids through different organizations like Delta Assist. I love this. Nothing feels better than teaching your kids how to give to those who are less fortunate or maybe have fallen on hard times. I know my kiddos are still very young and might not grasp the idea but I am so proud of what we are able to do as a group and the values this will ins-till in our kids.

Tonight I hit up West 49th as my recipient of the gift I was buying was a 13-16 year old boy. The boy at the store that helped me was this age. He was so helpful and didn’t really get what I was asking for at first, so he helped pick out a reasonably priced sweater that he said was “good”. I didn’t recognize the brand and didn’t think it looked very fun but I don’t have much experience with shopping for boys especially this age. Then I asked him would you like to receive this (he didn’t really say much but I could tell it was a no). SO, I said we have no budget just show me what you would like. It was like a different kid started to talk. He said this is “wicked” and he didn’t even know Vans Spitfire made these hoodies. It would be so cool. Being a practical and boring mom I was sceptical of white, but he was so animated and excited I bought it and can’t wait for whatever boy gets this on Christmas. *** I made sure it came with a gift receipt, #1 RULE to good gift giving always include a gift receipt.

The idea here is that sometimes we have so much in our lives that we loose sight of those who maybe aren’t as fortunate. Why not use these opportunities to teach our kids about giving to others. Christmas can be a hard time for lots of people and we aren’t even aware of it. I cant imagine not being able to spoil our kids and feel so blessed everyday with all the things we can give them. OF course I know kids can survive and need very little but knowing and doing are two very different things and it is really nice to be able to spoil your kids, but why can’t we spoil and share! DO both.

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y for some traditions I am going to start in our house this year, I love the idea of a little goody box on December 1st. So this year my kiddos will be getting their new Christmas Jammie's and their advent calendars plus I think maybe a book and a tree ornament for each of them. I love this idea and think it is nice to have something to start of December with. We always got new PJs on Christmas Eve and I used to totally look forward to it but figured why not spread out some of the giving to make it last over a longer period of time. I would like to also include the Elf on The Shelf as part of this tradition but am on the fence mainly because I cant decide if the kids are too little to leave him alone or if they will just want to play with him. Any feedback from veteran households who have had the elf visit?

Of course, Christmas morning my kiddos will get some fun things (not pictured here) like dolls, trucks, games and such but I also am using Christmas as a time to stock up on some of the essentials (like socks and sweaters, etc). Another thing I am trying to do more of is find local handmade gifts. The little hula dolls are a special gift I had made for the girls, they are to signify our trip to Hawaii which is a big part of the families Christmas gift, they were handmade by The Little Honey Bee & Me. I love the idea of giving gifts with meaning and supporting local.

I hope these tips have helped you with your Christmas lists and reminded you of what’s important to your family! Would love to hear any tips or advice you have when shopping for your family.

3 Fast Years.

When I was pregnant with Rowen Fraser and I would imagine all the possabilities for our first child… Would he or she be confident, social, shy or independent?  We envisioned a child with all sorts of wonderful characteristics, all the best traits and lots of friends and accomplishments. What we didn’t discuss or envision was this child’s struggles or the obstacles they would have to overcome.

I have been worried about our oldest, Rowen, since before he was born (I guess that is what parents do).  Being our first baby every milestone mark comes and you worry.  “Did he get his teeth in the right order, at the right age, can he walk? Does he sleep through the night?  Is he taking a bottle, he’s too old and we need to wean him.”  These are just some of the many thoughts I would over analyze about with Rowen.

Lately the concerns have been hard to explain or list but I was worried that he wasn’t developing as he should!  Then we got a call to come in and meet with the teachers, they had noticed a lot of the same things I have noticed and were impressed by how on top of it I was. Obviously its nice to know you haven’t been over reacting and that you were right to trust your mama bear instinct but it’s also a little upsetting to hear your child isn’t developing typically or that he is already facing more struggles than the average two year old.

I had a friend point out the everyone will struggle or have troubles at one time or another so it isn’t if it’s when? And the sooner it happens the better prepared and equipped you are to deal with life. I love this and totally agree with it. So I am looking at this latest hurdle as an opportunity for growth for myself as a parent and for Rowen as a person, learning skills that will help him through his life.

Funny thing about parenting is, it is nothing like what you expect it to be and it is so hard (and rewarding and amazing).   I think we glamorize parenthood (especially the newborn stage) to be magical and natural.  When in reality parenting is so much more than that… it is challenging, exhausting, trying and so very emotional.

I had images of what my children would be like, personalities, looks and even how they would dress, like a lot of people we said “our children will never do that” or “we will raise them differently”. Before becoming parents we knew it all, now that we have children we know nothing!

My kids refuse to wear the clothes I pick out (a lot of the time they refuse to wear clothes at all), my almost three year old is not even potty trained yet, we co-sleep the majority of the time, we have an iPad for every child and we avoid taking our kids to restaurants (something I swore my kids would do and do well).   Nothing is how I thought it would be. Sometimes I am frustrated that the kids that I have aren’t the kids that I imagined but then I realize they are so much more!

We are just learning as we go with this parenting thing, and really try to make the best decisions we can make. Sometimes we get it wrong and often we are so happy we had three kids , hopefully we get it right for Eleanor! LOL:). Just kidding we hope all three kids turn out okay.

It has been and continues to be a learning curve. Tomorrow I will take Rowen to the paediatrician and start the process of hopefully getting some developmental assessments done. This is good, this is progress and hopeful will give us some tools as to how we can best help Row to succeed.

Next week my oldest and first baby turns 3, and I am not sure how I feel. I remember finding out I was pregnant, going 2 weeks overdue. I remember having an emergency c-section and being up with him through those first few months where everything is new to all of us and we didn’t want to let him cry ever. We have learnt that sometimes he will cry and we can’t prevent it but that’s okay. And that everything with Rowen is new to all of us and that whatever we do it is with the best intentions. Most importantly we celebrate him and who he is and all the things that we love about him.

Next week we will celebrate his birthday his style, at McDonalds with a few friends and cousins (he doesn’t like loud or big groups), he loves French fries and donuts so I will order him a donut cake. Then for dinner we will go to Nans house (as per his request) and have Boston Pizza (his other favourite food besides fries, must be Boston Pizza or Niagara, nothing else compares for him) and then Nan will have a cake she made for him!

I love Birthdays and like to go crazy with parties but I know that isn’t what Rowen would enjoy so this year it was all about him and what he would pick (plus Grace’s birthday is less than a month away so I can always go wild there).

These three kids are by far Fraser and I’s most challenging job/responsibility and greatest achievement. We cant imagine a life without them and are truly trying to live in the moment and enjoy them while they are little because they are growing so fast!

How did your kids surprise you and change you? Can you remember the days before kids (we often try and it seems so long ago)? Was parenting what you expected? I would love to hear what you think about parenting and life with kids…

#fedisbest

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So, if you don’t already know, we are house full of babies. My oldest is 2.5 years old, followed by a 1.5 year old and a 4 month old. I will start off by saying yes they were planned, yes we know how babies happen and yes we are fairly busy! I have been pregnant for what feels like a solid 3 years and we have also always had a baby in the house! It means a lot of spit up, crying, giggling, diapers, you get the idea. It has also meant a lot of chapped and sore nipples, nursing bras, breast pumps, bottles, formula, and all things that go with feeding babies.
I was super excited about breast feeding my first, I did all the research, read all the books and websites, talked to as many people as I could and just was totally on board. I knew how hard it could be but also felt breast feeding had so many positives for the baby and it was winter so what else was I going to do but sit and happily feed my baby. Boy was I wrong; I ended up having a C-section which meant my milk didn’t come in right away.  And that was just the beginning of my struggle with breast feeding, I also did not like having a cover on but was super uncomfortable and still am feeding in public or in front of anyone else.

 

Rowen, my oldest, was pretty good at latching on and I was feeling pretty confident except for the fact that the poor baby was virtually starving the first few days. Now maybe this is normal but as we are preparing to get discharged a nurse walks past our door and hears this baby screeching and screaming at the top of his lungs. His throat sounded raw from having screamed so much and so she comes in to see what is going on. She watches me breast feed (at this point I do not care, seems all part of the feeding that you show everyone under the sun how your baby latches and they are happy to grab and grope you to get into a better position). She then has me try to pump out some milk. Bone dry, not a drop of milk comes out. I was so thankful for this nurse and her expertise at this moment because she says a baby should not be this upset and that we need to get him some formula. His lips were dry and he was starting to show signs of dehydration. As a new mom, who is nervous, tired and unsure of what to do I was so happy I was open to following the advice of that nurse and not so “breast is best” stubborn that I insisted on waiting it out. We fed our 3 day old son the formula (we are talking about maybe 2oz) and it was as if instantly he was a different baby. He finally stopped crying, relaxed in our arms and fell fast asleep. She also sent us home with a bit of formula to use until the milk came in. Now I gave a bit of formula and waited for the milk, which didn’t take too long and was overflowing when it came! The moral of my first born story was that giving the formula didn’t mean disappointing or harming my baby, it meant finally allowing both of us a little time to sleep and regroup. A happy mom is the best thing you could give a new baby, and that 2oz did exactly that.

 

Now I am not sure why but it became apparent to me that breast feeding wasn’t all that I thought it would be. My son like a lot of men enjoyed the boob and loved to suck which meant he always wanted to be on me. This was a very overwhelming feeling to me; it left me feeling very trapped. This baby that was already so helpless and relied on us for everything now needed me to always be within sucking distance for not only his food but his comfort. It was too much. Plus beyond the anxiety that it gave me, it was also physically extremely painful. This led to us, at a very early age, alternating breast feeding with bottle feeding pumped milk and eventually because of convenience also bottle feeding formula. I was happy with my choice and it also gave me a lot of flexibility. I could leave my baby for a couple hours without worrying about him was probably the biggest one. And for me, sometimes those couple of hours was what I needed to come back refreshed and ready to handle another day or night. It also meant I could get a lot more help with the baby, essentially anyone could feed him. I was pregnant again when my first was just 3 months old so some days I was dealing with my sweet new baby and dealing with the exhaustion and crappy feelings that go along with being pregnant. My son never had nipple confusion or a preference for breast milk over formula, he was so flexible.

 

My next two babies were each unique in my experiences. The first thing that was different was my attitude and views on breast feeding. This time I was realistic about what we needed for my peace of mind and sanity as well as what we could handle as a family who would now have two (and eventually three) babies at home. Grace my middle child was immediately fed bottle and boob, formula and breast milk. I went in knowing I wanted this and the nurses were not super supportive but I am made sure to insist on what I wanted. With Eleanor, my youngest, the strangest thing happened; I started to enjoy breast feeding. She is efficient and feeds with long breaks in between (while still gaining so much weight). I keep saying third time’s a charm but the lesson I have learnt when it comes to breast feeding is that it is different for each child. No two kids are the same and that applies to more than just feeding! And therefore. no two kids need the same thing; this also applies to more than just feeding! If someone had told me that I would one day enjoy breast feeding and even be comfortable enough to do it outside of my homes four walls I would have laughed in their face.

Never feel that you are doing the wrong thing or that you are stuck doing it one way. If I have learnt anything from this parenting thing is things aren’t ever what I expect and rarely do I do it the way I thought I would.
I wrote about my experiences with breast feeding not because I think exclusively breast feeding is bad (in fact I think it is fabulous and have huge admiration for those who can do it), but I want to let people know there are other options to feeding your baby and that sometimes a moms mental well being means more than the babies health benefits that come with breast feeding. And also to empower moms to feel confident in their decisions with their kids, you know what is right for you, your children and your family. Remember what is right for one child or family might not work for another child or family!