Facing Fears.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

A Decade of Lessons.

Time is a crazy thing, I am often unaware of it passing and then its gone. 2020 is fast approaching and with that comes all the excitement and promises of a fresh new year and decade as well as the reviews and playbacks of the past year and decade.

I have been thinking lots about how fast (and slow) 10 years goes. The first thing that came to mind for me was the loss the last 10 years has brought with it. I personally have lost two very important and influential people in my life this decade. My aunt was near the beginning of the decade and my uncle near the end. I have also watched friends lose parents and even had some of my peers pass away over the last 10 years. It has been hard, continues to come in waves and never truly goes away or gets easier. Every time I have a success, milestone, holiday or challenge I miss and wish I could talk to my Uncle and Aunt. However it has also taught me that life can and does go on, we can still have successes and happiness despite feeling immense sadness and things are always changing, so appreciate the now and those in your life today as one day they won’t be there.

The last 10 years has also taught me to really enjoy the moments because they go so fast. I had 3 little babies so close together and now my youngest is 2, some days this is astonishing to me as I can clearly remember moments of my first pregnancy as if it were yesterday. Then there are those times when I am chatting with a few moms and they are all talking about feeding their babies, nap schedules or some baby related milestone and I cannot remember them. I think to myself, it couldn’t have been that long ago… it actually flew by! I remember how as a new Mom I used to feel like days would go past without me really “accomplishing” anything and I would look forward to my kids getting older and more independent. However now I realize these moments go by and you will never get them back, they will never be that small again and it goes so so so fast. So even in the trying and hard moments I remember nothing lasts and try to find the joy in some of those moments.

Another lesson the last ten years has taught me is that if you are unhappy or living a life you do not want you have the power to change it. Life has so many choices, we just have to be brave enough to make them. It is okay to change your mind, it is good to grow and not all choices are easy but after it is all said and done they hopefully lead to a happier version of your life. 10 years ago my goals were different, my job was different, finances, family dynamics, etc. I am so proud of the choices I have made over the last 10 years and although they were not all happy or easy they have lead me to a life I love and continue to be grateful for everyday. The best goal I can have for the next 10 years is that all these things will change again… my job continues to evolve and I am able to add to it, our finances will continue to improve, goals will evolve and change and more!

You cannot undo the past, you cannot plan for the future… you can live in the present! That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn from your past or try to work towards goals in the future it just means don’t over think it cause because circumstances and people change and I have had amazing things come from being open to changing my “plans”. Ask anyone who knew me 10 years ago about wanting kids and you will most defiantly hear that I didn’t want them, even in my late 20’s. Talk to me today and my 3 amazing and beautiful kids (who I most defiantly wanted) were the best decision I made, continue to teach me and give my life so much more joy! Be flexible and adaptable, knowing that things can change has given me hope when I needed it and has also forced me to dream a little bigger!

Dream Big. It’s as easy and hard as that! For our family this has come into play in so many aspects of our life. We have dreamt big in terms of our house and the changes we wanted to make and have slowly been making. However it has also given us a new appreciation for knowing our priority isn’t our house, sure we like having something clean and maintained but we don’t have to have all the things we want to be happy. Dreaming Big has also helped us to go from no vacations to falling in love with experiences and working hard to make travel a part of our lives. I can remember taking our first “big” family vacation to Hawaii for 10 days, in the middle of a renovation, with two kids under two and pregnant with our third and sitting on the beach saying imagine if we could stay for a month!!! For the following two years we took our three kids for 5 weeks each year. It was amazing. I love the experiences the last 10 years have brought and cannot wait to see what the next 10 will bring for us.

With all of this in mind I welcome a new decade and will work at enjoying the now.

90,000 Reasons to be Passionate about your Work.

I believe in doing things with passion. I also believe the people you surround yourself with are reflections of you and should share some of your beliefs or goals. So, although my friends and family may not all have the same background, parenting styles, schedules, money management, political beliefs I think we share some common values.

What ties me to my people? I think honesty and integrity, selflessness and caring for others, family and respect especially in regards to prioritizing people and experiences over stuff are just some of the values that bond my friendships with people.

That being said over the last little bit I have noticed a common trait in my girlfriends that has not only left me feeling fairly inspired but super proud of them and all their accomplishments! My tribe is one of diverse careers, ranging from entrepreneurs, government employees, corporate boss babes to stay at home moms and more. Some even wear more than one of these hats and do it with ease making it look much easier than I know it is. I have discovered what I think it is that makes them so inspiring and so good at their jobs and its Passion!

I am lucky enough to have the full time job of CEO of the Farlow House. This means I manage 3 kids schedules and 1 busy longshoremen’s finances, household, social calendar and more. In addition this full time gig I also have been working part time and sporadically at my girlfriends family farm Emma Lea. I love being at the farm and getting to see everything they do as well as meet new people and share this special place with the community. It is a pretty great job and one I totally value. Last year we were asked to take 40 locals on a tour of the farm and tell a little bit about what we do. Katie (my boss, good friend and one of the farmers) was phenomenal at this. She blew me away with her ability to simplify something very complex and explain in in such a condensed version, within half an hour, people could really get a feel for how special and how much work and love goes into the farm. Not only did I learn some new things about how the farm runs and what cool voluntary programs we participate in as a member of the farming community, I also got to see my boss and friend show and share her passion for the farm and her job. I hate calling it her job because when you hear her speak it doesn’t sound like a job at all but more of a privilege and a choice. One thing that makes the farm unique to me and became evident with Kates tour was how the farm, although a business with a bottom line, was also a place that wanted to be known for employing people fairly and with integrity, treating animals ethically, and contributing to a greater good. I think when businesses or people go above and beyond what is expected and make decisions with more than just money in mind it is really something special.

I left the farm tours and started to think about other friends and their careers, does everyone do such amazing things… Then later I was out getting the kids haircut by our hairstylist, as well as good friend and I saw more passion for a job. I know she loves what she does and she is great at it (you just have to search the community facebook pages and hear all the recommendations or watch her in the salon to know). The thing is getting your hair cut can be emotional for lots of people. My son has ASD and sometimes struggles to sit in the chair (as do many kids) and she does every cut with patience and love. Plus she knows just how to turn a crappy day into a great one and help transform my mama pony into a beautiful hairstyle worthy of the magazines. She is a hard working mom herself, yet still manages to volunteer her time and talents whenever she can for the many charity events her salon takes place in including fundraisers out at Emma Lea. She is continually working towards bettering herself with workshops and training and recently advanced to a higher level of stylist. This girl cuts hair with passion and style all her own and being one of my youngest friends (only by a few years) she does it with so much confidence and class for someone who just turned 30. She is super passionate and super inspiring in her work life, reminding me that you can be a busy and great mom still working on building and advancing a career all your own. It is a great reminder and example.

I am super lucky to have at least a dozen examples like this of friends and family who inspire with their careers and I think that is something super special. The reality is most people have to work, and most people spend a lot of time over their lifetime at their jobs. With that in mind shouldn’t we have some passion in what we do and enjoy our time at our job. I think it is unrealistic to say you will always love your job or only do things you can do with passion because sometimes a job is a job and we do what we have to do. But hopefully it is short term while you work towards something you love. If you are like us and have kids I think there is no better example to show then your kids seeing and hearing about your job in a positive light. Imagine facing a future knowing you will have to enter a workforce and hearing your parents talking with dislike about their own careers.

I think of one of my friends who has three kids like us and not only went back to school while having kids but also started her own home based business as a mortgage broker. It meant leaving a very reliable and good job for something risky and unsure. She is super passionate and continually challenging herself and building her business. As hard as I see it is for her working from home with three little kids she is setting such a great example for her girls, and she definitely is a good example of a career woman wearing many hats… I mean she manages her own business but also raises three beautiful girls, did I mention she is a Sparks leader? Like this lady knows no limits.

Like I said the list goes on and on, we are so fortunate to have many inspiring friends. I feel incredibly blessed to have at least a dozen or more examples of friends and family who have passion for their careers and excel at their jobs. It is not often you get to see friends and family in their workplace, doing their magic but if you take time to ask about work and what they do you might be surprised at the answers (good or bad) and you might be surprised at the passion people can have for sometimes overlooked jobs.

My sister works for Children’s, Women’s and VGH Hospitals and she has the coolest job but it isn’t one easily explained or one that I can even understand. She encourages and supports parents and patients to get informed and become active in making their healthcare decisions. To hear her speak about her job and even the learning and stats she does on some really tough illnesses like mental health and cancer in kids is really amazing. She is always doing extra learning, courses or acting on boards to learn more in her field and be a better support to her patients, plus she is enthusiastic and passionate about what she does.

I think so often we think to be passionate you need to have a glamorous or cool job or job title but I completely disagree, I think its about attitude and the way you share your stories. The people who inspire me are enthusiastic, always learning, knowledgeable in their fields and most important they show passion for whatever it is they are doing.

I hope our kids can see us do our jobs with passion and enthusiasm and that whatever they decide to do in this lifetime it is something they enjoy doing. The best thing I think we can do to encourage that is to set the examples ourselves. So, if you are getting ready to go to bed tonight and setting your alarm to get up and go to a job you feel less than thrilled to have may be its time to ask yourself what would make it better? How can you light a little fire and get a little excitement to get up and go?

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!

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.

Maui WOWEE! Our guide to Maui with Kids.

We started to come to Maui three years ago and haven’t hesitated since. We are certainly not experts on the island but are happy to share some of our favourite things and stuff we have found useful or helpful!

I should first say the recommendations I make are based on the fact that we are traveling with three little kids (Ages 1,3 and 4). There are so many things we wish we could do just the two of us, or that we have on a bucket list for next year when the kids are a little older. That being said our recommendations are for families with little kids!

I have so much more to share about Maui but will start with where we stay and why, some activities we like (or wouldn’t rush back to do) and of course where to eat.

LOCATION

I have only ever stayed in Kihei and Kapalua but I definitely prefer Kihei for weather, beaches and overall proximity to attractions. That being said I have yet to find an area of Maui I don’t love and wouldn’t want to try and stay.


Reasons we love KIHEI

  • Central for us to be able to do fun driving day trips all around the island
  • Close proximity to kid friendly beaches and a great park
  • See whales and turtles regularly just at the beach in front of our condo
  • Walkability to restaurants and shops
  • Price, as Kihei tends to be cheaper than most other areas on the island

WISHLIST

I do have a little wish list of places I would like to stay though and it includes a couple of nights in Hana. They have a few hotel/condos and then lots of VRBO’s and I think staying there allows you to explore a bit better than a one day adventure.

I also LOVE the mountains of Maui and would love to rent a house in one of the mountain towns (Kula or Makawao are two I would love). I can only imagine the views from some of these places but would do it for only part of our holidays knowing it is a bit of the ways from the beach.

Pa’ia has my heart and I think a night or two over there would give time to try out some of the great restaurants and get in some good shopping. It is small and not much to offer for family friendly beach or resort type accommodations but I love the vibe.

ACCOMMODATIONS

We stay at Kamaole Sands in Kihei and we love it. It has sentimental value to me because my Aunt and Uncle came her for many years and so it always makes me think of them. Although it is an older complex (1983) I find the exterior and amenities very well cared for. We love the fact that the pool area has a Keiki Pool that is 2 feet deep. Fraser loves the Weber BBQ’s and how well maintained they are. We also find the courtyard and gardens really pretty and love the large layout of the two bedroom units. Our first year we stayed in a one bedroom and it was also well laid out.

We do not have much to compare to as we haven’t tried staying anywhere else in Kihei, I do think there are pros and cons to all the different complex’s and once you are in Hawaii you cannot go wrong with any of them, you are in Hawaii and regardless of where you stay the beach is the beach and thats what you come for!

Like many complexes the condos are all different inside and some have major renovations and come with lots of extras (coolers, strollers, cribs, sand toys, beach chairs, boogie boards, etc). It is nice to find a condo with “extras” because it saves you from renting or buying these items.

***BUDGETING Recommendation Try to avoid booking through Airbnb or VRBO and find an owner direct rental. It saves the owner money and fees and means they can offer you a better rate. They often offer discounts if you stay a month or longer. Book as far in advance as you can (minimum a year) to save, the longer you leave it the higher the rates.

KID STUFF

If you are travelling with kids you may want car seats, a wagon, stroller, toys, high chair… the list is endless and so are the rental possibilities. I do recommend renting for a short trip as it is convenient and makes for a more enjoyable airport experience when you do not have to pack so much stuff.

For pricing and more info check out Maui Baby Rentals. We have used them and were very happy.

Homepage

However, for us when we come for a month the cost of the rentals adds up quickly. So, we bring all of our car seats. The kids actually sit on them inside the airplane and this is something we have found makes for a much better flight. Once they are buckled in they stay in and it is just easier. Car seats should be mentioned at check in and they must have a special sticker on them. We have also found they will let you load first on the plane so you can install and set up easily.

***Check with your airline to make sure your make and brand can fit (we travel with Diono and they are slim and fit well).

Strollers are easy as well, you can take them all the way to the gate. When you arrive they are often already unloaded when you get off the plane (especially if you are loading up car seats and getting organized inside the plane), we are often the last to get out. Sometimes it takes a bit to wait for strollers but just don’t go all the way to the baggage without the strollers or you will have to do a bit of work to locate them! We know because we have done it.

ACTIVITIES

Ho’okipa Beach

Family Favourite spot to go. This could be a day trip or just a stop on your way home from somewhere else. We never miss an opportunity to stop here. There are always so many turtles to see which is super cool, on a good day lots of surfers which is fun to watch, plus the fruit stand is great here (bananas, fresh coconut and locally grown tropical fruit). Plus often there are little trinket shops set up and smoothie truck (Very good!!!).

Whalers Village

Fun place to shop, variety of stores! Love that this shopping centre is on the beach and is a nice place to see Ka’anapali if you aren’t staying there. Probably not something we need to do every year. Great kids shop, has toys but also really nice kids clothes (carries some brands like Splendid kids that aren’t found everywhere). Cinnamon Girl is also a great shop for little girl dresses (and you can even get Mom a matching one). There are a couple of restaurants along the beach here too, we haven’t eaten at them before but they are chain style and look to be a good spot to eat.

North Loop Coastline

We drove from Kahului around to Lahaina and it was beautiful. Definitely windy and lots of single lane or tiny roads, so you need a good driver that day. We loved it! Stopped and got Julia’s Banana Bread and Guava lemonade. Best banana bread we have had on island and yet to find anything that compares to it. Definitely take time to stop and explore a little on the drive. Kids loved climbing on rocks and looking over at the blowhole. Plus when you make the turn towards Kapalua side of the island it is really neat to see Molokini so close to Maui. Great drive and lots to see, plus it isn’t nearly as long of a commitment as the Road to Hana. So, you can still make it back to the beach in the afternoon.

Friday Block Parties

Every Friday Maui has rotating block parties in different towns. We did the Kihei party last year and loved it. SO many food trucks, food smelt so good, lots of fun and cheap activities for the kids including bouncy castles and water activities, plus local vendors to shop at. This year Fraser took the girls down expecting the same thing but rain had vendors shut down and closing up so they didn’t get to do much. We attempted the following Friday in Wailuku and I am sad to say we got there only to find out it had been canceled that Friday. It is really too bad because Wailuku looked like such a great party! I definitely want to check out Wailuku towns Main Street as they seemed to have some great shops along there. We might go to tomorrows Chinese New Year inspired Friday Block Party in Lahaina, I think its gonna be great.

Iao Valley & the Needle

Highly recommend checking out the mystical Iao Valley, it may be rainier here but it just adds to the beauty. I love how Maui has so many microclimates. When you drive up to the needle it is $5 to park and then you can take the 133 steps to the lookout and it is beautiful. Definitely an easy trail, all of our kids could do the stairs and it was a fun adventure without much effort.

Flea Market

I would probably suggest skipping the Flea Market, in my opinion it is extremely hot and not a lot of shelter for stuff you can find at many stands through out the island. Plus depending on where you stay in Maui it is a bit of a drive into Kahului and it is only on the weekend so you are missing out on possibly another fun weekend activity. Not something I would rush back to do.

Pa’ia

LOVE LOVE LOVE Pa’ia town. This hippie hipster surfer town is everything I want and love. The shops here are my favourite the vibe is so laid back and great and tons of options for yummy food. Leave the hubs and kids at home and bring the cash and cards…

Captain Woody’s Charter Tours

Highly recommend having Captain Woody talk you and the family out. This tour maxes out at 6 guest and comes with your own Captain who felt more like a friend and one crew member. What we loved is this was completely tailored to what we wanted to do and see. You let him know what you want. We were able to shorten the day (which was only because we didn’t know how the kids would do out on the boat). 2.5 hours was perfect for our kids but defiantly not long enough. We saw pods of whales so close it I was so cool but he is also able to take you fishing, snorkelling, to swim with turtles or really whatever you desire. Loved Woody and loved the boat and loved the tour. Would definitely do again.

Spa at The Grande

LOVE. So again the Grand Wailea is one of my favourite spots. I just love it an the spa is no exception. The amenities are so nice and relaxing you could stay all day. The baths are included with any service and I do recommend a scrub, Vichy shower and massage. My whole treatment was incredible and smelt so good. Plus vacationing is tough and so is laying on beaches and sleeping in hotel beds, everyone NEEDS a massage on vacation. This truly is a must. The spa itself isn’t modern or much to look at in terms of appearance but the treatments leave you feeling like a queen. This is a MUST do! Don’t look at the bill, just go for it and while you are at it treat yourself to something from their spa gift shop:)

Haleakala (Crater)

So we have done the crater twice now and thank goodness Fraser told me to try it a second time. The first time we went up it was very cold and dreary day and you couldn’t see a thing! The next time we went up temperature wasn’t nearly as cool (plus we dressed warm, think top of a mountain) and it was clear all the way to the big Island. No kidding you could look out and see the Big Island, a local pointed Kona out to us. The view and trail from Leleiwi Lookout was as cool as the summit so make sure you stop! This was a great trail for our kids to get out and stretch their legs plus you literally felt like you were walking on and above the clouds. Our next time we do the crater we want to try it at night and see the stars! Fraser did this on a motorcycle and loved the ride. Just make sure you dress warm and bring gloves.

Road to Hana

It took us three years to decide to do the Road with the kids and it was perfect. We packed the night before and left early (7:30am). We also had been watching the weather, and waited for a day when it had been nice the day before as well, we picked perfectly.

We had just past Jaws beach (which is the very beginning of the road, not even at the first waterfall yet) and Grace got car sick. We were prepared with lots of wipes, garbage bags and changes of clothes. Good thing Grace is a puke and rally kinda girl because our first stop was just a pullout on the side of the road that lead us into the bamboo forest.

It was so muddy and we think it lead to a waterfall but got too tough to take all the kids down and we turned back. It was very dark in the bamboo forest and for us best done barefoot but so cool! The pathways were narrow, slippery and some were a bit of an incline.

We had done a lot of reading and used our Maui Revealed Book for ideas. I would suggest marking out some of the stops ahead of time where you want to go, I am really glad we did that as the road doesn’t have tons of places to pull over or turn around it. We still left room to be spontaneous and stop at stuff that came up but it also meant we didn’t miss things we wanted to see.

We stopped at The Garden of Eden and it was beautiful with lots of good lookouts and views and was easy for the kids. I would definitely say we altered our stops and what we did because of the kids. They weren’t great for a long or difficult walk but they loved getting in and out of the car and really wanted to swim at a lot of the stops which was unexpected and great. They even all attempted to swim at the waterfall which was awesome.

We did the full circle for driving around Hana and I am so glad we did. The unpaved Road was narrow and bumpy but nothing our old “07 Hyundai mini van couldn’t handle. Only once did we find a stop we couldn’t make because it required 4X4 and just for fun I would love to rent a Jeep and do the road again. I would also suggest spending the night or a couple of nights in Hana to be able to enjoy and explore a bit more.

I loved the road home from Hana as much as the road to Hana and like all Maui this area did not disappoint. It was so diverse and so beautiful. It made for a long day (home around 6pm) but so worth it! I think everyone liked our Trip to Hana.

Our own “Baby Beach”

So we have a little beach we call Baby Beach but it is just north of the official Baby Beach near Pa’ia.

Friends of ours took us here last year and we have recommended it to others who love it as much as we do. You can often see turtles on the beach or swimming but don’t expect to see many tourists and don’t go on a weekend because it is full of locals.

The beach itself is more coarse than the beaches in Kihei but it has a reef protecting the little pool from all the big waves and is the perfect spot to snorkel or let the kids play and swim. We love it.

Turn left on Stable just after the airport, you may see a sign saying “Farm Market” keep going and stay to the left. You will drive along a dirt road that has the airport directly on the left side. Turn right down one of the dirt roads (pick one), there are a few with yellow gates that get locked and may have a sign posting park hours. It is not fancy or well marked but it is private and perfect.

RESTAURANTS


This is an area I don’t have much to say because we don’t take the kids out much. That being said we do do take out and this year we have attempted a few more restaurant visits than normal and they have gone pretty good. Here are some of our spots:)

Breakfast:

BEACH STREET MAUI SHAVE ICE. It’s a walk up spot in Rainbow Mall just offering hot and cold breakfasts, açai bowls and some breakfast sandwiches as well as shaved ice. I love the Paniolo Açai Bowl and the kids love the Hawaii Rainbow Shave Ice and not just because it is so colourful but because when you get to the bottom there are gummy bears!

CINNAMON ROLL PLACE. These guys are open early and are always serving up warm and gooey cinnamon buns. They had me sold when I found out they make them all without raisins which I hate in cinnamon buns and I love all the “extra” toppings. You put on your own icing and I always add Mac Nuts.

KIHEI CAFE. This place is really good and extremely busy. We love that one of us can go and order while the other one takes the kids to the park across the street to play. Then we eat at the park! Everything from the fresh squeezed juice to the delicious Banana Mac Nut Pancakes are amazing. Great family friendly meal out!

Still to try… BELLE SURF CAFE, SIP ME

Lunch:

808 DELI. Great selection of made to order hot and cold sandwiches as well as salads! So close to the beach its easy to grab and take down with you or pick up on your way back to your room. Don’t have a favourite because I always want to try something new.

FORK & SALAD. This is a favourite spot of mine, they now have two locations one in Aztec Mall in Kihei and one right by Target and Starbucks in Kahului. Everything is sourced as local as they can, they have a large selection of salad suggestions but you can also make your own and their salad bar options are limitless! Bonus you always feel good after eating here. We do this one for our first meal in Maui because we always know it will be good and is fast and easy!

PA’IA FLATBREAD COMPANY AMAZING! When we were here they mentioned they have a location and Whistler and we would go just to eat there. The unusual topping combinations sound odd but taste incredible. Crust is not too thick and is great! Plus if you cant make up your mind you can do half and half. Family friendly too! A must do when in Pa’ia.

MONKEY POD Food is amazing, Happy Hour is extremely Happy! Kid friendly (ours loved their Lava Flow drinks and of course hand cut truffle fries!) and lots of seating, first come first serve for the patio and you will definitely want to make reso’s or be prepared to wait a while! The pizza here was so good, but I am guessing there wasn’t a bad option on the menu. Super cheap especially for Hawaii if you hit them up during Happy Hour.

FOOD TRUCKS at Kihei Station. If you want someplace easy and fast with a variety of options try the Food Trucks at Kihei Station behind Aztec Mall. We had fish and chips and fish tacos. Kids liked the fish and chips (a little on the greasy side), and we loved the fish tacos. We also tried the Thai place and it was good and fresh. This may not be the best of what Maui has to offer but is convenient and easy. Lots of seating and really fast for dining with cranky or busy kids.

BAILEYS CAFE- local Gourmet Food Truck in Haiku. INCREDIBLE. We had a mixed plate with locally grass fed steak, lemon butter prawns, green salad and of course Mac salad. Plus the kids got their fried rice. I am still dreaming of this amazing food, I think my favourite food truck in Maui! So fresh and so delicious.

Dinner:

OUTRIGGER PIZZA I guess we got a thing for pizza. This one is really good plus super cool how they run it out of a parking lot in a tiny food truck pizza oven. Even better if you want delivery you can use Hopper and have it brought to you. I personally think this pizza is best eaten fresh.

BRICK OVEN PIZZA Entirely Gluten Free restaurant which is pretty unique. Was good, but since we don’t have to eat GF and there are so many GREAT pizza places we might try somewhere else first. Kids loved the bread sticks and I loved the chocolate lava cake.

MERRIMANS Hands down best restaurant. Location and setting is incredible and the food is just as good! Love it here wish it wasn’t so far from Kihei. IF you are staying in the Ka’anapali/ Napili/ Kapalua area you must go here.

FLEETWOODS Well they had us sold with the name and suggestion that we could see Mick the owner possibly playing. The night we went we had reso’s for rooftop dining and sunset ceremony but it was raining. Didn’t matter a spot beside the stage meant wonderful live music, a really beautiful sunset ceremony with traditional Hawaiian traditions and a bagpiper and delicious food. Beautiful restaurant. Something for everyone. Maybe next year we can find a sitter and go hear Mick play!

HUMUHUMU Amazing. Like everything Grand it was just that. I love being at the Grand Wailea and HumuHumu restaurant is no exception. The setting is stunning, we were there after sunset so you couldn’t see around but it is a Polynesian inspired thatched roof series of huts with cool larger party dining areas. The seats were so comfy Rowen fell asleep in them and they cater to families. Dining out is expensive in Maui, this restaurant was considered on the pricer end, we would disagree. First, you get what you pay for but second kids eat for free and the kids meals were delicious. The steak, veggies and rice would have been a great adult meal and the chicken strips and fries pleased everyone. Our service was top notch and she was incredible at making sure the kids were happy, fast food, stuffed animals for each kid and ice cream too! I had the catch of the day and it was great, Fraser had the Wagyu Beef and it was good, portions were huge neither one of us could finish and we didn’t even have room to order dessert.

Start of School Reflections

With a new school year, and a fresh start for Rowen because we started a different preschool, I have been doing a lot of reflecting at the difference a year can make. I mean I know what a difference a year can make. I have had years of huge loss with family and friends passing away, I have had a year of divorce and going from married to single, and I have had years of going from single to in a relationship and becoming a mom. SO many changes, in sometimes what seems like short time frames, but when I look at Rowen and the progress he has made in the last year I am wowed and inspired by my son and his amazing attitude and hard work.

Sometimes we are so close to things that we don’t always notice changes or gradual progress but in the case of this year I can’t help but notice the changes.

Last year I had a very frustrated, slow to speak, emotional boy who was upset almost every drop off at school. He was not potty trained and to be honest it was on the bottom of a very long list of goals, he had not participated in a circle time, was an independent player and didn’t seem excited or happy about school. He was also prone to have meltdowns and was difficult to settle, plus snack time was challenging.

Fast forward to this years first month of preschool and we have a verbal potty trained boy who asks to go to school on Saturday because he loves it so much. The teachers mentioned he spent 15 minutes participating in circle time and made a friend with a boy from the older class. When I went to pick him up he was playing with two other kids and he is loving his therapies and has made a friend there as well who he asked to have come over and play. His meltdowns have changed and are more like age appropriate tantrums that are very infrequent. After his first week he is not only enjoying snack time at school but also stays for lunch!

Sometimes I look at these things and think that they are not really a big deal, kids grow and learn and develop. This is how they are suppose to act. But then I think back to all the research I did, learning our whole family did, the appointments we went to, money we spent, referrals we needed and think this is not just your average kids learning and growing in a year.

This is a result of lots of hard work from Rowen, a team of people who have supported not only Rowen but our whole family and a group of friends and family who have been amazing! It has meant getting help sometimes for the girls to have child care and leaning on others.

We have truly learnt what they mean by “it takes a village” and about who is in our village and how well they showed up (or in some cases didn’t). It has been amazing, eye opening and in sometimes disappointing. We had hoped for more involvement and support by some, but it is others who’s support surprised us that really sticks out in my mind.

My grandparents went above and beyond to research and learn about Autism and where and what Rowen is doing for therapy as well as adapting things they do or give him with his best interest in mind. Not only did they learn but they shared about Rowen and even a friend they volunteer at the Thrift Store with emailed with an amazing therapy idea (which my grandparents offered to pay for). It isn’t so much about the money but when you realize how much effort and time someone has put in to learning about something important to us it really makes you feel loved and supported. Plus Autism is hard for younger generations to grasp, it is often super hard for older so to know it was my grandparents making such an effort is really cool.

My Uncle who is also one of Fraser’s good friends often asks how he can best support Rowen and always makes an effort to connect and play with him whenever he sees him, which has helped make him one of Rowens favourite people (the boat and the motorcycle help too).

The list and examples are endless but sometimes when I am frustrated that other people have grandparents that do childcare weekly, or have family who does weekends or even weeks so the parents can go on vacation or when I hear about family members paying for kids activities, etc it is easy to feel envious. However, in a moment of reflection, sanity and clarity I realize how meaningful and plentiful the support is that we get from our family and our friends. Support shows up in so many ways too… my mom often takes our laundry and returns it clean and folded, drops off home cooked meals ready to go, takes time off work to babysit and even went to tour Rowens centre for therapy and meet some of his therapists.

It’s funny how amazing and important Rowens team has become to us. These are paid professionals who really are above and beyond what we could have imagined for him. We see Keith from Little Buddies for OT and Megan, Rebecca, Declan, Erik and Natasha from Bounding Higher for SLP, BC and BI. This team has been a dream team from Day 1 and I truly believe without them we would not see as much progress as we have. If you would have told me a year ago this list of names it would have meant nothing to me and I certainly would not have believed they would all play such an important role in my sons life. They are so much more than paid professionals to Rowen and to us. I mean even our extended family speaks as if these people are a part of our family! They will never know how much they meant to us all.

I know this year has been one of big learning for our whole family and I am proud of all of them. I hope that whatever your September this far has looked like you are able to read this and feel some hope. Hope for possibilities of what your next year could look like or even a reminder to see how far you have come this last year. My biggest fear for myself or my family would be to stay the same so to look back and know lots has changed means I am living the life I want to live. With growth and change comes amazing things. Obviously there will always be growing pains but I like to believe the end result is worth a little pain.

As I look through pictures from the last year I am reminded, first how quickly we forget the hard stuff and second how far we have come. I could have never imagined taking my kids camping on a week long vacation with 8 other families. Last year I reached a point where I just avoided being around other families all together, we had to decline Birthday parties because it was hard to know how Rowen would behave and it was difficult on us. Just remembering the embarrassment or frustration we would have in certain social situations and thinking to where we are now and the confidence I have as a mother, but mainly because I have more trust and faith in Rowen and his abilities. This is just one example but there are many changes I know in our family that if you had asked us a year ago we would have never believed possible.

I am proud of the work Fraser and I have done to get here as well and the sacrifices we have made. Honestly I am tired, emotional and feeling a little of the September overwhelm but more than that I am smiling because I can see our hard work paying off in so many beautiful ways. I can also see my expectations and mindset changing about what’s important and what’s not and I like the “new” mindset.

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.

Things I Learnt in 30 (+4) Years

So today is my 34th Birthday and although I really don’t think of myself as old, sometimes in some groups I am the oldest. Scary thought but take for example when I hang out with my three kids I out-age them easily, or when I am working at the farm I am “the old gal”, I am not sure when this happened by the way!

Above is me celebrating a single digit birthday.

Below is me celebrating my last year in my 20’s!

In all seriousness though, I love my thirties, and was so excited when I entered them. Now, almost half way through, I thought it was time to reflect and see what I have learnt. I kinda wish I could go back and tell my younger self some of these lessons but I worry if I did I wouldn’t have become who I am now and I kinda like this Carly:)

  • You can and will change, who you are today is not who you will be tomorrow. This has surprised me! The younger version of myself was far more rigid, organized and serious. The younger me also knew way more. As I age I realize I know nothing and have so much to learn. I have slowly, through time and experience, become more flexible, way less organized and I like to think a lot more fun!
  • Don’t let money rule all your decisions. I am not promoting debt but sometimes making the most practical decision (usually involves finances) isn’t the decision that will make you happiest. You don’t know what tomorrow will bring, make some decisions because it feels right, you love it or because it was on your bucket list. Take a risk! It’s okay to do things that scare you (once in a while). These are the things that usually lead to something great.
  • Becoming a parent is the most amazing and rewarding thing I have done to this day done, it is harder than anything I have ever experienced (physically and emotionally). I should have appreciated my own mother more growing up. I am so thankful that I have found the right partner to share this experience but to also help raise our kids with. The struggle often isn’t for the big things it is in the every day little stuff with kids. And this is also the stuff that is the funniest. I wouldn’t change a moment of it. My kids and my babies daddy have shown me what life is all about and I am thankful for the lessons they teach me almost everyday.
  • Work hard for things that matter and stay true to your values. When we stray from our values we end up feeling bad about ourselves and our life. It is important to make decisions for ourselves not for others. It is your life and you are the one who has to live it. You will know when it is time to give up or move on but somethings are worth working for.
  • Your future is not set and you can change your own life, be brave enough to take risks and follow your happiness. I am a bit of a dreamer but the idea is that you shouldn’t stay with something because you have to, you are never stuck! You do not have to do anything (well except maybe pay taxes). I am so happy I didn’t stay in my first marriage, it was safe and easy in some ways but it wasn’t right for me. I have changed jobs, school and career plans and I am so glad I did. Every job I had I loved but I knew when it was time to leave or make a change and I think thats important to take note of and act on. Sometimes these changes are scary and hard but so worth it.
  • It takes a village, you can never have too many true friends. Make sure you have friends outside of your family. When you make changes in your life you might have changes in your support systems and “your” people. I know as I made some changes in my life I gained and lost friends and in our case we even lost a big chunk of family. In my experience when you make a change it is scary for others and they cannot always be there to support you, everyone makes mistakes and has times where they are not their best selves. It is in these times our family and friends should be there to support and help us live our best life. Sometimes it is good to re-evaluate people and who you want in your life. Remember you have the power to make changes and stay true to your values. My friends are all extremely diverse and definitely don’t have the same parenting styles, lifestyle, financial or family dynamics but we all are honest, supportive and open minded. I love the group I have around me at 34. Some have been their since the beginning, some have come and gone and are back, and some I may not talk to or see often but when I do it just fits. I used to think all I need is a few good friends (which I still believe) but I feel in my own life I am so beyond blessed not only with quality people but a big quantity too! I think a big lesson for me is it is okay to have LOTS of friends (just make sure they are quality). There is lots of love to give. Also make sure your friends (and family) inspire, lift you up and leave you feeling good. IF they don’t maybe it is time to re-evaluate.
  • Live your best life. I am a true believer in when you live your best life the rest falls in to place. When we are truly happy and living our values the money, family, relationships, etc all fall into place. Of course it is hard work but this is the hard work that is so worth it.
  • Don’t wait, make now count. We seriously just have one life! We don’t ever know how long it is so do things now, make changes today. Live in the now, let go of the past and try not to over plan for the future… this will forever be an ongoing focus for me as I tend to dwell and love to have a plan!

I could go on but I think these are some of the big life lessons for me. Cannot wait to see what this next year has in store for me. Every year I worry that this is the year life will start to decline in quality and every year it just gets better and better. I definitely think that is what living your best life means. Just loving the life you are living.

Cheers to Sunday, living my best life and of course another year of life! Xo

Where we have been the last two months.

Lately I have been struggling with staying focused enough to sit down and write, staying awake while writing and finding a topic that I want to write about. I sit down and start to type and my mind is in a million places, I am tired and I have too much to say so I stop. However I have had one thing that has taken up a bit more of my time recently and that is Autism and learning about how it works and what our family is doing to make it a normal part of our lives.

Rowen my son was diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) in February and since then we have started to receive Autism Funding from the government and hired a BCBA to start an ABA program as well as an OT. Mind spinning yet? Mine sure was, all these abbreviations and how these programs work and how I use funding is all very new to me so I thought for those who are in similar situations or for those interested in what is happening in our life I would try to explain some of it and what I know and have learnt so far. I hope it is mostly correct… Lol, I am still learning and some of this is complicated to me.

GETTING A DIAGNOSIS

So first getting a diagnosis. For us this came as a surprise. Rowen seemed like a Neuro Typical (NT) child (this is one of those abbreviations that I didn’t know but I now see lots in chat groups with ASD parents).

Rowen was a little rough with his toys, had a few quirks (things like he would tense up and apply pressure to the point of sweating). But we kinda wrote it off as shy and unique, we figured he takes after his dad and possibly would find out he has ADHD. Then we started preschool and the transition didn’t go as smooth as we had hoped. By November the teachers had similiar concerns to me with some additions of things I hadn’t noticed.

So, the steps for us to getting a diagnosis looked like this:

1) Referral from family Doctor to a paediatrician.

I am not sure exactly how it all works but I believe every child is entitled to have a paediatrician but you need a referral. Both Rowen and Grace started out with a few minor complications so they had paediatricians from birth but Eleanor has never had one. What I did learn though is even though Rowen already had a Paediatrician to have a full developmental check up I needed a new referral. Each time you go into your Paediatrician you have a full 6 months before you need a new referral but for each different issue/ illness/ disorder/ etc you need a new referral. Seems like a lot of paperwork and a bit of a waste of time but it has to do with the way doctors are paid and the funding, etc.

2) Visit Paediatrician and have a list of your concerns as well as any other “professional” opinions.

In our case I had an initial visit and was kinda brushed off as my concerns seemed like typical toddler troubles. The next week when I went back in with a list of concerns from the preschool teachers it was taken very differently. I think it makes a difference to have a few opinions and observations not just the parent.

3) Have paediatrician refer you to Public or Private Assessment and do Assessment.

So here is where it gets interesting, there are two types of assessments. I believe the process is the same with both but we went the private route and never even considered the public so I am speaking from a purely private perspective.

In BC the government will cover your child to be assessed, but there is a wait list for this assessment. When we were referred they were guessing the wait list was a year but I was hearing lots of feedback that people waited the year and then waited up to 6 months more so totally 12-18 months. The issue with this is that children under 6 who get a diagnosis with this assessment receive $22,000 a year to be applied towards therapies and some equipment. So, beyond the fact that I wasn’t willing to wait to hear what an experts opinion was on my son it made no financial sense to me because once your child turns 6 the funding becomes $6000 a year and Rowen was 3 years old and I wanted to receive as much money as we could.

The other option was a private assessment. These assessments consist of a Psychologist, Paediatrician and Speech & Language Pathologist doing three different sets of evaluations. For us it included parent interviews, child observations and a few different standardized tests. At the end of it all each professional gives a written report of their findings as well as a diagnosis (or not). We were referred by our paediatrician to Monarch House in Burnaby. I didn’t do much research besides looking up Monarch House and then going in for a complimentary consultation. I think the consultation is a great starting place and was very thankful for that. I liked all the professionals we had and appreciated their opinions and had no issues with Monarch House. Since completing the assessments I have now seen how many options for private assessments there are and have seen some negative feedback about Monarch. I have also heard they are the most expensive private assessments and if money was a concern than maybe I would suggest looking around. In totally it was about $3500- 4000 for his Assessment. It consisted of one consultation appointment that Rowen and myself went to and then three days of actual testing.

We were told at the last day of assessment that Rowen would have an ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) Diagnosis and they would follow up in 1-2 weeks with all the official paperwork and next steps.

4) Apply for Funding

Next step was contacting your local Ministry of Child and Family Services Office. They will ask you to email or send in copies of your three reports from Psychologist, Speech and Paediatrician as well as a signed copy of the Autism Application. I think that was it but my social worker from the Ministry was great at listing all the things I needed to send in and your funding starts the month you apply so if you apply March 20th the funding should be good as of March 1st. Funding years are child specific and based on the date of your child’s birthday. This will all be explained to you in your meeting with your social worker. Once your funding is accepted you are mailed a copy to sign and mail back to Victoria. Then you can spend! You are responsible for tracking and decided the amounts you request to be put aside for each therapy or service provider.

5) SPEND WISELY

So after the diagnosis and funding is all in place things get hard! This was by far the most overwhelming and difficult part for us. I think the thing is it is all new to us and there are so many different programs and therapies we would like to try. There are many challenges I have faced with trying to make a decision on what is best for Rowen while still considering our whole family life. Reality and waitlists are some of these challenges.

Reality is one thing, where are they located and can I physically commit to driving and commuting to programs plus is it fair to the rest of our family (like we cannot spend all our time, energy and money on one child’s programs at the cost of our other two kids).

Waitlists are another challenge. Maybe you find some programs you want to do but can you get in? And does the times they have available work for your family.

For us we have had no prior supports from any professionals so it is all new and had no where to start for guidance or recommendations. We had heard and been told you will want a BC and you will want to do ABA, we didn’t even know what that meant.

My biggest suggestions is ask a million questions, rely on feedback and word of mouth suggestions from friends, family and other parents. But also know that no two kids or two families are the same so what works for one may be very different for another.

THINGS WE HAVE LEARNED

So what have we learned this far…

ABA is Applied Behaviour Analysis is a theory and way of teaching. It uses analysis of how people learn behaviour and applies them to teach or train behaviours we want, or even to stop behaviours we don’t want. One example is encouraging behaviours by using positive reinforcement. This is simplified and my interpretation of ABA, but there are lots of articles and information on ABA as well as different approaches.

Not every ABA program is the same. Some have more flexibility and all have different policies.

Ask questions like

  • Can you cancel the program at any time or is there a policy for notice (like you must give 30 days notice)?
  • How long have your BI’s been with the program? What kind of staff turn over do they have?
  • What happens when your child is sick, for holidays or vacation time?
  • Do they allow you to pack a snack or lunch?
  • Do they work together with other programs? ABA, OT and Speech. Can you add on extra of any of these that your child may be needing?

For us we ended up following up on a friends referral to check out Megan MacKay and I am so thankful we did. Rowen has started ABA just twice a week to start at Bounding Higher. His BI is a male which I thought was pretty cool, and seems to have already developed a really great relationship. I really love their space (its big and bright and clean), I like the way each child is one on one but they do have some interactions with the other kids. Plus they are willing to work together with the OT Program at Little Buddies, which is where he starts in May once a week for an hour before his ABA.

All of our therapies are located in Richmond at the Pacific Autism Family Centre (above pictures are from the Center in Bounding Higher) and it is amazing. They have quiet spaces I can sit and read or whatever while Row is in therapy, they have a big lending library and lots of games, etc as well as a nice little gift shop so you can support the building and all the amazing programs it is home to. If you have not checked it out you most defiantly should.

I never thought I would have to be so budgeted but we definitely know we will surpass that $22,000/ year amount of funding and be out of pocket for some expenses so we want to make sure we are being wise in the therapies and treatments we pick and the people. For this reason I have included the hourly rates that our professionals charge (on average or recommended rates) just to give you an idea of what we are looking at. It was surprising to me at what these programs add up to be (a couple of thousand dollars a month!). So as great as the funding is, for lots of families this is a very difficult and sensitive topic. Talk about one of your most important investements. Any decision around big spending is always difficult but when it comes to spending on your kids its probably the most important thing any of us will ever have to do.

WHO works with Rowen and what do they do?

So first I should start off saying that we use our Autism Funding to pay for these people listed below. However for children under 6 you must employ people and businesses that are found on the RASP (Registry for Autism Service Providers List). The list is really a great place to start your search when looking for any of these professionals. Here is my interpretation and description of what each professional does. I have gone and had consultations with more than just the people we hired, keep in mind these people spend a lot of time with your child (and you will also develop relationships with them). So as easy as it is to think I will just hire whoever is available or maybe closest proximity to me I do encourage you to do a bit of research.

BCBA Board Certified Behaviour Analysts

$130/ hour

This person is the one who oversees our BI and manages our ABA Program. They may not directly work a lot each week with Row but they are observing and definitely the person our BI would refer to and have to report to.

We have chosen Megan MacKay at Bounding Higher as our BCBA (and she is also an SLP). I was told that BCBA’s can be hard to find or that they have long waitlists so I do feel extremely fortunate that we found her. I like her philosophy and holistic approach to ABA as well as her straight forward communication with us.

This is also one of our highest paid people on Rowens team, so this is a person you want to be prepared to ask questions at meetings and utilize their time wisely because their time adds up fast.

BI Behaviour Interventionist

$25/ hour

This person is the person working directly with your child and implementing the plan you BCBA has laid out. I definitely think they are an amazing resource to teach or train you as a parent on techniques they might be using and having success with. Make sure to ask questions and develop a relationship with your BI! Our BI was picked and provided for us by Megan and Bounding Higher.

OT Occupational Therapist

$120-160/ hour

Occupation therapists help to develop life skills (such as feeding, hygiene and dressing) and in our case we are seeing an OT for help with sensory related things like self regulation and organizing behaviour.

Sensory is an interesting and difficult area for me to understand. Our family has asked lots about it and I don’t feel I have a great understanding of it yet to be able to explain to others. I do think my son is searching and seeking sensory input… he likes things like spinning and swings, loves jumping, deep pressure and doesn’t like things like lights on, clothes specifically tags, shoes and socks or busy crowded places. We are starting to learn things that help relax him and organize him so he can be calm and have better attention.

Defiantly very interesting and if you want more info please look online there are many great resources and if you know Rowen you will read a lot of these things and think “WOW!” because some of the articles sound like they are actually describing Rowen.

I would say this far OT is Rowens favourite favourite favourite activity and therapy. It has been all about play and observing and learning what he likes and doesn’t like and he loves it. We have been waiting to get into Megan Eastwood in Ladner as she came extremely highly recommended, she is close by and I happen to know and love her family already, plus one of my besties (who is an OT) just started to work with her. So it seemed like a natural fit but so far we have only been able to get in on a two day two appointment over spring break, so nothing consistent is open yet to become a regular client. With that in mind we are starting with Keith at Little Buddies in May. I just met him this week and am very excited for Rowen to start because Keith has also come highly recommended and I have a feeling Rowen is going to thrive here.

I wish we had unlimited resources because I would be putting in a sensory room in our house and would be hiring these amazing individuals for a couple sessions a week. I love both Megan and Keith and would want to do as much OT as possible. This is when the hard part about where to spend your dollars comes in. I don’t have pictures of the OT’s we see sensory rooms but this gives you an idea of what they look like and why Rowen loves them.

SLP Speech and Language Pathologist

$130/ hour

SLP’s specialize in working with language development but may not have much experience directly related to Autism and language development. If you have chosen one off the RASP list then they must have at least a year of experience with Autism.

I hope this has helped you to see a little glimpse into our life and what we have been busy setting up and learning about as well as gives you some tips if you are starting your own journey with a child on the spectrum. I am happy to answer any questions or chat if you need to, please just message:)

The support I didn’t mention was the numerous friends and family members who have been amazing supports with babysitting our other kids while we have had many appointments, sending interesting articles or even just taking an interest in what is going on. We have been extremely blessed with our friends and family! Continue reading “Where we have been the last two months.”