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?

Distance Diaries

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

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

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

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

Photo by Shelby Rose Photography #distancediaries

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

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

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

Photo by Shelby Rose Photography #distancediaries

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

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.

Riding B#@$%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Realistic Expectations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers,
Carly

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!

Fill your Bucket First

Do you believe in syncronicity? I do. I love how many reoccurring themes I can find when I look for them in my life. The last little bit has been busy, but really nothing different from our normal routine of chaos. I attended two different workshops through the farm, my kids have been on Spring Break, weather is finally starting to warm up, we had a triple baptism for our three kiddos, my youngest daughters birthday party and a family friends funeral just to name a few things. During all these things I noticed a common message, and I think it is important so I thought I would share.

I feel like it is hard to sum up this overall message into one idea but rather a broader goal of living in todays modern world and dealing with all the pressures and obligations. It is about living with anxiety and stress and how you can cope with it. Although the times are different from “when I grew up”. The principles from when we were being raised and from our parents childhood on “how to be happy” have never really changed. If we go back to some of the basics and make time in our busy schedules we might be surprised the impact it would have on our lives. The messages I keep hearing in all the areas of my life are similar and it is go back to the basics, make time and spend energy on the real important stuff and the rest will follow.

My favourite take away was from one of the speakers at a Summit I attended for young farmers. The speaker was a doctor and was speaking on mental health. His message was simple, it was that we all want balance in our lives and stress that our demands outweigh our resources. We don’t have the time and energy to meet all our demands but instead of removing every demand, which isn’t realistic always, we should add things that give us energy. We are so quick to take away the stuff that gives us our energy, it is easy to say we do not have time to eat well, exercise or even sleep but how much more productive are we when we get a good nights sleep.

He even went so far as to compare stats of what our parents and grandparents lives were like. Every decade the human populations looses an hour of sleep so back in the day my Great Grandparents slept an average of 10 hours a night, we are currently at about 6.5 hours per night. Did you know that in Canada approx 25% of meals are eaten in our vehicles and the average length of dinner is 15 minutes compared to our Grandparents who’s meals lasted about 1 hour and 15 minutes. These stats were surprising to me, but not unbelievable.

I feel like it is sad to think that although many things have hugely improved with evolution some things have gone the opposite direction. With all the advancements you would think we should have more free time! It seems like people have less and less time to just enjoy their lives, families, food and all the fun stuff. So here was his list of 10 S’ to help make you happier. The idea of these things is that they have all been shown to increase serotonin and we all know that low serotonin is linked to depression and serotonin levels help to regulate mood. These aren’t opinions but backed by science, I did feel like it was kinda of a cool list.

  • SUCCESS| Think back to a time you were successful or felt successful. Just remembering a successful time makes your serotonin levels increase.
  • SUN| It’s here, so get outside and don’t waste it.
  • SLEEP| Deep sleep, the hours before midnight. Set yourself an alarm and go to bed.
  • SMILING| For real you get a surge of serotonin just by smiling.
  • SPORTS| Doesn’t matter what you do or how good at it you are, just get your heart rate going.
  • SOCIAL| See your friends, hang out in a group. Socialize.
  • STEAK| Eat a high fat diet to feed your brain. The brain is made of 80% fat and 10% protein, feed your brain.
  • SAND| Contact with the earth, feet in sand or soil is grounding and good for you.
  • SEX| You don’t even want to know the stats on this one, it’s sad!
  • SPIRITUALITY| Again doesn’t matter what spirituality just that you have it and you practice it. Practice prayers and gratitude. Gives you meaning and purpose.

Seems simple but I know it isn’t. Do I think if you practice all of this you would never feel sad? No, absolutely not. I do think this idea of taking time to do the things that bring you happiness and fill your bucket is super important. I also think it is what gives you the energy to then be able to face the rest of your life.

I always say to my husband we need to put our own oxygen masks on first before we can help anyone else, when the presenter showed that slide and used that same example I couldn’t believe it. I actually took a pic and sent to my husband right away.

As a mom you learn selflessness and putting others needs before your own like you have never known. However it is easy to use this as an excuse to why you aren’t taking care of yourself. You are not a bad mom, partner, daughter, sister or friend if you put yourself first. Most times it makes you a better mom, partner, daughter, sister and friend. I know anytime I am truly taking care of myself I end up with more energy to do the other stuff I want to do.

Weird to think after two weeks of busy Spring Break and lots of fun with my husband and three kids I am starting off back to school with a bit more enthusiasm and energy. Usually after two busy weeks I am burnt out and exhausted. I think I am trying to keep these reminders and lessons fresh in my mind and practice them daily.

The funeral we recently attended was for a longtime family friend who I have known since childhood. Although the circumstances and situation was heart breaking and I truly believe it is hard to find any good to a loss of life when someone is so young the one thing I loved hearing about was how no matter what he took the time to make others feel heard and important. He went out of his way to do little things for people. I think it was a reminder when your time comes the most remarkable thing you can do is have left this Earth a little better.

I guess we have been spending a little more time than usual at Church as we also recently had all three kids Baptized (that’s a whole other blog post…). Before we could do the Baptism Fraser and I had to attend a nighttime class of sorts to go over the purpose of Baptism and a little 101 on the Catholic faith. It was a good refresher for me and maybe a bit of an eye opener for Fraser but it also was nice to have a little reminder of what Faith can do for people. The priests chat with us was really a reminder that raising kids with a community who has Faith can give you greater meaning to things and can help guide you to live a good ethical life without placing so much importance on material things but instead on the greater good. It just all tied in for me with having just heard that spirituality is important, having experienced a death recently and also a birth in our family and really just wanting to raise good kids. I don’t just mean well behaved but kids who care, and who show others empathy and respect.

So, in summary I am going froward with a grateful heart for all the amazing things and people we have in our lives but also with the reminder of how important it is to take care of myself and make sure to fill my bucket. When I do those things that make me feel whole and good and fulfilled then I can share with others and sharing with others can be as simple as engaging in a meaningful conversation and showing someone you heard them, they matter and you care.

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.

Collaboration, the power of partnerships.

Being part of something bigger never used to matter to me. I hated relying on anyone else and thought I could do most things on my own. In my mind if you wanted it done right you should do it yourself, boy was I wrong. I dreaded group projects and always felt they would have been better individually. I didn’t have the skills to work well with others or to compromise and try to see things more than one way (my way).

I still at times want to shut out the rest of the world and just be in a bubble. But the difference now is I don’t believe I am better solo, I think sometimes I need time to recharge solo but I believe I am better with support.

I parent better when I am parenting with the support and help of my husband, I work harder at fitness when I am in a class with an encouraging group of women, I am inspired when I surround myself by my girlfriends and I bet if you ask anyone you know they may have a favourite Plain sister but they will say it is even better when you get to be with all three of us. I am so happy I have learnt that as great as I am independently, I can share my talents and strengths with others and team up to be even more effective as a team.

Since starting our family and having kids you learn it takes a village. I love having a circle of close girlfriends who are there supporting you through some os the best but also the worst times in your life.

Working at the farm and helping plan and run our events I know the importance of a team. You cannot accomplish great things without support and the more I learn and lean into the idea that having support doesn’t make me weaker but in fact builds me up and makes me stronger the more I can accomplish.

The idea can be applied to all areas of my life, when I ask for help from my team with my kids the more they succeed and experience. I can not physical be in three places at once, nor can I support three little people all at the same time so we have an amazing team of family, friends, teachers, educators, therapists and babysitters who help us with the kids. Without this team I cannot imagine how tired, impatient and cranky I would be. Day to day it is Fraser and I who are driving the kids, helping dress, feeding and just generally caring for our family but I am starting to have a real appreciation for those who do help us. I am also learning to ask for help when I need it or make sure we take the time to hire help if we need it.

Apply the same idea to work, I have casual/ seasonal/ part time employment at Emma Lea Farms but when I do work we are usually go go go! Think special events like our Markets, during the busy berry season at the U Pick Stand and most recently to help plan and host a 2 day Farm Tour for farmers from the Pacific North West to see different farms (12 of them actually) from our area. What I learnt was without an amazing team of farmers our tour would be nothing, and without an amazing group of vendors our markets would not hold the same value and without an amazing team of staff our U Pick stand would be impossible. Never underestimate the power and growth that comes from building a strong team.

At a presentation I was at recently the speaker pointed out that Competition is no longer a thing, that we each have a niche and a target market. If we excel and worry about our strengths and pair up with others in the area we actually create a bigger and better reason to come visit. For example breweries independently are good but everyone is all about going on an Ale Trail or a Booze Cruise so when you team up with your “competition” you are actually creating something really special.

I love this idea of being a part of something bigger and really embracing each other instead of competing. Think of it in parenthood even, Moms are always comparing themselves (I think). I always see something and think I wish I could make lunches like that mom, or come to school drop off with make up on and my hair styled and look presentable like other moms, etc. But realistically when I start to chat with the mamas and learn more about them and even start to share our strengths with each other. The one day my girlfriend made my sons lunch and I picked up her son from school it was fantastic, my son was super excited and ate it all and I had such a stress free morning of no lunch making, my girlfriend was thrilled she didn’t have to pack up her daughter and pick up her son. It doesn’t have to big things, small things matter.

Moral of the story is value your friendships and teams, ask for help when you need it or offer it when you notice someone who could use a hand. Sometimes just doing is better than offering, I often say No but if someone just shows up and does it there is no opportunity to say no. If we are open to collaboration great ideas and things can happen. We are stronger together.

Freedom 55

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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