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!

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!

Another Year Older.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy right now, be present in this moment.

Life can change in an instant.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Clean Eating (with dirty kids)

Over a year ago we embarked on a lifestyle change and for the first month we followed a plan of strict clean eating. It was the start of some major changes in our house and it was amazing. After just 30 days not only had we both physically changed (by loosing some significant weight) but we also had huge emotional changes, we both had more energy, less mood swings, and naturally started making good changes and choices regarding balance with our lifestyle. We started to make exercise a priority and included activity in our week.

I no longer had any headaches, my stomach was for the first time relatively flat (I mean in comparison to what it had been, basically lost the bloated feeling) and my head felt clear (I mean as “clear” as it can be with three kids running circles around me).

Slowly over the last year we have fallen back in to some old habits and veered from our original plan. Some things were not feasible (or we have chosen not to make them a priority) for the long term for many reasons among them being limited resources (time and money being the big ones).

What started out as exciting, things like making time for meal prep, planning, exercise, etc, became all consuming of our time and life seemed like we were struggling to fit everything else in. Our kids have since started activities plus in the last little bit my son has started a therapy program which involves a lot more driving and time away. Slowly our homemade goodness turned to “healthy” premade/ processed convenience food.

Some of the changes we made were easy to stick to but unfortunately over time we have slipped with others and I have noticed my old “symptoms” coming back. Headaches, upset stomach, bloating and always feeling drained, no energy.

I went to the doctor, she ran blood tests (which showed nothing terrible) and I tried to change a few things but nothing has made as big of a difference as this last week when I started to go back to a more clean diet. All of a sudden I am feeling a lot better again. It has had me re-evaluating our meal planning and trying to determine how to balance clean eating with a busy family, mainly not spending my whole day meal planning, meal prepping, doing dishes and repeating.

SO, here are my clean eating ideas. I am hoping if I can stick to these basic guidelines it will help us make more lasting changes towards a healthy diet and happy bodies!

PLAN & PREPARE.

Take the time twice a week (my goal is Sundays and Wednesdays) to clean and cut up veggies and fruit, pre cook chicken, marinate any meat or any other prep work I can do ahead. Also for us snacks are important, so taking the time to bake goodies that I know are “healthy” but also yummy.

SHOP LOCAL SHOP SEASONAL

One great way to budget and still stay healthy is shop local farmers market with local produce. We are coming into our favourite time of year, berry season! We are so fortunate to live where we do, just this weekend I went out and got a flat of local strawberries (breakfast- smoothies, yogurt parfaits, lunch- strawberry spinach salad, dessert- strawberry shortcakes) and we just bought two cases of BC Prawns from a local fishermen. These will last us until next year and although we try to avoid doing too much frozen some of the things that are seasonal like fish and berries we do buy and freeze.

These are some of our favourite local places.

BE YOUR OWN FAST FOOD

One big thing that I notice about our “clean eating” is avoiding any processed or pre packaged food which is tough to do when your busy and just want fast! But making salad dressing or dips like hummus or even your marinades all on the same day saves you time through out the week. I also will make and freeze portions of things like soup or muffins that can be easily taken out for a quick snack or meal. One goal we have is to do a little more canning. Last year we canned potatoes and although we try not to eat potatoes that often when we do it is so nice to drain and just fry up our tasty pre-seasoned and cooked potatoes. Sometimes stuff like canning seems like a lot of work and money at the beginning but in the long run it saves you on both!

ROUND UP THE TROOPS

In our house everyone loves being in the kitchen (well maybe with the exception of me). So I try to include the kids in meal prepping (they love to sit and “chop”, measure, mix, etc). This can also be time consuming and a lot messier than solo cooking but I do think the benefits outweigh the mess! The kids love it and are a lot more invested in trying or eating if they have helped. Plus they are so proud to share whatever they have made with anyone willing or brave enough to sample:)

SSWAPS AND SWITCHES

We have also made some choices to not have certain ingredients in our house. So these are changes that have stuck since our initial change in diet and have stuck. At first I guess they seemed extreme or drastic but in reality these really were easy changes.

We do not have white flour or white sugar. We have replaced our white flour with a lot of different flours including almond flour, brown rice flour, coconut flour and spelt flour. This was a gradual change and we unfortunately had a case of moths who invaded our baking cupboard and I ended up having to throw everything away. I have just slowly bought the flours as I need them for recipes and really find that it is better to have in smaller quantities and buy fresh as you need. Sugar is a lot harder for me as I am a sugar and dessert freak! But I was surprised at how easy and how many natural alternatives they have so we now stick with honey, maple syrup and raw cane sugar.

One other change I made was pastas, I have switched to all brown rice pastas and am surprised at some of the good alternatives I have been able to find.

Our last big switch was with anything premade (sauces, marinades, etc). This was actually pretty easy for me but the rest of my family had a tougher time. I would like to say we have removed ketchup from our house but we have not (I try to avoid it) but the kids and Fraser still love it. However we do simplify our sauces and opt to stock Tamarind, Braggs Soy Sauce, Greek yogurt, Chili Paste, coconut milk, olive oil and a few other essentials so we can mostly try to make our own marinades and dressings.

EACH DAY IS A NEW DAY

The last really important thing is a mind set, we do go to McDonalds (but now we usually just get for the kids and try to go to White Spot instead of the Golden Arches if we want take out), I buy processed food, we eat white flour baking (because we don’t live in a bubble and Nan bakes with it) and we frequent the Delta Bakery because everyone loves donuts and its a great bribe. I will rarely say no to an Emma’s Ice Cream Sundae. We are far from perfect but what I do know is each day is a new day and we get to start all over with our choices. So maybe we treat ourselves on Tuesday but Wednesday we try to stay true to the plan. I am working on finding a balance of how I want us to eat but also what is realistic and how we do eat. Plus we are social and I never want to make other people feel bad about how they eat or go to special trouble. Everything is about balance and if we can aim to do our clean eating 80% of the time I will be super happy!!!

So the reason I wanted to write about it is because sharing helps me to be accountable but also because I know a lot of you are families and struggle to stay healthy and make good choices while still being practical. SHARE with me your successes and things that work for you! We have our go to recipes and staple grocery items but I would love to hear from other families and find out how they manage meal planning, prep and staying healthy.

Thanks for reading and I hope to hear from some of you!

Spring Market at the Farm

I am super honoured and also pretty excited to be working together with some pretty inspiring and enthusiastic people on this years First Annual Spring Market at the Farm. Our Christmas Market last year was such a success and so much fun we wanted to do it again and Spring seemed like the perfect time.

The farm is such a special place, and what better way to start off Spring, celebrate Mothers Day (a week early) and get to have a little fun doing something I love (being social and planning one big event!).

When I think of all that goes with the markets I just get so excited. Everything, from meeting new people who are super talented to encouraging them to bring out their locally made, grown or created products, is inspiring and makes me feel good about organizing such a fun event.

Our whole concept with these Markets is to support local small businesses and maybe give them a starting place to showcase their talents (hopefully they make a little money doing it). Plus we love being able to host community events while still keeping Agriculture in peoples minds, so for this Spring Market we have lots of fun for families like

  • Spring Mini Photo Sessions (super affordable way to have family photos taken)
  • Westcoast Seeds Complimentary Planting tent where kids can come and plant a seed and take it home with them.
  • Complimentary music to enjoy sponsored by a local Trucking Company (Len Botkin Trucking)

Plus hosting the Market has allowed us the opportunity raise some money for some pretty great causes. Some of the fundraiser events happening are the Braiding Bar set up by our local Salon Atomic Hair Studio with all proceeds going to the Delta Hospital & Community Health Foundation as well as admissions to the Market by donation to the same Foundation. We also have Tiny Tales Pony Rescue Society bringing some of their Ponies and Minis to the Market to show what their Society is about. They rescue, rehabilitate and ultimately rehome ponies and minis in need. They will be at the Market selling hanging baskets and planted teacups to help with some of the costs of these ponies and minis. What better way to support our community!

Just goes to show it really does take a village and I feel like we in some small way we facilitated bringing some of these great companies, foundations and society’s together and have given our community an easy way to support these great groups.

If you are interested in finding out how you can participate in the Market please email me craeplain@gmail.com. Our Spring Market is closed for any more Vendors but we are always happy to accept donations or volunteers looking for ways to participate and get involved. We hope you can make it out on May 5th and enjoy some of the fun! For more information on the Market and for our full vendor list check out our facebook invite and make sure to follow @marketatthefarm on instagram!

***All photos are from our Christmas Market, vendors may change from what is shown above. Photos were taken by Daphne Lynn Photography. Christmas Minis were done by Shelby Rose Photography and Spring Minis will be done by Montgomery Belle Photography. Musicians are Ukuladies of Lulu Island and Becca is planning on returning for our Spring Market!