Goodbye GADFLY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Sweet Sweet Summertime

Hi everyone, I have been MIA for a few quick months because I was busy having too much fun this summer. I had every intention of taking some time to write and blog but when given the chance to be outside and have fun I will always pick that! Hence, this post.

Summertime fun. So our family loves heat, beach, no shoes, swimming and pretty much all things summer. I would guess it is our families favourite season (Fraser would say he loves winter but I think he is just trying to be different). I cannot pin point exactly what makes summer so great but I think for the majority of my family it is the lack of clothing (I live with nudists), ease of peeing outside and ability to be outside without worry of weather (we don’t like being cold)! Sunshine makes us happy:)

I was planning on doing a summer wishlist/ bucket list at the beginning of the season but it will have to be a recap of what we got up to and recommendations for families. I think a lot of these suggestions can be taken into other seasons! So hopefully they give you some ideas for a Family Fall Bucket List.

This summer was all about LOCAL fun for us. We do a pretty big trip in the winter (a month in maui!). So, we try to limit time off work for Fraser and expensive holidays in the summer when there is so much locally for free or cheap!

Some of our regular GO-To’s include:

  • PARKS: this is a big one for us. My kiddos love parks and they are free (or mostly, it sometimes involves us stopping to grab some take out, maybe picking up a starbucks on the way, or ice cream afterwards… so close to free). Some of our favourite from this summer included
  • GARDEN CITY PARK

    STEVESTON COMMUNITY PARK

    TSAWWASSEN FIRST NATIONS SPORTS FIELD COMPLEX

  • FARMS: The only thing my kids love more than a park is the farm, they aren’t super picky but they LOVE Emma Lea Farms.
  • If we are away they are so excited when we stop at farms along the way, however if we are just hanging out at home they get so excited to go grab an ice cream, walk the fields (eat more than they pick… I promise we pay for it all!), say hi to the donkeys and play in the play area. This was a weekly activity for sure for us. We often hit up the farm during long weekends and holidays as they had “extras” like BBQ’d hot dogs, face painting and music. One of the best things about the farm is you can grocery shop your fruit and veg while you are there, plus you can bring in your own food and eat so we would often bring White Spot and eat a meal then play. The other thing is it was a great meeting spot for inviting friends, we would all meet up and paly for the day while enjoying berry picking, sundaes and just farm life!
  • In addition to Emma Lea, Nan (my mom) lives on a small hobby farm with a HUGE garden she spent her whole summer tending (in preparation of my sisters wedding). Plus they also have some horses on the property, so another extremly popular spot for our kids is Nans house (specifically the dirt pile), but also the garden and horses!
  • BEACHES: We are so fortunate to have so many good beaches only minutes away from our house so we could often be found out at the ferry causeway, Tsawwassen Beach (family members cabin… we are pretty lucky!) and Centennial Beach.
  • However this year we took a quick island trip and discovered a love for Parksville and Rathtrevor Beach Provinvial Park. I think for next year we have Tigh-Na-Mara Spa & Resort down on our list of places to visit. After spending an afternoon at the provincial park we didnt want to leave plus the resort has so much to offer families and we had friends stay and recommend it for families so I can’t wait to go back and try it out.
  • FAMILY & FRIENDS: Gotta be one of the best things about summer time is the more flexible and open schedules when school is out and often families take holidays so they are home a bit more through out the summer. We had two friends have new babies and my sister got married. So, that meant many showers and festivities plus baby visits and just fun family time spent celebrating! These are memories and moments to treasure.
  • This year we also decided to end the summer off with a camping holiday in Lake Country with 8 other families, 18 kids total! It was phenomenal. I am not a camper, and although I am assured the trailer we rented didn’t classify as camping, I hesitate to consider it “Glamping”. However our kids cried leaving their new “home” and all their friends. They LOVED it and it was definitely a reminder of trying to do what we can to make holidays and traditions with others work.
  • OUR BACKYARD: We decided to build a new deck this year and purchased a small above ground pool, this was a game changer and for the first month of having the pool I think the kids swam everyday. It will definitely be a work in progress as we imagine we will need to upgrade the size and also make it a little nicer in our backyard, but it sure made staying in and having kids over a ton of fun!
  • After looking through just some of our many pictures and fun from the summer I realize the common thread amongst all of it is taking time to have fun, enjoy outside and spend it with the people we love. I feel so fortunate that most of our family and friends live super close to us and we are able to see often. I think we are lucky to be able to have me at home with our kids but also have Fraser work such a flexible job that he is always around and we are able to do so much as a family. However at the end of the day it is just remembering life is short, kids will grow up and they might not want to do all of this fun stuff with us forever so take advantage fo the time you have.
  • The kids might not remember the two weeks I drove them to South Surrey for their private swim lessons, or the first time we let their cousin sleep over and the 30 times I had to go in to tell them to go to sleep, the week I spent packing for camping or the four days it took to unpack and finish all the laundry after the trip, renting sea doos, going to the Kanagroo Farm but they will remember who they spent their time with and all the traditions we created (I hope!). I hope they will also take some of their favourite childhood memories and traditions and carry them on to their own families like we have. It is so cool when we get to take them to some of the same holiday spots I used to enjoy (like a family members vacation spot on Lake Whatcom, or blackberry picking like we used to do with our Aunt every summer).
  • I am trying to embrace all that Fall brings with it as the changing of season is good (I guess) and Summer can’t last forever. I know that routine is good for my house as hard as it is for us to stick to it. I am so proud of all the learning and growing the kids have done through the summer and the amazing start the oldest two have had at preschool! I am also excited for the cozy fall clothes although I know it will mean many arguments with the kids to put shoes on!
  • Goodbye Summer, thanks for all the sunshine, fun and memories. Until next year.
  • Do you ever wonder… what will our children remember?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Things I Learnt in 30 (+4) Years

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

    Above is me celebrating a single digit birthday.

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

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

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

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

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

    “You must learn to master a new way to think before you can master a new way to be. “ – Marianne Williamson

    This quote is kinda exactly how I feel today. It’s funny because I was always searching for a way to relax a little, let go of stuff that isn’t really important, appreciate what I have instead of striving for more or better and to try and live more in the now instead of dwelling on the past and stressing about the future. Insert having kids, did I mention 3 kids in 3 years… and this is truly what has happened.

    Kids change everything, at least they did for me, even the way I think. Instead of having time to overthink and worry and pick apart everything I am learning to master a new way of thinking which includes:

    Breathing. When I am feeling tense or stressed take a few deep breathes

    Living in the chaos. It’s okay if the floor is dirty, laundry doesn’t get done today, my mouldings aren’t wiped down, etc… Embrace it, life with small kids is chaotic so if they ended up “helping” with cleaning the floors and now they look even worse, it’s okay! This has been a hard change for me, but we are working on finding compromise in this area. Over Christmas we had a cleaner come in twice, knowing I would be distracted by mess but Christmas is busy and we were hosting a few events. It is harder to let go of organization when we are entertaining so it was a good plan. This simple thing helped me to be able to enjoy the moments and just sit back and entertain instead of worry about the mess! Sometimes living in the chaos also means accepting when I need help and hiring or asking for it. Easier said then done but I am trying.

    Humble & Grateful. I am really trying to remember that we are fortunate and to be aware and conscious of that. I do believe we work hard and make choices but I also know to be grateful that we live in the country we live in, have the family and friends we have, the list is really endless and I just want to always remember to be grateful for all that we have that has helped us to be able to live the life and lifestyle we do, not just our hard work and choices (although they do play a role in it).

    Live in the moment. This is a huge one for me. I am not sure if it has been aging and seeing friends or peers suffer (either loosing parents, becoming ill, or even loosing peers and friends), some are even strangers that you hear about in the news but that resemble us a little to closely and leave me feeling that could have been us. Or if it has been having kids and realizing you want to be there for them forever (or at least a really long time). But I am really trying to live in the moment with and for my kids. I want them to have amazing memories of us and all the things we did together or the way we listened and were there for them. I would hate to look back 20 years from now and regret not living in those moments. So, it is maybe one of my hardest changes of thinking but I am making an effort to do it! It is also amazing to me how much our kids admire and love us right now, I don’t want to miss this time where Fraser and I are their everything’s because one day, probably sooner than I can imagine, that will change.

    It’s so funny because every since I changed my way of looking and thinking about things I am different. My whole body is different. I am physically less tense, my body feels better, my mind is less stressed, I don’t have headaches, it is amazing the things that can change. I feel like I am open and people can feel it. I am attracting just a bunch of good things! Friends, money, even with my kids and in all my relationships. It is amazing how powerful the mind is, and to think it was there all along.

    For me a lot of my new way of thinking is around asking myself “Why Not?”, or “What’s the worst that could happen?”

    I have always been a bit of a dreamer and have a tendency to set unrealistic expectations. Here is the thing I am learning, still dream but come up with ways to make them my reality. SO “why not” or “what’s the worst that could happen” help determine if I should try something.

    Take for example last year when Fraser and I did a renovation and a 10 day holiday to Hawaii with two kids under 2 and while I was pregnant with our third (some might call this crazy). We sat on the beach last year and talked about what it would be like to just come and stay in Hawaii for a month, fast forward a year and we made it happen. It wasn’t luck or even digging ourselves into a ton of debt with no thought to the future. It was making choices through out the year that lead us to being able to make this work, as well as a little prioritizing what mattered to us. We missed a good childhood friend of mines wedding in Mexico in November because we couldn’t do both, and that’s just one example of the compromises we made. Obviously for us the overall goal was to have quality time as a family and also some R&R.

    R&R Rest & Relaxation… this is funny, so we are on vacation with a 3 year old boy who has lots of energy and is in the early stages of getting an Autism diagnosis (meaning we are learning how to help him with certain issues we have been having), a 2 year old daughter who has an attitude of a 16 year old and a temper like no other and of course our 10 month old teething babe who is crawling but not walking yet:) Some might wonder how we would possibly think this could be restful or relaxing. And old me would have agreed, all children are still in diapers and when we left home no child was sleeping through the night. But with a little shift of our thinking you can change your whole outlook on something. Instead of wishing we were going without our kids, or that our kids were older (out of diapers, sleeping through the night) I have been focusing on the positives or looking for wins as they happen, and boy have they been happening.

    First, I was a little concerned about the airport (we were bringing a lot of child related equipment and I never know how my kids will behave). I am happy to say we handled the luggage and equipment so easily and that the kids were amazing. So much so that we had compliments from other passengers! I call this a parenting win and a great way to start off. It also helps to adjust your way of thinking because any doubts you had are pushed aside.

    Now we are just enjoying having no schedule, making sure kids are happy and fed, well rested, etc. This is relaxing because at home we sometimes skipped meals, or were too busy rushing to get to something that we missed a nap or couldn’t sleep in after a bad night because we had to be somewhere. Commitments and schedules can be stressful and have an impact on me for sure which in turn impacts our whole families attitudes and outlook. I’m really going to work on slowing down at home and trying to bring this more relaxed way of dealing with our kids home with me. It is obviously different in a home environment but I think we can take some of it with us when we go home!

    I guess what I have learnt is rest and relaxation doesn’t have to look like massages and days at the spa, relaxing and reading on the beach and sunsets from the lanai with wine in hand. Instead it can be a quick pedicure while the kids are taking a break with dad from the sun, an hour escape down to the beach with my book or even just sitting with Eleanor watching the other two play in the sand, and nothing beats a sunset view with all kids happily playing (plus you can still have wine!). Things evolve and what I am finding out is they are for the better. My biggest fear is to stay the same, so why not embrace change in every aspect and see what comes with it. For now I am going to enjoy the stage of life we are at… busy, chaotic, messy and all!

    Merry Everything A Happy Always!

    So we celebrated our first Christmas as a family of 5, and it was great!

    Unfortunately our whole house was hit with a terrible flu for over a week before Christmas and honestly I think it was a bit of a blessing in disguise. It was terrible… not only was I very sick but I was still mom so it meant up at night with sick kiddos, many loads of laundry, being puked on and lots of disinfecting but also feeling absolutely horrible myself. Thank goodness we seemed to alternate kids being sick and I could try to comfort all my babies at different times! It is very hard to be outnumbered by your littles. The blessing though was it meant last minute me just gave up on a lot of the ideas I had of a perfect Christmas.

    See Fraser and I come from two very different versions of Christmas.

    My childhood Christmases had many traditions, we were raised Catholic so defiantly Christmas had a religious aspect to it including Church on Christmas, nativity sets and the story of Christmas were all part of our traditions! We also were spoilt at Christmas. With 7 biological Aunts & Uncles (plus spouses), many family friends or pseudo “aunts/ uncles”, 4 Grandparents, and almost everyone living locally our Christmas Day was spent unwrapping a lot of gifts. When I look back at it as an adult I don’t know how my single mom managed to pull off such incredible Christmas’s! Plus I also realize we got so much stuff… and it was so unnecessary. Do not get me wrong, I loved our Christmas gifts and traditions, I never complained. But now having kids of our own and struggling with Christmas lists and gift ideas for the kids or space to put all their new stuff I realize that this is not the same Christmas traditions I want to set up for our family (although it is tempting). I feel so lucky that we had the magical and family filled Christmas traditions we did and cannot wait to start making memories of Christmas for our kids.

    Fraser on the other hand was raised without religion and with a much smaller family who was much more practical when it came to gifts. They had lots of their own traditions but religion was not apart of Christmas, gifts played a much smaller role and they had a more intimate group of family at Christmas. One interesting thing about Fraser’s Christmas memories revolve around food, although they had an always changing Christmas menu he has some things that he loves to make for Christmas and I like the idea of that being a tradition we can carry on with our kids.

    I like to think we will take our two versions of what Christmas looks like and meld them together for a nice fit of what Christmas will look like for our family.

    I definitely want our kids to know the religious background of Christmas and I do know that this is something that Fraser most likely will not want to participate in. Religion is a funny thing, I am learning that it is scary for people who didn’t grow up with it and I would never want to force it on him. So, hopefully this is an area I can manage to teach the kids with the help of my family. I know one day they will make their own decisions but I like the idea of them being informed and knowing about religion and the background of Christmas!

    Our Christmas started on the 22nd and ended on the 25th, so it was just a couple of days and we tried to make each day just have one or two things planned. We are not hugely routine and try to be flexible but kids do require certain things through out the day (mainly meals and we always benefit from a nap). So, we did try to keep that in mind but I do find with the holidays and so many different activities going on routine and structure goes out the window.

    We try to celebrate Christmas with both our families and all the Great Grandparents and extended family which often means many dinners and visits but the benefit to this is more quality visits and gifts for the kids are spread out over a couple of days. I love this because they don’t get “tired” of opening gifts and they get to enjoy and appreciate each gift and we know who gave what! Plus the whole Christmas season is so much money and work I like the idea of extending it over a period of time to at least make all the effort feel more worthwhile.

    I have to say being sick right before Christmas meant I didn’t have as much free time or extra time to run out to the mall and go over the top on presents or even decor. This was a great lesson to teach me that I didn’t miss all the over the top stuff I would normally be all over. The kids stockings had just the right amount of stuff and each kid had a few fun gifts as well as a few things I knew they needed. Fraser and I didn’t exchange gifts this year as we decided instead to make a donation to a fundraiser that was more meaningful to us than any gift we could have bought. Plus our big Christmas gift this year is starting off 2018 with Fraser taking 7 weeks holidays and us spending a month in Maui! Although we may not be able to continue this extended period of time every year I hope we always are able to take time off in January and to start off the New Year spending quality time as a family and rest and relax.

    I think that the way we are starting 2018 is also the way we are ending 2017, the idea is about spending quality time and enjoying the kids early years with our family. Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the Christmas spirit of over indulging in every way (over eating, over drinking, over scheduling, over spending and over gifting… ) but when we all got sick all the rest kinda stopped and by the time I was feeling good enough to start thinking Christmas it was here and I just made do with what I had prepared and it ended up being more than enough food, decorations, gifts and booze:) Well I did make a last minute liquor store run but… LOL:). I think you get the idea, we have more than enough and Christmas is about more than gifts.

    At the end of December I do not want to have gone into a bunch of debt to buy a bunch of stuff that we don’t need and the reality is we don’t “need” anything as we are so well provided for. But there are people who are less fortunate and do need, and that is a lesson I hope to teach our kids. We used to go shopping with my aunt every year at Christmas and help pick out a bunch of toys for the toy bank, plus my Grandparents always helped with he Christmas Hampers through the legion. These are just a few of the traditions my family had for giving back that I still remember and want to pass on doing similar stuff with our kids. These types of “gifts” are ones that have lasting impressions and teach more than any other gift ever could.

    As 2017 comes to an end I can’t help but feel it was an EPIC year for the Farlow family. We are all healthy and happy, we have more than enough, our year was filled with way more good days than bad and we added to our family with Eleanor completing our little family. Fraser had a phenomenal year at work and continues to enjoy his job which is most important. I started my blog and also found doTerra and have made essential oils a part of our daily life. Plus we have made some healthy lifestyle changes, started to implement exercise and healthy eating into our lives. Overall I have loved 2017, and with that I am excited to start off 2018! This new year brings promise of some new adventures and self discovery. I am starting off January with a one day wellness retreat (including Yoga, mediation and oils!), I have a few oil classes planned and can’t wait to see what personal growth stuff I uncover this coming year. Plus we have some big goals with Rowen for 2018 including completing his Autism Assessment and starting to get some help in place so we can get him prepped for grade school and start him off with as much support in place as possible, Grace will start preschool this year (September) and I am excited for her to have something of her own and our little Eleanor will celebrate her first birthday!

    So Merry Everything and A Happy Always from our family to yours I hope this year was one for the record books and I hope 2018 brings you even more good things. XOXO

    Real Housewife of A Long Shore Man

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Kick Off To Christmas!

    As the first weekend in December comes to and end my heart is beyond full, my body beyond tired and my mind a little foggy, all signs of a great start to the holiday season. We really have come to a point in our lives where our family are our friends and our friends are our family and it has got to be one of the best feelings. Hard to imagine when we were younger but we have created a life where it is full of the most amazing people who are there for us through thick and thin. This weekend was a great reminder of that, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

    We took some family time to decorate our tree, and it was just a surprisingly great experience. Obviously Christmas decorations change when you have little ones who love to touch and play but I was so surprised at how helpful and into decorating the tree Grace and Rowen were. We decorated the bottom foot of the tree a little more sparsely as Eleanor does show interest in the tree and we figured it was just safer this way!

    When I think of Christmas and my kids the word Magic really is what comes to mind, it is such a special time and feeling and I just want to soak up every minute (even the trying ones!). This was definitely a fun time with the kids and everyone loves the way the tree turned out. I used to love a good theme and colour scheme and hated all our mismatched ornaments but I gotta say the sentimental mama I have turned into loves all the meaningful and homemade ornaments and how they have the ability to remind us of past holidays and memories.

    Saturday was a bit of a lazy day, but we had wanted to head out and support a couple of our friends at their First Charity Event Photos with Santa.

    First, we love J.Baird Cattle & Co because we love the family, the manager is a good friend of ours and their pepperoni is the kids favourite snack! So, we loaded up the whole family (dog included) and headed out to the stand. It was such a great set up and for a donation to Delta Assist we got a family pic with Santa (still waiting to see it, but I am so happy we got all of us in it totally doesn’t matter what it looks like!). Bonus for the hot chocolate and cookie bar, I loved the Santa Wishlist writing table and the fires were perfect for warming up on a dreary day! So many great details and the perfect laid back event for our family. If you haven’t been out to the stand you definitely need to stop by and check it out!

    Sunday morning though was the ultimate end to a great weekend. One of my favourite traditions we have with our friends is our Annual Kids Christmas Party. Now I am starting to realize I love me some traditions and this is one that has some great components to it. Some things have evolved but many things have stayed the same and for that I am thankful.

    Some of my favourite things that have stayed the same are

    • the menu (Bacon & Hash brown Casserole will never loose the appeal)
    • the activities (cookie decorating is amazing especially when you let little ones go wild with icing and sprinkles!)
    • the people. This year we have a few new additions (Sam, Faye & Eleanor) and were missing some of our gang because of scheduling conflicts but for the most part the crew stays the same.

    The only thing that maybe has evolved is the gift exchange, and for that I am so thankful. Our kiddos used to always do a secret Santa but we are beyond blessed with some very fortunate kids so this year we did gifts for less fortunate families as well as food to the food bank! What a great way to start our Sunday morning off good food and friends.

    Tonight I am just so happy sitting by the beautiful tree, enjoying a little wind down to a fabulous weekend. We had dinner at Nans house with all my sisters, the kids cousins and of course GAG (Great Aunt Grace). Nan gave everyone a bath and sent the kiddos home in PJ’s and ready for bed, all in all I call it a fabulous end to a great weekend. I hope that you all have enjoyed the first weekend in December and are able to spend it with those you love.

    Christmas can be a stressful and sometimes sad time for people and I truly feel blessed that this year for us Christmas is a happy and magical time. I know there will be years that are more difficult or Christmas’ that are tough but I am going to try and enjoy all the ones with the kids little and see things through their eyes. 22 Sleeps TIL Santa! Off to bed, need a little rest to recover from this weekend.

    The Art of Gift Giving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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