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!

90,000 Reasons to be Passionate about your Work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fill your Bucket First

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Collaboration, the power of partnerships.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maui WOWEE! Our guide to Maui with Kids.

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

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

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

LOCATION

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


Reasons we love KIHEI

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

WISHLIST

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

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

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

ACCOMMODATIONS

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

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

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

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

KID STUFF

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

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

Homepage

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

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

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

ACTIVITIES

Ho’okipa Beach

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

Whalers Village

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

North Loop Coastline

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

Friday Block Parties

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

Iao Valley & the Needle

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

Flea Market

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

Pa’ia

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

Captain Woody’s Charter Tours

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

Spa at The Grande

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

Haleakala (Crater)

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

Road to Hana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our own “Baby Beach”

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

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

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

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

RESTAURANTS


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

Breakfast:

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

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

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

Still to try… BELLE SURF CAFE, SIP ME

Lunch:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dinner:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Where we have been the last two months.

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

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

GETTING A DIAGNOSIS

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

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

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

1) Referral from family Doctor to a paediatrician.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4) Apply for Funding

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

5) SPEND WISELY

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

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

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

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

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

THINGS WE HAVE LEARNED

So what have we learned this far…

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

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

Ask questions like

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

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

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

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

WHO works with Rowen and what do they do?

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

BCBA Board Certified Behaviour Analysts

$130/ hour

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

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

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

BI Behaviour Interventionist

$25/ hour

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

OT Occupational Therapist

$120-160/ hour

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

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

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

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

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

SLP Speech and Language Pathologist

$130/ hour

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

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

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

Mind, Body & Soul…

I have always loved to consider myself spiritual, but I am not sure that I was doing intentional activity to feed my soul. I have lots of beliefs on how to take time for me and to make sure mind, body and soul are all being looked after, but beliefs are different than action. My goal for 2018 is to feed my soul (while still exercising my mind and body… always striving for a bit of balance).

2018 has really started off strong for me and for my family. Fraser has taken a parental leave from work that started December 30th and doesn’t end until February 24th. We left January 16th for a family vacation and are in Maui until February 16th! This has lead to many amazing days as a family, including simple stuff like somehow easily transitioning all three kids into their own beds while on vacation and sleeping almost through the night with no wake ups, successfully bringing 3 kids 3 and under on a plane without any issues, watching the kids swim in our pool and demonstrating lots of what they learnt at their swimming lessons last year, and so much more! But the purpose here is not to go on about all the good things that are happening in my life but instead to share some of how I got to this happy place and what I am planning on doing to stay living this good life!

First, I really like this quote and really believe it. With that in mind I really have tried to remind myself to stay positive and think good thoughts, when in doubt of what is happening adjust my feelings/ attitude and see what I attract and of course imagine possibilities and they will happen (manifestation/ synchronicity). This is defiantly a belief that I want to keep in mind through out 2018!

I also started off 2018 taking a few risks or doing a few things that scare me!

First I put myself out there with my This Plain Life stuff and participated in a Pop Up Retreat, at this retreat I lead a guided meditation that I was super proud and happy with, I also got to have an oracle card reading, something I have been wanting for a while. I actually enjoyed the reading so much that I bought my first set of cards and have been pulling them when I feel I need one. My very first pull from the set I did three cards and couldn’t even believe how much they fit with where I am with my life and my intentions fro 2018 align with these cards.

Basically Sulis to me represents where I am right now. In Maui, ocean side everyday recharging my battery. I am a water baby, love being on the water, but also in it. I love showering, even my recent spa treatment involved lots of pools, water treatments, Vichy baths etc. I really love this card and think it is completely speaking the truth about where I am right now and what my goal with our vacation is.

Of course sooner than I want to admit we will return back to reality and when we arrive I am thinking of it as my start to the real life of 2018, also it is a new start for our kids with habits and routine. The first week we get home Rowen, Fraser and I will take part in his 3 day private Autism Assessment. I am really looking at Kali as a sign that I need to release my old expectations and desires for Rowen and focus on this new beginning. One that includes support, advice and most importantly ways for Rowen to be successful in all aspects of his life. I loved this card as a reminder that endings aren’t always sad and beginnings are such a great opportunity! With that in mind I look forward to coming home and starting fresh.

Then Ishtar was my final card and couldn’t be more fitting. I have always struggled with boundaries and making sure to love myself and my time and energy. This is something I will always try to work on and definitely have been thinking lots about how I will bring this into 2018 with me. Sometimes we give too much or do things out of guilt or obligation, but Ishtar reminds us that we aren’t truly helping others if we don’t take care of ourselves first. I definitely want to check in when I am doing things and make sure I am doing them for the right reasons and from a good place, I also don’t want to fill my time so full that I miss out on all the little things with my family.

Pulling these cards was another sign for me that these are the types of messages and reminders I want to pay attention to and really work on the power of thoughts. I feel like 2017 was a year full of manifesting lots of really great things that all happened and felt unbelievable. Cannot wait to see what 2018 will bring!

I loved this quote and have used the first month in January as a time of reflection and evaluation… what things excite me? Do I prioritize these things and am I wasting time on stuff that doesn’t excite me??? This has been a good time for me to really think about it. When you are out of your regular environment and all your day to day stuff you get to simplify your life and see what are the things you are missing. It is not often people at our age with young kids take the amount of time we have to do this and I gotta say it has been amazing on some many levels. I can’t wait to see how I can transfer some of the stuff I have loved on vacation back to our home life.

Before I left for holidays the cards that reading I had was messages from my spirit guides and my angels. This was the first card pulled, a message from my spirit guides that a loved one in heaven is there for me whenever I need her and she will leave messages I just have to be open to seeing them. The coolest thing happened the first day we arrived in Maui we are on the beach not even 5 minutes and my son brings us a heart rock saying it was for Nan (my mom). Her sister, my aunt, is the loved one in heaven I assumed is here fro me and my mom loves heart rocks. Not only that we stay at the same place my aunt and uncle spent lots of time at and this beach was where they would often sit. You can’t help but feel that this rock was a message from my aunt!

After an incredible start to 2018 I am feeling full of Synchronicity and to follow this path when we get home a few things I will be doing are

  • Spending more time outside, in nature. Even if the weather isn’t as nice, this is always a struggle for me and for my whole family who love the summer months and tend to hibernate through the winter. However I feel like we are all happier when we are outside and definitely all sleep better when we have been outside!
  • Make time for myself and healthy habits. In tangible ways such as eating healthier and meal prep, but also in spiritual ways such as taking time to meditate or just breath, going to moon circles (so excited to join Goddess Moon Circles New Moon Monthly Circle).
  • Pay attention to little things or coincidences! Find meaning to stuff that I normally am too busy to even notice.

How do you feed your soul? I would love to hear what other people are doing and what you find helps bring you happiness and peace.