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The One Trick that Changed Our Life

I have a secret. I love lists! It doesn’t matter whether it’s a shopping list, a to-do list, or some other random  list. I love to write things down!

I discovered a new way to use lists that brought our family closer together and helped accomplish even more every day. Plus it decreased our stress and increased our fun! What could be better than that?

Check out these two lists and how we use them:

 

Daily List

The daily list is a list of no more than 3 items (except rare cases when something out of the ordinary happens). One item is something we’ll finish that day. The other two items are things we hope to finish, but don’t need to.

Each evening, after supper, we talk about what we accomplished that day. Then the whole family makes plans for the next day. We use ‘Reminders’ on our apple devices so we can all access the list during the day. It’s important for everyone in the family to know what everyone else wants to do, that way we can work together instead of against each other!

Once we check off each item on the daily list, the rest of the day is free. We don’t add to the daily list except at the end of the day.

 

Weekly List

The weekly list is more flexible than the daily list. We add to it during the day and throughout the week. Anything that pops up, we just add it to the list. If the list gets to be 50 points long, that’s okay. This list isn’t about importance or how quickly something needs to be done. It’s about reminding us of things we wanted to do.

We use this list to help generate the daily list. I usually read this list once a day. It helps me decide what’s most important to do the next day. It also helps me see any patterns develop. For instance if I’m adding a lot of extra cleaning to the list, it lets me know the mess has gotten to me and it allows me to either shift my perspective, or do something about the mess before it overwhelms me.

 

How These Lists Transform

One of the greatest feelings is checking something off your to-do list. But that pales in comparison to finishing your to-do list! Because our daily list is so short, we finish it everyday. It feels ah-mazing!

Every life success amplifies the way we feel about ourselves and our life. Each small step makes the next step that much easier and more enjoyable.

But the real transformation is on the whole family. Our children learn to set their own goals.  Even Brom makes a goal each day (admittedly his goal is the same every day: Play more video games). Talking about our goals together, increases the connection between us in so many ways. They see what Ryan and I need to finish each day, so they either help us, or give us space so we can get it done quickly. We know what they want to do, so we help them with their goals. Once we’re done our items, we then have a lot of time in the day to do things together as a family, or spend special one-on-one time with the kiddos.

At the end of the day everyone feels more loved and respected and we all feel more peaceful.

This simple daily activity takes no more than 15 minutes each day, it’s impact on our day is immeasurable!

 

 

 

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5 Steps to Increased Life Satisfaction

“I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” Nathan Hale (1755-1776)

 

I deeply admire the selflessness and courage of those who serve their country. I think that’s something we all agree on, even when we don’t agree with each other on other things. 

But would you give your children’s life to your country, what about your partner’s life?

Their lives aren’t ours to give, yet so often the choices we make in life aren’t for the well being of our families, but of our country. The saddest part is we don’t even realize what we’ve done!

Ryan and I both entered adulthood with a sense of scarcity. We felt we never had enough, always wanted, always went without. One of us might do okay for a while, but that’s when the other had to buy all the things. We were the perfect target for so many advertisements. When we had our first baby, we bought all the fear, we have the premium priced receipts to prove it! We wanted nothing subpar or dangerous for our perfect darling. We paid dearly for the crib that wouldn’t kill our baby with toxic fumes.

At the time, we believed it was best for our family. In reality, our family paid in more than just dollars for those choices. We paid in happiness and increased fear. We paid in time together and Christmases with no presents. Through our fears and our spending, and the fears and spending of so many other people like us, our country’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) grew and grew.

The country got richer, stronger, while our sense of fear increased, and our ability to buy food wasn’t guaranteed. We felt poor, but the news told us the economy soared.

Time to Bloom

We thought it was just us. Turns out it wasn’t.

Over the past several years, we’ve talked to so many people, in person and online, going through something similar.

So many of us experience a quiet dissatisfaction with our lives. It’s nothing sturdy enough to identify, rather a susurrus we catch as we walk into a room or go out with friends. We don’t know if it’s longing, loneliness, or regret. All we know is what we expected when we were 19 is not what we got.

I’ve seen and felt this dissatisfaction. I’ve fallen victim to buying things I couldn’t afford, all in the name of hoping to (finally) be enough.

Then on a day filled with determination, I discovered there’s a different way.

It’s a way I want my children to learn now. A way I want to share with others.

It’s both extremely simple, and so complex all at once.

  1. Rethink what you spend money on. Do you really need it? Is it something that’ll bring you happiness today and next week/year? Will it make it easier to experience life? So many times we hear, “Spend money on experiences, not things.” It’s true. The more life we experience, the better we feel! Maybe that means you buy that coffee, and sit in the coffee shop with a friend. Maybe it means you don’t buy that Dooney & Bourke, but instead take your children to the fair.
  2. Be vulnerable. It’s easy to throw shame at the people around us when we’re anxious or afraid, but if we open up and calmly tell others what we’re worried about, often the result is a deeper connection that brings us closer together instead of driving us apart. You’ve done something that hurt your partner. You could ignore the hurt. You can let your partner know they’re too sensitive. You could find ways to point out how it’s really your partner’s fault. Or you could walk over, let your partner know you see they’re upset and you want to make things right. You can listen and understand why your partner’s upset. Really listen to understand, not to respond, but to connect. You can open yourself to your partner and share in the vulnerability so you’ll both be stronger together.
  3. Feel your fear. Examine it. Don’t push it away. Then do what you’re afraid of and see what happens. (This does not mean putting yourself in dangerous situations, it means making a phone call, asking favours, admitting you don’t know something or trying something new). It’s applying for a job you want, even though it scares you to hand in your resume.
  4. Understand there’s a difference between humility and invisibility. It’s okay to be aware of what you’re good at. It’s even okay to tell others. Being humble is not about hiding your own value, but rather about how you rate your value compared to others. “I’ve worked really hard to learn how to do this. I’m really happy with how it turned out and think I did a great job. It’s professional quality.” vs “My work is so much better than Jim’s. I’ve worked so hard to get to where I am and am so happy with how mine is coming along.” One builds you up and allows the other person to decide for themselves what they think. The other statement tears down another person in order to make yourself look better.
  5. Be a leader. Leaders build others up. It doesn’t matter if you’re the boss, a parent, or a friend. Building others up is always better than tearing someone down. In the long run, the results will always be better. This step is the hardest to maintain, especially if you’re used to snarking or had low self esteem. I grew up believing there wasn’t enough love in the world. The only way I could be loved, is if I was the only one receiving love. If someone else received attention, that meant I wasn’t good enough. I constantly tore others down so I could feel a little more worthy. It’s really hard to change that pattern.

 

It’s time to take a stand and do what’s right for you and your family. It’s okay to feel the fear, and not act on it. It’s okay to live in the house you have and be happy with it. It’s okay to have a house with no garden. It’s even okay to not own a house at all. The government makes money every time we buy or sell something, the government wants us to spend money, lots of money. It’s time we all make decisions based on what’s actually best for our families instead of decisions based on the latests commercial or magazine article that tells us we’re not good enough!

 

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Camping Connection

It’s easy to drift away from those closest to us. Even as we see them every day. We sometimes forget to take a moment to sit and chat about our thoughts, our hopes, our fears. Sometimes we get so caught up in parenting that we forget our children are people too. People with big ideas, brilliant minds, and easily bruised hearts.

I find it’s always a good idea to reconnect in small ways frequently, but sometimes we need more than just a few minutes here and there. We need to spend time focused on our family, with few distractions. It’s in these moments we see the patterns we’ve fallen into, the ones that have us saying ‘no’ more often than we should or lecturing about something that really just needed a hug. Camping, tenting specifically, allows our family the opportunity to connect in ways we can’t at home.

We don’t have appointments and obligations pulling us all over the place. We don’t have cell phones or internet to distract us. We don’t have bedtimes or alarms. What’s left is family.

Catching water falls
Exploring Upper Kananaskis Lake

On our most recent camping trip we found so many times to connect with our children, build them up, and also provide them with extra independence, and a whole lot of pride.

We like to tent at Elkwood in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. The site we choose is large, surrounded by trees, and has a small field on one side. It provides the kiddos with tons of space to roam and explore where we can hear them, if not see them, at all times, but also where they can create their own little games, complete with forts. Adults are on hand when needed, but mostly they do their own thing while the adults set up camp, do the dishes, or other camping chores. For children who rarely have access to a forest, or wild nature, it’s a grand adventure!

We can tell by the number of times they come dashing over, faces glowing with pride, calling us to listen to the daring things they’ve done, or to show us what they’ve built, that they’re growing in ways they couldn’t at home. It’s one of the most beautiful things to witness!

On this camping trip we saw each of our children tackle new skills with wild abandon and we saw them settle into the peaceful love of our family. Before we went camping certain things were sure to start fights, other things would certainly cause crying, but during our trip those patterns melted away as our entire family took the time to connect and fill each other’s love cups.

To us, it seems so small. Jumping from stone to stone across a stream, but to a child, it’s a big adventure, filled with the knowledge they might slip. They wonder what might happen if they fall. They might worry about wet feet, a bruised knee, or maybe something else. But it’s a much bigger deal to them than it is to us. It’s so important to allow children the opportunity to make that leap. Even if it means they get wet feet and dirty socks!

 On our camping trip we ran into a couple moments we didn’t expect. On our first full day there, we hiked from the Interlakes day use area, around upper kananaskis lake to a water fall. It was about 7KM one way to Lower Kananaskis falls. On the way there, the kiddos learned how to safely go down steep hills, with loose rocks. The first hill meant Ryan and I each went up and down a couple times as we took turns holding hands, correcting foot placement, and helping them gain confidence. We needed the first aid kit a couple times, but over all everyone did okay. By the end of the hike they all declared themselves pros! hahaha When we arrived at the falls, we were surprised to discover Cordelia was really frightened, she didn’t want to pose for the picture because she felt too close to the rushing water. I snapped the picture as Ryan tried to reposition her, but she clung to the tree. As much as I wanted the picture, we didn’t force her. Instead, we knelt down, found out what she was afraid of (falling in), then I brought her over to where I was standing to take the picture. From there, she could see where everyone else stood was far enough away from the edge that even stumbling would be well away from the water. We talked about how important she was to me, and how I would never ask her to do something I thought would put her in danger. Then I sat and listened to her talk about her concerns for a few moments, then I asked her to look around and tell me whether she thought her fears might come true, we also talked about what she could do if they did.

dancing at the falls

By exploring her fear, she was able to overcome it, and when we hiked to different falls a couple days later, she was prepared! She felt confident enough to climb onto the stones, and to dance at the edge of the falls. As adults, we see danger where children don’t, but sometimes we also see safety where children see danger. It can be really hard to take a breath and listen, but it’s always worth it when we do!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Abundant Joy is Balance

A person only has so much energy or emotion to spend in a day. No one can do it all. No family can do it all. It doesn’t matter how rich a person is, there’s always a point when they just can’t do, or have, one more thing.

In order to have a an #unforgettable life, to live a life of abundant joy, it’s important to know what’s really important to you. When we live our life with purpose, then we invite abundant joy into our hearts and homes.

Life is about balance. But the two sides of the weigh scale don’t have to be identical to find balance. Remember a pound of feathers and a pound of bricks are still balanced!

Some people may have Pinterest style homes, or Pinterest worthy birthday parties, some may have amazing jobs, or stylish clothes. Some may take their children on the most amazing camping adventures or luxury 5 star vacations. Some may have fancy cars or something else. What you have isn’t important. It never was.

Oh I know. Sometimes it feels like it’s important. Believe me! I’ve been there. I could tell you about the things I thought I needed. Some of them were things that seemed to mean I was a good enough wife, a good enough mother, a Good enough person. Not having them seemed to say I was less than. So I bought. I spent. I gathered. But some of the things I thought were important for a different reason. For several years we had so little money. We lived life from a place of fear.

We were afraid to get rid of something we might need one day. What if we didn’t have the money to buy it in the future? When we had money, we bought things. Often from a place of fear, what if the money doesn’t last. What if we find out we need this in the future, it’s on sale now, we could save money.

In the end none of that fear, none of those things, saved us money. But they cost us a lot. They cost us time, they even cost us money. But mostly they cost us happiness. It’s impossible to live a life of abundant joy when you’re afraid.

Over time we’ve discovered we don’t need the things other people have. Anyone that says you do, is not a person to spend your life on.

Our children have a fun playroom in the basement, complete with a treehouse, slide, and climbing wall. There’s also a rope they swing on and a mini trampoline for the smaller children and a beautiful rocking chair from my mother-in-law for sitting and reading. It’s something we designed and built ourselves. It took our time and attention to do this, it also took some help from friends and family. If we had to pay someone else to build it, they wouldn’t have it. It’s a balance and a trade.

Our children also have a fun little sand pit and fort in our backyard, nothing major, but it’s something many other children in our area don’t have. I was able to fit it into the landscape design, then Ryan and I were able to build it together. This also cost time and attention vs money. It’s a balance and a trade.

There’s always a cost. Sometimes the price is too high.

For a long time our children had so many toys, including broken toys (maybe we could fix them, or someone would have their feelings hurt if we didn’t hold onto a broken toy, or it’s still mostly usable). We kept toys they’d outgrown, toys they never used, toys that took up space we didn’t have. All of these reasons fall into the categories of fear I outlined above. They also fall into the category of secondary cost.

Having that much stuff meant it took me all day to even come close to cleaning our home, and often I didn’t have the energy to fully clean, so it’d get left for another day. It was so overwhelming having so much stuff. In order to prepare food, I’d have to spend almost 30 minutes pre-meal prep just to clean the kitchen. I don’t mean left over dishes from another meal, I mean toys and craft supplies everywhere. They had a craft room. It was too full and too messy to use it. The time required to sift through the stuff meant we couldn’t do what we wanted as often as we’d like.

Don’t get me wrong. It was possible to tidy and put things away. It just took a very long time. More time than I had left over after taking care of children, pets, and everything else involved in running a home.

The cost of having stuff is time, money, and in my case, sanity.

Each of us has our line. It’s a line where we’ve done all we can without giving up something else. Sometimes it’s okay to give up something else. Sometimes it means we have to completely shift the way our family lives in order to get or do what we want. Sometimes the line is there and crossing it, no matter how we shift, takes away from our feelings of #unforgettable and abundant joy.

Maybe you’ve seen the things we do for our children and feel badly you don’t do the same. Maybe you’ve seen magazines with amazing homes and amazing yards. Maybe you’ve seen commercials with something you want to have. It doesn’t matter what you compare your life to, whatever you compare it to isn’t the whole reality.

You may not have birthday parties with themes and games, but you give something else to your children. No two families can be the same. There’s always a difference!

Go easy on yourself, take a moment to see what you bring to your family. Understand your own beauty and importance. Embrace your life, and if you discover you’ve been living life in a place of fear, understand it’s okay to take a break, to shift, to align yourself, your family, your life with the ideals that’ll bring you to a great big beautiful place of abundant joy.

 

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Frozen Summer Fun

Since our last trip to Disney World, a new Frozen ride opened in Epcot, plus there’s For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing Along Celebration in Hollywood Studios. Not to mention character meet & greets. There’re so many opportunities to live the magic of this movie in the parks, but I also want our children to live this magic at home!

While watching this movie, we all joined in singing along, we also tried playing a song or two on the piano (okay Ella did, I did not)! The songs are so fun and catchy to sing, I can hardly wait to sing along in Hollywood Studios!

Winter activities for Frozen are easy to find, but at first I couldn’t think of good summer activities. I even added ice skating to our list at first, until I remembered we did that last time. Then I had a delicious idea!

These Frozen Summer Fun activities are so much fun and so delicious, they’ll have you wanting to watch Frozen all summer long!

 

Our first two activities were all about the frozen treats! I used to love ice cream cakes when I was younger, but we haven’t been able to have one since going gluten-free 8.5 years ago. I figured it was about time I made one!

I love Neapolitan ice cream, but rarely have it (I’m a vanilla girl at heart), so I decided this cake would be Neapolitan, but really, you could use any flavour you wanted! I made some homemade fudge sauce for on top and used whipped cream to decorate. The bottom layer is made from gluten-free chocolate sandwich cookies with the cream scraped off, and the cookies crushed then mixed with the fudge sauce.

We also made homemade frozen drinks. I know they look like Starbucks,

IMG_6544

but these ones were made at home. Of course we got the cups from Starbucks because our kiddos like to go there all the time. Since I had the cups on hand, and also had fudge sauce and whipped cream I was able to talk them into staying home for their frozen drinks. Ella also had milk shake recipes in her most recent American Girl magazine, so she decided to make one of those instead – I love watching her discover things on her own and decide to make them!

Our last activity took a bit of advanced presswork. It also involved a LOT of clean-up, but it was well worth it!

The night before I froze some water balloons, I also filled a few larger balloons with water and froze those. The next day we brought those and some washable paint to the driveway and got to work.

There were so many awesome pictures, it was hard to choose just a few! This activity kept everyone busy for a few hours, honestly it could have kept them busy much longer, but I needed to clean everyone up to make supper. You could use any paint, but I don’t like my driveway stained for very long.

The large balloons were the best, they were only partially frozen, so they ended up with ice caverns as they melted. Also because there was a lot of water at once, the colourful rivers running down the driveway were a lot of fun to watch. It was also really neat to see how the paint either slid off the ice, melted into the ice, or highlighted the different features of the ice.

 

 

 

 

Not only was this activity a lot of fun, but there was also so much to learn from it. A few we talked about include:

  • Colour theory
  • States of matter
  • temperature
  • fractals/ice crystals
  • global warming/polar ice caps

 

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Beauty and the Beast Movie Activities

Beauty and the Beast may be Agatha’s favourite movie right now – though I think she prefers the live action to the animated, but that’s okay. For these activities either will work.

It took me a bit more time than usual to get the post ready, mostly because there was serious, but fun, work involved in these activities!

The first two activities weren’t actually time intensive. I had us read a book for the first activity. If you follow along on youtube, you’ll know Ella loves to read, and Agatha’s not far behind her. Ryan read, several dozen, stories to Cordelia and Brom, Ryan and I even managed to read something for ourselves as well. Though I don’t think either of us finished a book in one day! lol

Imagination is so important to me. We imagined what type of item we’d become if we lived in the Beast’s enchanted castle. I’m not sure what everyone decided in the end, but it involved a lot of giggling and plenty of imagination!

Our third activity took a bit more planning and a lot more work, but the payoff was priceless!

The kiddos all became inventors tasked with creating something useful.

Ella took to pinterest and decided to make a solar oven. She wanted to make s’mores. We made the oven as directed at first, but we decided it took too long to cook, and even after 40 min the pan wasn’t even too hot to touch with bare hands. So we decided to amp it up a bit!

We added more insulation inside, and more foil aimed toward the plastic cover. She also decided to wrap the entire outside in black paper, but hasn’t actually done that yet. After adding more foil and insulation, she was much happier with the results! She also changed the container she used, from glass, to metal.

 

Brom and Cordelia created chocolate chip dispensers to help make s’mores.  They used marble run pieces and held them over the marshmallows and let gravity do the rest. They were very happy with how their inventions worked!

Agatha wanted to work together with everyone else to make the s’mores as well. She decided to make a marshmallow dispenser. This took much longer than one day to make. She created it on her own, with only minor help from Ryan and I to problem solve or poke holes.

 

She started by finding a candy dispenser and looking to see how it worked. She noted there was a container on top to hold the candy, a gear inside to move the candy, and a chute for the candy to fall down and out.

She had a wheel for a toy paddle boat, she took parts of it and used it to create the mechanism that opens the door inside the machine. She attached an ice cream container and an inverted sour cream container together with he bottom cut off the sour cream container, and a trap door that opens upwards in the ice cream container. When she turns the handles on the outside of the sour cream container, the gear pushes the door opens and marshmallows fall out! Look at that joy!

 

After all the projects were finished being created they tried them out. The s’mores were good, but they much preferred the chocolate and marshmallows mixed together without the graham crackers. Ella then shook up some whipped cream to put on top their yummy confections.

 

 

I’d love to hear about any inventions your children make! Share links if you’ve blogged about them!

 

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Canada 150

I grew up in the States, but I am Canadian.

I recall the first summer I lived in Florida. We went to a place called Manatee Springs for a family picnic. A bunch of other preteens were there and of course they asked where I was from, then proceeded to bash Canada. I had no choice but to defend the honour of my country.

As I grew older, I connected less and less to my country of birth. In high school I began interviews with the Army, Navy, and Air Force (though really that was mostly so I could get out of class – I’d rather take tests then sit through lessons I wasn’t interested in hahaha)! I contemplated becoming an American. But I came back to Canada for University.

Since being back in Canada I’ve grown more and more fond of my home and my country.  Yes, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done here to make it a place I want to leave for my children, but over all it’s a good place to live. It’s a place I’m happy to raise my children.

Today my children and I celebrated our country. We talked about the good things, and touched on the bad. But mostly they just ran around, ate sugar, and had fun. They’re little and have more than enough time to learn about the world. Today was a day held in time where they were children in love with life.