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Keep Your Life Balanced Until the End of Summer

Summer’s flying by, faster and faster every moment. It seems like only yesterday I turned the furnace off and now it’s time to pull out the flannel jammies again. Alberta summers never last long enough, but it has been beautiful and full of so much fun! But this summer also pulled us in so many directions. As much fun as it was, we found ourselves off balance. As the days get shorter and the nights get cooler, it’s important to remember there’s still a few more fun days left before routines shift back to lessons and winter boots.

Do you have a plan to make sure you keep your life balanced between now and the end of summer?

This week threatened to overwhelm me. My garden desperately needs my attention and my one bathroom hadn’t been cleaned in far longer than it should have been, not to mention all the things we wanted to do and foods we wanted to make. My balanced life quickly teetered as Ella and Agatha decided they wanted to start their math curriculum for the year and Agatha and Cordelia began their English work. Ella wants to learn how to sculpt cakes. And Brom wants homework. Any homework. Well, any homework – as long as it’s electronics, and a game, and features lego and superheros. Hmmm, after we talked that one through, turns out we have different definitions of homework! hahaha

The cooler weather and the never ending pile of stuff to do left me feeling so down about the end of summer. I needed to shift my thinking. Fast! First we watched a little Phineas and Ferb, then I made a plan to have the best day ever, each day, until the end of summer.

Today was the best day ever!

We stayed home. That’s it.

It was glorious! It was Balanced!

We changed all our plans, stayed home and had a water balloon fight in the backyard, made muffins, ate popsicles, and spent some time reading stories together.

We’ve been so busy all summer that we forgot to relax and enjoy the peace and joy our own home offers. In order to make the most of summer, I took a look at what I needed to shift to bring balance back to our life. We’ve spent so much time with plans and away from home we decided the fastest way to balance our life was to let go of needing to do anything.  If we want to go to the splash park, we will. If we want to go to a play, we will. If we want to stay up all night and watch shooting stars, we will. That’s the glorious thing about not making plans. We have the freedom to chose each day what will keep us balanced!

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Balanced Summer Fun

  1. It’s okay to change directions if the direction you’re going brings stress instead of joy.
  2. If you’ve been home too many days in a row, go out. Leave the to-do list and the pile of laundry. They’ll keep. Have a picnic, go to a splash park, do something different.
  3. If you’ve been out everyday, take a break and stay home. You don’t need to have an adventure everyday to have happy fulfilled children. It’s okay to stay home and let them figure out what to do on their own.
  4. If a messy house overwhelms you, pick 3 things that really bug you and deal with those 3, and only those 3. Give yourself permission to let it go for a few days.
  5. Find time to spend with just you and your significant other. Maybe that’s after the children are sleeping, maybe it’s while they’re playing with friends. Maybe you’re really lucky and you have a babysitter and an evening free. However you do it, make time away from errands and chores for each other.

Here’s to a balanced summer!

 

 

 

 

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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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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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Toy Story Trouble

Over the past few months we’ve been getting rid of stuff and really looking at what we use and don’t use, so we can make our home more joyful. We want to be able to use the space (and the stuff) we have without needing to put a ton of effort into cleaning in order to do so.

While Ryan and I’ve been going through our stuff and the general household stuff, w e’ve also been encouraging the kiddos to also get rid of their old toys they don’t use anymore, or the ones they forgot they even had.

Things were going pretty well, until we watched Toy Story 3.

Brom was so taken with the idea of toys being sad that their children didn’t want them anymore that he cried for hours anytime he thought about his toys being given away. It was heartbreaking to watch. We spent so much time this week cuddling and talking about how hard it is to say goodbye. We talked about the movie and how the toys felt, and also how the children felt. We talked about the actions the parents in the movie took and how that impacted the children and toys. It took time. A lot of time. He was heart broken.

We took all of his toys he’d decided to donate out of the box and sent them back to the playroom. He cried some more. We talked some more. We cuddled some more.

Then just as suddenly he brought all the toys back, put them int he box, and said he was ready to give them to someone else who’d continue to love his toys as much as he does. He knows his toys will be happy because someone loves them.

As a parent it was an amazing thing to watch. To hold space for him while he was sad, to walk this journey with him. Not trying to change his mind or make him feel better, but just being with him while he was sad.

It can be so difficult when our children do something different than what we want. It’s absolutely painful to see our children sad. But those are both experiences that are so powerful and important not only to our children, but to us and our relationship with them as well.

My heart swelled with so much love and pride when Brom gently placed his toys in a box, told them he loved them, and wished them well in their next home.

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Pizza Planet Week

This week we started our movie related activities before watching the actual movie. We’ve had difficulties getting some of our children to eat vegetables lately, but I don’t want to put pressure or stress around food, especially healthy food. So this week we decided to eat pizza every night. Who doesn’t love pizza?!?! I’m sure putting something on a crust and calling it pizza will make sure my children get a few more vegetables than usual!

To go with our pizza week theme, we’re watching is Toy Story. Of course we had to! I almost want to make a Pizza Planet sign for over our table this week. Almost. hahaha

Our children love hawaiian pizza, so of course we have plenty of ham/bacon and pineapple. But we also have some other really delicious combinations. If you follow us on instagram you may have seen some of our pizzas already. My favourite was the bacon, fig, caramelized onion, and blue cheese pizza – trust me, this was Ah-mazing!!! You must try it!

All of our pizzas start with a homemade sauce full of yummy ingredients and no added sugar. We usually have salad on the side. Though sometimes we just add spinach and herbs under the sauce so the salad is part of the pizza.

 

 

 

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New Year Themes

Writing here’s been difficult for me lately. I’ve floundered within myself and within our family. I haven’t followed our goals and plans that we laid out for our family or this blog. Looking back, I can see I didn’t really think about where we really were, nor what we were likely to be able to accomplish. I also wasn’t very clear in my goals.  

I’ve been disappointed in myself and with each day of disappointment, I try less and less to succeed. My goals became even less clear. 

It’s time to change that!

At the start of this new year I want to look back on what we did do that I’m happy with.

First, our family is stronger and more connected now than when we started! This is exactly what we wanted. Though I wasn’t able to write about much of that because it wasn’t only my story to share. When relationships need work, it isn’t pretty. 

Second, we brought more experiences to our children than we normally do, and we brought ourselves to experiences that we’d normally say no to. I’ve made it out the door for outings I’d normally say no to. This is huge! 

Third, when faced with difficulties, we’ve channeled our inner Disney hero/heroine more often than before. It’s really made a difference when we haven’t been sure how to proceed. We worked toward what we wanted, but we weren’t clear on what we really wanted or how it’d look. 

For 2017 we want more. We want so much more than what we’ve been settling for!

Resolutions have never been my style, but as a family we’ve came up with goals for the year that we want to work toward. Each week we want to do something that brings us toward our goals. I’m so excited!!Adventure and travel nautical theme. Diary with map and compass

If any word could describe what our children want, it’s Adventure!

As a family, we want more new experiences. We want to try new things. We want to find where X marks the spot and discover if there’s a magic world hidden in our woods. This means leaving the house even when it’s cold. 

Our second big theme for the year is Kindness.

kindnessThere’s so much more than being kind to ourselves and our family. We want to go out of our way to be kind to others. Friends or people we meet on the street, maybe someone online. There’re so many ways to spread kindness, I’m looking forward to hearing the ideas our kiddos come up with. 🙂 

Creativity is our next theme and also our easiest for us to accomplish. The members of our family are almost always creating something, but theres more to creativity than just making something. There’s freedom and fear. There’s questions about worth and there’s pride. We want to take our previous creativity and up the ante.

Finally we have Connection. Our family needs connection. We need connection amongst ourselves. When I need to make dinner, but Brom wants to play. I can choose connection, or I can choose disconnection. As we strengthen our family, our ability to form strong connections with our community will also strengthen. 

Did you make a new years resolution or do something else to mark a new year and a new you? I’d love to hear about it!

 

 

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Who am I?

This is a response to Self Development written by my wife Sarah. I read her post and thought that I should reflect on how I’ve grown since that conference many years ago.

I remember sitting there holding Ella and trying to think of things that I could say when it came time for me share one of my “identities.” The gentleman before me, even though we were told it was not an appropriate answer replied “provider.” Now this isn’t a proper response for this exercise and I’ll try to explain why.

The goal was to come up with 10 – 15 words that can describe us as individuals and while provider is a word that describes and individual it is not part of you that makes you an individual. It’s a role that is required in almost all households and because it’s a somewhat mandatory role it doesn’t define you as an individual, it is not something that has grown as part of you.

Now my answer, I believe, was “reader” I loved reading at the time I would devour any fantasy book you would put in front of me. However, part of the discussion was that our identities, just like our lives, are dynamic and I can’t really call myself a “reader” anymore. I haven’t read a book for myself in years, which makes me sad in a way and thinking about it I might go find a book to read for me.

At the time we had one child, had just bought our first house in a small town and I had just begun my career. Now we have 4 kids, 3 cats, 2 dogs, a different house in a different town and I’m now coming up on 10 years in my job.

While I no longer read, I do blog and I’m new to it but I am enjoying the self exploration that it affords me.
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I’m a video gamer, I really enjoy playing games. I’ve been playing games ever since the original NES. My current loves are Blizzard games, mostly World or Warcraft, Hearthstone and to a lesser extent Heroes of the Storm. I also enjoy sharing my gaming time with my kids, we’ve been playing a lot of the Lego games on X-box.

I’m also into table top strategy games, particularly Warmachine and Guild ball. I try to get together once a week to play with a group of friends. I used to attend multiple 15147_10154124740770612_8011641856374242688_ntournaments a year and actually managed to win one! Sadly, table top gaming almost fell off my list, when Sarah was going through chemo I chose to focus on family instead of hobbies, but now that she is healthy and so much stronger than before I began to realize that I need to now take care of myself and heal and part of that is spending time with friends.

Part of table top gaming but I feel a separate part far enough removed to list as a different hobby is 415160_10151425901155612_1617704848_opainting. I paint all my own models and I strive to paint to the best of my ability, table top standard is 3 colours and based. I tend to burn through ever colour I own when painting and try to paint as many details as I can. I enjoy practicing new techniques I read about online and one day I hope to finally put the air brush I bought 6 years ago to good use!
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While not a hobby I put to use often I build things made of wood. I’ve built a really nice pergola bench for our back yard and some litter / storage
boxes for the cats. When we can get Ella’s room all cleaned out I’ll be adding a built in bed to her closet and making a new working desk for her! Further into the future I’ll be building a loft and some sort of bunk bed in our bonus room to create a double bedroom for Agatha and Cordelia.

Again in a similar vein I also consider myself a bit of an amateur handyman, while some might argue that is more of a necessary life skill than an 12592190_10156410764135612_446323780438119134_nidentifier, I don’t. I enjoy fixing things and find the more and more things I fix the more confidant I am about it! Recently I’ve replaced a side mirror on out van and changed out the sump pump in the basement. I’ve been trying to fix my pressure washer for well over a year and if I ever manage to buy the right part I think I *should* be able to get it back together!

My last identifier I’m going to mention is video creator, while I haven’t embraced this one yet but, I do have everything I need to make youtube videos, more specifically video gameLightworks gameplay and commentary.  I have done some video editing for the Great Big Beautiful Youtube channel and I’m starting to get proficient. If you’ve never edited a video before, it’s a lot harder than it looks, there is so much more than chopping it to pieces and dropping things in the right order!

So while I’ve only listed a couple things that’s so much more than the one I was struggling to find 8 years ago. I’m finding my identity and with time I’me sure I’ll be able to discover more about myself!

I really recommend trying this exercise, you don’t need to go into detail like Sarah and I did, but point form notes are a great place to start. If you can’t come up with a long list don’t worry or feel bad, just start paying attention to things you do and things you love or like Sarah just keep trying new things until something clicks! You’ll find that you are much more #unforgettable than you realize!

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Parenting Through Fear

Yesterday, when we went swimming, Agatha was excited to finally be old enough to wear the ‘grown up’ wristband at the pool. She no longer needs an adult beside her in the pool, and she isn’t required to wear a life jacket in the deep end.

I was nervous. To me, she doesn’t really know how to swim that well, and when I’ve tried to teach her to tread water, I’ve been less than successful. To me, my children should always wear life jackets. But I know that’s not what’s best for them. She was excited to swim without a life jacket. She was confidant in her ability. I was nervous.

We’d already been swimming for a while when we noticed the inflatable obstacle course in the next pool over, the deep pool. Agatha felt confidant, even more so than when we arrived. She wanted to try the course. Ella went first, then her, then me. I cautioned her not to fall of the side because the water was really deep.

Yep. In my head I thought about the water being too deep for her on either side of the obstacle course, but it didn’t occur to me that the course ended with a big slide into the deep end. Yeah…

She made it all the way through the course, climbed up the slide, and without hesitation slid into the deep water.

She looked panicked when her head bobbed up. But she did awesome treading water. The lifeguard asked if she needed help, she said yes. So the lifeguard tossed her a kick board, it didn’t quite make it, Agatha swam over to get it. She grabbed a hold, and looked at how far away the edge of the pool was, she kicked and kicked and finally made it. The entire time I shouted encouragement at her, but that was about all I could do. She was safe. She needed to do this herself.

When we all made it to the edge, she didn’t want anything to do with the obstacle course again. Even with a life jacket. I understood. She’d had a huge scare. But I also saw she’d done amazing. She’d been scared, but she stayed calm. She’d been scared, but she still managed to swim to the kick board. She’d been scared, but made it to the edge on her own.  She’d been scared, but I was terrified.

I could hardly stop shaking. I felt like I was going to throw-up. I wanted nothing more than to protect her from all harm, but I’d let her do something that could have seriously hurt her, or worse! The thought of that twisted my insides into knots.

But I know what it’s like to live in fear. I know what every day is like when you’re afraid of the potential harm that can come from any and all directions. I know what it’s like to live in fear and I don’t want my children growing up like that.

I talked to her. I empathized with her. We hugged and I told her how proud of her I was, then I asked if she’d like to get a lifejacket and try again. She said no.

I could have stopped there. I could have hugged her and let her know I supported her decision. Part of me wanted to. A big part.

But I didn’t think that was the best for Agatha. I did what any self respecting parent does, I bribed her.

I promised that on Monday I’d reload her Starbucks card, and together we’d go to Starbucks, just the two of us. All she had to do was try again, with a lifejacket. She said she still didn’t like the idea, but she’d do it. I hugged her.

She went through the obstacle course perfectly, but when she got to the top of the slide, she said she couldn’t do it. She sat there, almost crying. Afraid. I encouraged her, offered to push her, then suggested she slide on her tummy. She liked that idea.

Her head bobbed up, she sputtered a little, but quickly made it to the edge on her own.

I could tell instantly that that was it. She wasn’t going again. I was okay with that.

She told us she’d gotten water up her nose.

Ella laughed and said, “Me too!”
Agatha’s eyes widened, “Really?”
“Yep.”
She paused to think a moment, then said, “I want to do it again!”

She loves and admires her big sister so much, but even she got water up her nose! She made her decision. A different decision. A surprising decision. So we went again, and again, and again.

It would have been easier had I just made Agatha wear a lifejacket when we first arrived. My fear said she should wear one. When we approached the obstacle course, I thought repeatedly that I should make her put on a lifejacket. But she was confident, and I didn’t want to dampen her confidence. When she was scared and didn’t want to go again, I could have let her walk away. I could have soothed my own fears so many times today. But for a moment of safety, I’d have taken away the opportunity for Agatha to feel such intense pride in her accomplishment. I’d have never seen the pure joy on her face. It’s a fine line to balance, but I error on the side of letting my children stretch themselves and even letting them get hurt or scared on occasion because, even with the pain and fear, the payoff is so huge.

It isn’t easy parenting through fear, even now, far from the pool, the idea terrifies me. The thought of all the ways my child could be hurt or killed haunt me. But it is vital to me to step back and let them fly. Because I know the if I hide a world of opportunities from them now, it’ll be that much harder for them to face the world in the future.