Beauty In The Busy

Finding beauty, laughter, and thoughtfulness in my busy day-to-day life.


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A Very Merry Christmas

Well, Christmas is officially over for 2014, but not for me until I’ve blogged about it!

We had a lovely Christmas this year. Christmas was always my favourite holiday of the year growing up, but I admittedly became a bit of a Grinch for a few years after a good friend of mine passed away from cancer on Christmas morning during our teen years. It is true that time heals, though, and with that time, I was able to eventually reclaim my enjoyment of the season, and reflect on memories of my friend with fondness instead of bitterness.

I was even more in the Christmas spirit than usual this year! We decorated our house more than usual, I baked a little more than usual, and, though I didn’t think it was humanly possible, I listened to more Christmas carols than usual! Lastly, to say I ate more treats this Christmas season than usual would be a gross understatement. :/ ūüôā Thank goodness for stretchy jeans!

Anyways, without further ado, here is some of my favourite photographic evidence that we had a good Christmas.

I make sure to get a shot of the kids running down the stairs every Christmas morning.

I make sure to get a shot of the kids running down the stairs every Christmas morning.

Christmas joy

Christmas joy

frog opening gift

The kids giving Daddy their gift

The kids giving Daddy their gift

Puppy's first Christmas

Puppy’s first Christmas

Christmas this year was all about family. The festivities started on Christmas Eve, which we spent, as is usual, with my Mom’s extended family. It was a bittersweet gathering, as it’s been a tough and tragic year for the family to say the least, but it was good for us to get together and show each other the support and love that is needed more than ever.

On Christmas day, Carter and I were awoken by our excited kids, and went downstairs for our usual tradition of reading the Christmas story from the Bible, then eating Christmas cookies and listening to carols while opening presents. After that, a much-deserved nap! We spent the afternoon with my parents and great-Oma, opening a few more presents, eating a few more cookies, and playing games. Our time together was lovely and relaxing and quiet.

This morning, the last of the family gatherings took place; brunch at my parents’ house with all of our siblings, nieces and nephews. “Joyful chaos” would best describe the day.

Tomorrow, it’s back to work for me! It’ll still be a bit of a light work week with many of my colleagues on vacation and New Year’s just around the corner, but my little mini-holiday is pretty much coming to a close. I’ve enjoyed every minute of the holidays and hope next year’s will be just as satisfying!

Last but not least; I don’t generally consider myself a materialistic person, and the presents aren’t what I look forward to most when it comes to Christmas, but this year, Carter really outdid himself with his gift to me. He took a doorframe from our first house together in PEI that we have been lugging around with us on our many moves since, and turned it into a picture frame that showcases some of the best photos that I’ve taken of us over the past several years; our happiest ones as a family. I had a good, happy cry as I took it all in!

best gift ever

Good job Carter! Love you muchly xoxox.

 


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Why Having Older Kids Rocks My Socks Off

A few things gave me the idea for this post after a long dry spell of absolutely NOTHING TO TALK ABOUT.

First,¬†this topic is¬†something I’ve talked about with my fellow child-raising¬†family and friends many times. Secondly, I recently had the pleasure of spending a weekend at a cottage with my sister and a few new (ladies only!) friends, all of whom are somewhere in the stages of having little ones, which sparked many interesting and lively conversations. Lastly, I’ve read a few articles/blog posts lately about women who miss having babies/younger children, or the void that can be left when one decides not to have any more children.

http://www.scarymommy.com/the-void-when-youre-done-having-children/

Now, no disrespect intended towards those who feel differently than me, because we all have different experiences and perspectives that deserve respect and understanding, but….

 

 

WHAT void?!

Carter and I decided to make our decision to have no more babies as permanent as we could when our littlest baby, Kitten, was a mere 6 months old. Some people in my life worried on my behalf that we were making the decision too soon in our lives and in the lives of our young children, and might later regret it, but that day has yet to come, and I can’t imagine it ever will (though how God does LOVE to prove me wrong!). We simply felt that our stress levels, coping mechanisms, and financial resources were stretched too thin to responsibly take on another child….and, just as importantly, we felt “done.” As time went on, the older the kids got, the less we wanted to go back to that 24/7 in-the-trenches type of parenting that babies and toddlers inherently require.

So without further ado, I am here to offer a different perspective on being Done Having Children, and why, for me, being a mom of older kids ROCKS MY SOCKS OFF.

1. Conversation

One of my favourite phases in each of our children’s lives was when they started to talk. It was always so exciting and fun to hear their vocabularies and abilities to express themselves increase by the day. And the older they get, the more complicated and interesting those thoughts and expressions get. I LOVE conversing with my kids. I love hearing their hilarious, ridiculous, touching, and sometimes incredibly insightful thoughts on the world around them. Sometimes I have answers for their increasingly difficult¬†questions, and sometimes I don’t, and that’s okay. I embrace the challenge, and¬†love how these conversations help me¬†get to know these little people for who they truly are. And their jokes are crossing that line from little-kid-silly to older-kid-clever! I love when their wit catches me off-guard!

2. Reclaiming Your Space

When your kids are young, they have this way of insidiously taking over your home. You can fight it, but really, what’s the point? It’s a losing battle. Somewhere, your style¬†is hidden under all those building blocks, flashing, plastic toys, crushed Cheerios, and stuffed animals.

stepping on lego

But as they get older, and you start to pass along all the toys and furniture that they outgrow, you’ll start to see your own stuff re-emerge! An added bonus is no longer needing to childproof. Putting a centerpiece back on the coffee table is a big moment! Lighting a few candles to enjoy some ambience! Not having to struggle with those blasted child locks on every cupboard! It’s a beautiful thing.

3. Me Time

With the kids’¬†increased independence comes increased “me time.” The one thing I really noticed that I could start to do again once my kids got to be school-aged, was read. I have loved¬†reading¬†since I learned how to read, but didn’t manage to get through one thick,¬†juicy novel in all of the years that my kids were under 5. Now I read pretty voraciously again, and it’s great! Older kids have their own things to do, and they often don’t¬†require hands-on or even eyes-on supervision. They might be reading, doing homework, doing housework, playing video games, playing with their toys, or playing outside….all while you suddenly find that you’re not needed for a little while, and¬†you can put your feet up and rediscover how good “me time” really feels. Take the break; you earned it!

4. Mommy’s Little Helpers

My kids are now 9 (almost 10! wow!) and 8. Currently, they are responsible for tidying their own rooms, folding and putting away their laundry, unloading the dishwasher, and helping to¬†set and clear the dinner table. On Saturdays, they do extra jobs¬†as requested, like tidying other rooms around the house, dusting, helping with yard work, etc. All of their youthful energy really comes in handy sometimes! I don’t work them to the bone, because I do believe that kids need to enjoy their short childhoods while they last,¬†¬†but I do expect them to pitch in at least a little every day, and occasionally¬†more when needed. It helps us keep the housework under control, and helps them to learn responsibility, work ethic,¬†and selflessness. Win-win!

5. Sleep

This is¬†a big one. I do not handle sleep deprivation with any grace whatsoever….seriously, I am the worst. The mental fog and moodiness that can come with not sleeping well for weeks, months, and for some, even YEARS at a time can¬†really take it’s toll!

Help. Us.

Help. Us.

Getting to the place where your kids usually sleep well all night is AWESOME and something I never want to go without again.

6. Easy(ier) Outings

Gone are the days of struggling to bundle up crying kids to brave the winter winds, only to have them need to go to the bathroom as you’re headed out the door. They can dress themselves! No longer do I need to lug that horribly heavy and awkward carseat everywhere. We’re even past booster seats! They can hop in the car and buckle themselves up! They also, conveniently, have developed an awareness of what is and isn’t acceptable behavior in public, so we’re pretty much past the earsplitting-tantrums-in-the-grocery-store phase. Even better, now I can employ the lean-in-close-and-whisper-threats tactic and they actually respond to it! Heaven forbid I embarrass THEM! How the tables have turned…..

Family vacations and day trips are also easier and more fun. I love knowing that the memories we are making together at this stage in their life are ones they will actually be able to remember as adults! It makes it that much more meaningful to me.

7. Less Babysitting

We’re not yet at the point where we can leave the kids home alone and enjoy an evening or day out, but we’re getting close so close we can almost taste it! When your kids are little, your adult life revolves around the ability to find babysitting. We have started to be able to zip out for very short errands (nervously and giddily!) and walks down the road together, and blissfully ALONE. A couple more years, and we are pretty much¬†home-free!

8. Improved Health

When the kids were little, it felt like someone was ALWAYS sick.¬†And that was mostly true. Each virus would pass from one to the other, to the next, until it had had it’s way with each one of us. And just when we were all breathing a sigh of relief, the next one would hit.

It started early. So much snot!

It started early. So much snot!

This gets worse before it gets better; those first couple of years of school are the worst! Those kids bring home everything! But as they get older, something changes and it gets better. I’m not sure exactly what it is (stronger immune systems? the fact that kids get better at washing their hands and coughing into their sleeves instead of directly into your face?), but knock on wood, we’ve all been healthier than ever these last couple of years. There’s no reason I can think of¬†that this shouldn’t continue.

9. Shared Interests and Entertainment

Carter loves that Frog has embraced his loves playing the drums and playing sports. I love that Kitten has embraced my loves of reading and art. It’s fun to be able to spend shared time on activities that you both truly enjoy. It’s also a relief to be able to watch movies and TV shows that we all enjoy, instead of suffering through the daily grind of obnoxious cartoons. SpongeBob and iCarly crack me up for some odd reason, but the rest of them are the WOORSSST! Now we¬†can curl¬†up on the couch together and¬†watch shows that we ALL enjoy, like Storage Wars, Mantracker, Survivorman, and game shows that they finally understand and can participate in! It’s also fun sharing favourite movies from my childhood with them, like The Neverending Story, the Princess Bride, and Flight of the Navigator.

 

So there you have it; my comprehensive list of why I love having older kids. Enjoy the baby, toddler, and preschool years while they last, because they are indeed short,

bouncing baby girl

beautiful,

sweet girl

and intense,

peaceful moment

but know that different and fun days are ahead! This doesn’t mean that parenting older children is always easy, because it certainly isn’t (and I haven’t even¬†hit the teen years yet!), but it’s certainly very different. There are still always parenting issues on the table, but with older children, the issues are more complex, but they’re less in-your-face, 24/7. You can take more time to think about and deal with them. And often, the best way to deal with these issues is by supporting your kids while THEY do what needs to be done, in order to foster their independence. So while each phase of parenting has it’s own blessings and challenges and I do love few things more than a lovely, squishy baby,¬†I just wanted to give a shout-out to the joys of parenting older kids, and encourage parents to see the blessings in life marching forward!

Le sigh.

Le sigh.


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Getting creative

I am really good at pinning creative ideas, and even better at buying supplies for creative projects to do with my kids, but I’m really BAD at actually completing these projects. Sometimes I’m even bad at starting them! I like the idea of it, I’m full of good intentions, but following through on those creative ideas is another matter.

pinterest

(Oh, I’ll make more things, all right, but I won’t stop pinning!)

This week was my second consecutive week of vacation, and while we were kept busy for the first week with a fun camping trip with some family, I found myself starting to experience some boredom and cabin fever come week 2. As it’s mid-August, the kids are also starting to get squirrelly and spend more time in front of screens than I would like. We don’t have a lot of disposable income for day trips, and the weather has less than reliable anyways. So although I’ve been having a good time with all the extra baking and cooking I’ve been doing, I decided it was time to get a bit crafty with the kids for a change. I went rummaging through Kitten’s cupboard and dug out all of our rarely-used craft supplies.

Our first project was Woodsies. I bought these on a whim one day at the Dollar Store and then never followed through on showing the kids what to do with them. I used to love crafting with these as a kid! Basically, you have a bag of random, assorted wooden shapes, and you can assemble them into whatever shapes you like using glue, then paint them.

woodsies

This kept me and the kids busy for a good hour. I’d show you a picture of what we created, including a bunny, an eyeball, a person, a flower, and a frog, but we didn’t put them in a safe place soon enough and so they’ve been scattered, lost, and/or broken! Oops! I knew I should have put magnets on the back and stuck them on the fridge!

Next, we tacked a project that had been sitting in the cupboard for over a year! Shameful, I know! I had gotten a kit for making 2 stepping stones, so we went to the Dollar Store and and picked out some decorations (shells and stones), and moulds (2 foil cake pans). Easy and cheap! We mixed the cement in an old toy bucket, (the dust caused some widespread gagging…pour slowly!) poured it into the moulds, jiggled them to smooth out the top, and then popped the resulting air bubbles with a pencil. Then, the kids got to work pushing in the shells, decorative stones, and their handprints! I tried to write the date on them, but I did it when the cement was still too wet, so it slowly filled in. Oh well! They’ve been drying for a few days now so I’m going to pop them out of the moulds and place them in the yard. A nice keepsake, I think!

stepping stones

For our last project, we needed just a couple of plain ceramic mugs and an assortment of colourful permanent markers, again, all from the Dollar Store. Are you sensing a theme here?

honeybooboo

This project was quick and easy and I got the idea from Pinterest. I was intending to have the kids decorate plates, but we could only find plastic plates, so we just got the mugs instead. Just as cute! The kids had fun drawing and writing on their mugs, and then I baked them in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. This makes the decorations permanent and washable. Some of the colours faded with the baking process, but no biggie! Overall, they turned out great and the kids love using the mugs they decorated themselves. I’m thinking this project would be a great future gift idea from the kids to family/friends.

mugs

Here’s what typically annoys me about doing crafts and stops me from following through: I feel like it always takes longer to set up, referee the process, and then clean up then it does for the kids to actually enjoy completing the project! But…I will admit….these crafts saved a couple of days from boredom-induced madness, and now we have some lovely keepsakes to remember our time together! Totally worth the trouble!

I gotta do this more often!

Got any other great, thrifty, and not-too-messy craft ideas? Share!

 


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Chill Pills

When someone I’m with is freaking out about something, I can usually be counted on to tell them to “Take a chill pill!” This is perhaps not politically correct from a mental health perspective, but since I myself take daily anxiety meds, I’m allowed, right? OK, not really. But anyways, I do think it’s important that everyone know what their most effective “chill pills” are, and I’m not talking about Xanax or Ativan. I’m talking about the things that we can do for ourselves to help ourselves relax, take a load off, and go to our happy place.

Here’s a list of my favourite chill pills, likely missing some things, and in no particular order, because that’s how I roll:

1. Knowing what you love to do and carving out the time to do it.

Have a hobby! It can be as common (knitting! baking! gardening!) or as completely random (making pet rocks! playing the ukelele!) as you want. Who cares? It’s just something you enjoy doing whenever you do it. In a previous post, I said that I believe that the key to success is finding a healthy balance between hard work and relaxation/fun time. Working hard is a necessity to get by in this world, and it builds character, grows hair on your chest, yadayadayada. However, making sure to carve out time every day for rest/relaxation and FUN is equally important, in my opinion. It keeps you young, keeps you smiling, and why not enjoy life as much as possible? It’s short. Squeeze the enjoyment out of it!

baking-meme

2. Take care of yourself physically: Exercise, eat well, and get enough sleep.

Well, I don’t have issues getting enough sleep. I LOOOOVVVES me my sleep. I usually fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow, sometimes fall asleep while watching TV, movies, or reading, and there are few things in life I enjoy as much as a spontaneous afternoon nap. Okay, so, seriously, I might have sleep apnea and I’m going to get that looked into! But I digress.

Exercising regularly and eating healthy don’t come AS easily to me, but I’m doing so much better than a few months ago! As a result, I feel better, not just physically, but emotionally. Every little change you make counts!

smoothie

3. Take care of yourself emotionally: see the doctor and get counseling if you need to!

Seriously, if you’re feeling down in the dumps for more than a few weeks, thinking thoughts that are scary or just “not you”, worrying, obsessing, etc….take care of it! There is so much more understanding and support when it comes to¬† mental health now than there used to be. There are so many ways you can get help and I speak from experience when I say that getting help can CHANGE YOUR LIFE. Stop dilly-dallying and trying to tough it out on your own, and go talk to someone already!

therapy

4. Take care of yourself spiritually.

Who or what feeds your soul? Seek it out! I’m not doing great in the churchgoing department at this juncture in my life for a variety of reasons, but I’m working on getting back in that groove. For now, praying remains my happy place. I find peace while talking to God. I also find serenity when surrounding myself in God’s creation. For others, it might be reading Scriptures or meditation. Whatever it is, don’t forget:

soul

5. Foster relationships with family and friends.

Few things are more satisfying than a meal, old stories, and lots of new laughs shared with family and/or close friends. And just as important as having someone to share good times with is having a couple of trusted shoulders to cry on when need be. Don’t let your world shrink too much; always leave room and time to share yourself, and be there for those you love. Loneliness sucks. Gaining and maintaining relationships may take some effort, but it’s always worth it.

My long-time friend and fellow blogger!

My long-time friend and fellow blogger!

6. Teach your kids independence.

Life is tough and sometimes we grown-ups need a break! And sometimes we parents forget that our little ones are growing bigger and more capable by the day. I teach my children how to help out around the house not only because it benefits them in teaching them life skills and responsibility, shapes their character, and keeps them busy and out of trouble, but also because FRIG, why should Carter and I be doing all of this work by ourselves?! We certainly didn’t MAKE all this mess ourselves! LOL. But seriously, more hands make for lighter work. In our family, I often emphasize to the kids that we are a team and must work together! Not only are they expected to tidy up after themselves, but my kids also help out by setting and clearing the table, folding and putting away their laundry, keeping their rooms clean, putting clean dishes away, helping take care of the dog, etc. Some days I ask very little of them and they spend most of their time playing, or they have homework they need to do first and foremost, but every now and then, if we’re exhausted and having a rough time, I’ll just tell be honest with them about it, and ask that they step up more than usual and really help Momma and Daddy out. And they do! Not necessarily without some whining and struggle, but we always get past that eventually. And it’s great for all of us: a weight off our shoulders while we recuperate, and a chance for them to grow in responsibility and learning to care for others, and be proud of their accomplishments at the end of the day.

kids-doing-chores

7. Try to keep on top of daily chores.

We all need a lazy day here and there where we don’t do much, if anything, at all. But rare is the day that I don’t do at least SOMETHING in the way of keeping that omnipresent laundry moving through the system, and rare is the day that I don’t do a basic main-floor-tidy-up, or at least most of the dishes (sometimes I just can’t bring myself to do those last few disgusting pots and pans! Nothing wrong with a good overnight soaking!). Because when even the basics start to pile up, I will start to feel very overwhelmed very quickly. So for me, doing the bare minimum on a tough day is easier on me in the long run than doing nothing at all. Dishes+laundry+tidy=still sane!

laundry2

8. Give yourself a break!

No one’s house is clean all the time. A night of vegging out in front of the TV isn’t going to damage your kids for life. Screw the pot roast: we’re ordering pizza or having cereal for dinner! Sometimes you just have to pick your battles and let the non-life-threatening things slide while you catch your breath and enjoy some downtime.

keep calm

9. Escape!

One of my favourite happy places is anywhere but here. It’s not as terrible as it sounds, though.¬† Sometimes when I need to chill, the best thing I can do is get out of my own head and my own life’s problems altogether for a while: I’ll lose myself in a good book, watch some smut (because other people’s problems are so much more entertaining than our own!) or a good movie, or daydream/plan. And when I say plan, I don’t mean problem-solve, I mean, mentally plan that fantasy trip to Europe we’re gonna take someday…or that tour-the-country-in-a-mobile-home retirement plan that Carter and I chat about sometimes. Also, stepping out of the here and now can give you a little perspective! Like, while planning your dream retirement, you might think, “When I’m 75, I’m not going to remember hardly anything about what happened the year that I was 32!” Or when watching the Walking Dead, you might think, “See? Things aren’t so bad for me after all!”

reading

10. Get some fresh air.

I rarely feel better than I do when I’ve been outside, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air. I find it very grounding and humbling to get away from our petty people-problems and be reminded of¬† where (Who) it all comes from by surrounding myself with the greatness, the intricacy, and the beauty of nature.

beach

canoeing

nature

11. Something funny. Anything funny!

Humour is definitely the fuel that keeps me going sometimes. Don’t be afraid to be silly, and laugh at yourself! Sometimes when I need a quick emotional pick-me-up I’ll watch a funny sitcom, or browse the humour boards on Pinterest until I get the giggles. Never do I feel better than when I’m laughing, and it’s rare that I can’t find SOMETHING to laugh about.

jesus

So how about you? What are your favourite chill pills?

 

 

 

 

 


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The Change Continues…

I’m right in the middle of enjoying two lovely weeks of vacation. This has meant more sleep, less stress, more time with family and friends, and less time on the road. It’s also meant more time to enjoy getting back into one of my favourite hobbies; baking!

I’ve really fallen off the home baking/cooking bandwagon a lot in the last few months as work hours and stress have increased. Carter helped by taking over a lot of the cooking, but baking definitely took a backseat. Okay, it pretty much just didn’t happen. Having some more time to myself lately as well as cultivating our new interest in healthy eating has meant that I’ve finally gotten my butt back in the kitchen, and I’m loving it!

homemade

This morning, while out blueberry picking with Kitten and my sister, my sister offered us a “chocolate bar.” She wouldn’t tell us what was in it until we tried it. We tried it and loved it! Turns out, she had made some chocolate date bars. When she described the ingredients, I recognized them from Pinterest recipes I’ve seen for homemade “Lara” bars. They seemed to me like something that health fanatics SAY taste delicious, but are disgusting to those of us who actually enjoy sweets in all their sinful glory! Well, I was wrong! These things are amazing!

chocolate

As soon as I got home (after stopping off at the grocery store for some dates and seeds), I did some poking around on Pinterest, and ended up making my own homemade Lara bars, with a nut-free twist, as I enjoy not dying (I have a nut and legume allergy).

I used this recipe as my guide:

Homemade Chocolate Lara Bars by Ellaphant Eats

Instead of almonds and pecans, I used a mixture of mostly sunflower seeds with some large-flake oats, shredded coconut, and even a handful of banana chips. The mixture was a coming out a bit dry, so I just added a date at a time to the food processor while it was running until it became the sticky dough that the recipe described. The bars ended up being moist, fudge-textured, naturally sweet, and chocolatey, and everyone in my family loved them and wanted more than one; even fussy Frog! Score! I despise raisins and prunes and as a result have always turned my nose up at any recipe containing dates, expecting the product to taste like a giant pureed raisin (barf), but this recipe has converted me. I’ve pinned a few more homemade Lara bar recipes for future reference and am excited that there are many variables and flavours possible, all made from healthy, whole ingredients, no added oils or sweeteners, and whipped up in ten minutes or less, with no actual baking required! I think these will become a regular healthy snack option in my household.¬† Next time I’m going to try to make them with cocoa instead of chocolate chips to amp up the health factor; but I was trying to ease the family in gently. ūüôā

chocolate lara bars

Try them; you might also be surprised at just how delicious healthy can be!


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Turning Over a New Leaf

Making a change is never easy. But sometimes, you just gotta do it!

I’ve written about Carter’s back problems and how much his back pain has affected his ability to work and enjoy life. Well, about a month ago he finally started going to regular Physiotherapy, and what a difference it has made! He goes twice a week and does his prescribed exercises a few times a day. In addition to that, his Physiotherapist sat him down one day and gave him a frank but well-received conversation about his overall physical condition and how much losing some weight and getting in shape would increase the benefits of Physiotherapy.

Carter took a few days to digest the advice and figure out how he wanted to go about making a major change that would stick for once and for all, and then he announced his plan to me. He invited me to join him in his lifestyle change, and I was happy to jump on that bandwagon with a partner! He has a specific goal weight, but I don’t; although I could stand to lose a few of the pounds that I’ve gained over the last few years!

jeans dont fit

We have attempted this many times before in many different ways, but we are bound and determined that this is it. This is the last time we vow to get healthy, because this time we’ll not only do it, but we’ll live it out permanently. Easier said than done, I know, which is why we are undertaking changes that we feel are reasonable and doable for us in the long run. We are experts on trying and then quitting, so we certainly know what doesn’t work!

So without further ado, here are the daily positive changes we’ve made and maintained thus far:

We are drinking a fruit and veggie smoothie every day. Our combinations vary and we are having fun making different creations every day. We’ve used: bananas, all kinds of berries, watermelon, spinach, carrots, kale, cucumber, peppers, tomatoes, pears, apples, plums, pineapple, avocado, grapes, broccoli…you name it, we’ve probably thrown some in the blender in the last month!

With that we usually add ice, and maybe a bit of yogurt and/or milk or coconut milk, depending on how thick it is.

smoothie

They are truly delicious! My favourite veggies to add are spinach, carrot, and cucumber since you can’t really taste them, but I feel exceptionally proud of myself when I drink a smoothie that has kale in it!

As for our other meals, we are focusing on simply making them much healthier than they used to be. We’re eating a lot less carbs, smaller portions, and lots of veggies. We are trying to eat clean or whole foods as much as possible. I’ve never seen so much fresh produce in our fridge in our life!

Our other major goal has been to find a way to incorporate exercise into our daily life. Now, we’ve both done this many times in the past only to eventually quit and become sedentary again. Not this time! Our focus now is not on getting our hot 20 year-old bodies back (vanity is so overrated anyways!), but simply on making our bodies healthy. We got married and had kids young, so we look forward to having fun and freedom together when the kids are grown and we’re still just in our forties. Still relatively young, yes, but we won’t be having very much fun if we’re unhealthy, out of shape, and heck, heaven forbid if one of us suffers a heart attack or worse from preventable causes! So instead of our usual go-big-and-burn-out exercise plan, we are taking one simple step together: walking.

We aim for every day because we figure that inevitably, something will come up during the week that will interfere with our walking plans, so we figure if we aim to do it every day, then we’ll be able to do it 6 days a week. So far, not only are we keeping up with it (we’re doing 30-40 minutes of brisk walking a day), but we are actually enjoying it! I’m used to the experience of pushing through exercise that feels like torture until I can’t take it anymore and eventually quitting, so to simply walk alongside my husband down our country road with our puppy while the sun sets and we chat about our day, our future, and our kids is a pleasure! We’re finding it as good for our relationship as it is for our bodies.

As well, I am using My Fitness Pal, an app on my iphone that helps me track what I’ve eaten for the day. It’s good for me to have a visual reminder of what I’ve eaten, how many calories are in my favourite foods, and if I’ve exercised or not. I don’t see myself doing this in the long-term because it’s too time-consuming, but I’ve found it very helpful in the short-term to get a more accurate idea in my head of how much I *should* be eating in a day to stay healthy. Once it becomes more intuitive, I expect I’ll be able to stop using the app and just *know* if I’m on track or not based on what I’ve learned.¬† But I’m unlearning too many years of this:

diet

Overall, we’re going for balance, which for us includes allowing ourselves a treat here and there, especially on special occasions! Food is part of celebrating life! During the last month, we had a family reunion and a birthday. Did we have cake? Yes, we did, and it was lovely! Did we go overboard? Nope!

So please wish us luck in keeping up our long-term lifestyle change! We want to be as happy and healthy for each other and our kids in ten years as we are today!

us


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Summer Fun

Time to end my accidental blog break!

I noticed by glancing at my last post that I was excited about the onset of spring. Well, that’s old news! Summer is definitely now in full swing. This year, I changed up my usual vacation schedule by taking a week off of work right after the Canada Day long weekend, which was great. The four of us were able to ring in summer as soon as it arrived!

I’ve made a list of Things To Do With the Kids this summer (not very easy to come up with lots of fun ideas when you’re on a tight budget), but so far, just 2 weeks in, we are on a roll:

First, we went to watch the fireworks on Canada Day:

Magical moment

Magical moment

Happy Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day!

The kids were initially complaining that we didn’t pay to get as close to the festivities as possible, but as soon as the fireworks started, they forgot all about it and had a blast (so to speak).

Next, we set up camp in “OurYard” Provincial Park. The sunsets and sunrises are beautiful, and there is lots of wildlife to be spotted. Our favourite mama and papa deer made a few appearances this week as well. Best of all, our glamping experience included a private bathroom and shower, and indoor accomodations for rainy/cold nights! (We’ll go legit camping in August). It was fun to give our new tent a trial run and have campfires almost every night.

Marshmallows

Marshmallows

Bedtime!

Bedtime!

Early morning view

Early morning view

We went fishing for the first time….

Ready for action!

Ready for action!

Kitten concentrating

Kitten concentrating

We didn’t have much success with the fish…we only caught one 2-inch long rainbow trout….but we did have lots of fun catching other critters with Kitten’s net.

frog

We’ve also gone on several hikes, exploring local trails we didn’t know existed until we downloaded a trail map!

Wild strawberries we found while hiking

Wild strawberries we found while hiking

My dreams of a large, lush garden were not met this year due to limited finances, limited time, and a puppy who loves to dig:

Naughty but oh-so-cute!

Naughty but oh-so-cute!

So I surrendered to reality, planted some pretty annuals in containers, and called it a day! Better luck next year, maybe!

Kitten turned 8, so we celebrated first at the local pool with some of her friends, and later with extended family….

Time flies!

Time flies!

And I made a long-awaited trip to visit a dear friend and her precious little one:

Delightful!

Delightful!

Other than that, it’s been lots of downtime in and around our home in the country.

A typical afternoon

A typical afternoon

It’s been a fabulous start to the summer, and I’m back to work tomorrow! I am pleasantly surprised by the fact that it feels like I’ve been gone for longer than a week; I’m totally mentally and physically refreshed, and after just 3 weeks back at work, I’ll be taking 2 more weeks of vacation! Woo-hoo!

We’ve still got a few things left on our list.

If anyone has any other great ideas for summer fun on a shoestring budget, please share!