Casual Friday + Renovation Update: Progress, Not Completion

  • This week felt mostly…meh. The renovations are going well and the contractors are wonderful but I have low-level anxiety (and sometimes medium- and high-level anxiety!) about the whole process. And, after our run-in a broken pipe last weekend, I think my resting stress level is higher than usual.
  • Honestly, though, I feel like the bigger issue has been social stressors. I’m an introvert by nature and think I’ve moderately offended several people lately (who are more extroverted) by my distance and general lack of enthusiasm for interacting; then there are some challenging dynamics with working relationships. I’ve also started thinking through corporate tax season which always fills me with dread even though it’s objectively not that bad and our accountant does 90% of the work.
  • Ironically enough, the best boost to my funk this week has been interacting with people! One of my best friends came over to watch White Christmas – an annual tradition for almost a decade now. Bing Crosby et al. did not disappoint. We sipped tea and sang and laughed and provided a running commentary on all our favourite quotes from the movie. It gets better every year. After weeks of crummy weather, I managed to fit in a long walk with the same friend and we met up at the school playground with our broods + other pint-sized friends on a rare sunny afternoon. I also went out for coffee with a new friend who has been encouraging me in so many ways in a mentorship capacity. I guess I’m a strong introvert but need a healthy dose of one-on-one time with friends to feed my soul. And John has just been the best – calming me down and listening to my irrational mental spirals surrounding worst-case-scenario reno talk or (likely) irrational perceptions of social situations.
  • Bible reading. After abandoning my year-long reading plan on day #311 (of 365), I’ve had a hard time getting back into a groove. I think, for now at least, I’m going to approach this with my 3x/week makes a habit (courtesy of Laura Vanderkam) which feels like a good cadence and right now I’m working through an Advent devotional gifted to me last year.
  • I didn’t make a formal holiday fun list but we did watch the new Home Sweet Home Alone movie, along with the original Home Alone + went to see a free showing of Elf with the kids at our town theatre. Fun things will still happen even if we don’t cross them off a paper list. It’s more environmentally friendly this way, too, right?!
  • I also didn’t circle back around to recycling the Advent Kindness Jar idea I mentioned last week. I got the labeled jars out of the Christmas box and that’s as far as I got. Maybe next year? I’m just telling myself it’s still okay to say no to good things.
  • Random: a friend (who has a 1-year old) and I were discussing soothers (aka: pacifiers) this week – the various perks and pitfalls. I immediately thought back to our trip to Denmark where Abby was transfixed by the sight of soother trees. Danish kiddos leave their soothers hanging from a tree (often with notes) when they are officially ready to part ways. It was hilarious to watch Abby’s confusion as she saw literally 100’s of her soothers hanging from trees around Copenhagen.
Flashback to 2012


I enjoy finishing things.

I like to wrap things up – literally and figuratively – with a tidy bow and stow them neatly on the shelf (that proactive tendency got me in trouble last week). I thrive on being productive and efficient. Give me a box and I’ll try my darndest to check it.

None of these things happen with a renovation.

It has been a months-long process. By many standards we have had an easy, low-key experience. But it has still felt like a long, arduous and overwhelming journey – especially for a maximizer like me.

While sometimes I would do well to channel my inner Gretchen Rubin (who says most decisions don’t require extensive research), there sure is a lot of research that goes into a major home renovation.

When we started planning things, I typed up a master list of all the to-do’s. Items to buy. Things to decide. People to consult. It was overwhelming. My temptation was to get discouraged. Sometimes a meeting with our contractor would do nothing more than give me ten new items to add to the list.

But, slowly, decisions got made. We selected a brand of windows. Then we selected the width, colour and style of trim that would surround them and which way we wanted the windows to open. Then we picked the width and style of the interior framing. Then we picked a white paint colour for the interior trim (which is more overwhelming than one might think) and the sheen of said white paint colour.

We picked exterior lights (this took several trips to the store). Then we picked soffit. Then we learned the soffit we had selected was on backorder until 2022. Then we picked new soffit. Then we picked the colour of the fascia and gutters.

We’ve picked where outlets will go and what gets turned on with what lightswitch; we spent time debating the relative merits of a surprising array of different doorbell options.

On one of our final visits to the contractor section at our local hardware store (they now recognize us from a mile away, even with masks, on a first-name basis) as we were agonizing over yet another decision – this one quite costly with much higher stakes than our doorbell hunt – I remained upbeat. We walked away without making a decision. But we had more intel. Just the having the information was progress. I knew a decision would come. Maybe it would take two more trips, or ten, but eventually, we would get there.

Could someone else have made all these decisions faster? Absolutely – renovations, and decision-making in general, are most definitely not my forte. But by plugging away at one item at a time, I’m learning to aim for progress. Whether that’s big progress (when we finally decided on the colour and style of our metal siding and ordered the supplies) or baby steps (I think the doorbell falls into this camp).

While it can feel agonizingly slow, we are making progress.

It will be a while – months for some items – before we get to call this project complete. But we’re headed in the right direction.

Casual Friday + A Great Big Birthday Recap

  • You know how you learn a new word and then see it everywhere? It was like that with Ingrid Fetell Lee this week. I heard her interviewed on an episode of the Best of Both Worlds podcast. I saw her TED Talk. And then I followed a link on a new-to-me blog and was redirected to Ingrid’s post titled: A guide to joyful gift-giving. It lingered in my psyche enough that I went back to re-read it and then decided I had to share it here! Insightful and refreshing and inspiring. An anti-gift guide of sorts (that ends up offering some really great gift suggestions).
  • #SecretSantaMugSwap2021. What a delighful surprise to receive a package in the mail on Tuesday from Nicole (and so fast). Again, a huge thanks to San for organizing this fun holiday event. I especially loved the tea included some cheeky math. I really did laugh out loud when I saw the line: And yes, it adds to 100%.
  • Our Christmas cards are officially done. Not only are they done – they’re in the mail. I know it’s early, but as soon as that last stamp was placed, I wanted to get those suckers out the door. There is something immensely satisfying about seeing a finished stack of Christmas cards on the table. #ParentingHack: I had Abby address and stuff most of the cards this year. She loved it, her handwriting is adorable, and it saved me at least an hour of time. Win, win, win.
  • Lest you think I am a freak of nature, we received our first Christmas card on November 16th. November 16th!!!
  • I also want to reiterate there are a lot of other things I skip which pave the way for completing this task on an accelerated timeline. I do always get holiday photocards + an update letter out into the world early (which makes sense based on my values and the other related activities – namely photobooks and regular family udpates – I prioritize during the rest of the year). But we do not make gingerbread houses. We don’t visit Santa. We don’t do Elf on the Shelf. Aside from two trees and a mantle swag, we don’t really even decorate that much. (But we do send cards and watch lots of holiday movies – stay tuned for more about both of these topics next week)!
  • Speaking of the swag…she did it all by herself this year. She waited patiently for me to come upstairs before starting but when I tried to help I got a talking to and was relegated to a perch on the couch to watch. Love the glow!
  • Most years I make a Holiday Fun List. I keep a hard copy – with completed items crossed out in squiggly lines by the kids – in our Christmas box. It’s fun to look back on different activities we’ve done each year. I can’t decide if I want to take the time to make the list or, more importantly, execute on the items on said list. Also, last year, we had a special advent jar – each child wrote down 24 things they loved/appreciated about their sibling and each morning when they opened their chocolate advent they’d also grab a slip of paper from their Advent jar and get a hit of dopamine from sibling love as well. With less than a week to go I’m not sure if I’m going to move the needle on this in time…it feels a bit stale to re-use the same ideas (who am I kidding, the Holiday List would be the exact same this year), but I’m sure the kids won’t care/remember and would appreciate both. I think I need to Lazy Genius my way through this topic…I’m leaning toward not doing it this year. Time will tell.
  • The Christmas/winter reading continues. This week it included a new picture book about Anne of Green Gables – very on point since we’re still reading the first Anne of Green Gables book. I have to admit, it didn’t quite capture the magic for me, but the illustrations were delightful.
  • As part of a promotion through something (I honestly have no idea who/what/when/where/how), John got a big discount on a weeks worth of meal kits. They arrived Monday morning. I have mixed feelings about the kits (we did this once before, early in the pandemic when a friend gave me a code so I got 3 meals for $9.99. For four people. For $9.99 total)! The regular retail price is almost $200, so it’s not something we’ll do regularly. Also, I find the prep/cooking time is basically double what they suggest. Maybe it’s because when I cook my own meals I don’t follow recipes or timing that closely. But every once in a while, this is a lot of fun! Abby was really engaged by the whole experience and was a real help in the kitchen. She loves to cook, but I don’t normally make the time to have her help with main meals. But since we’re kind of on an equal playing field (a new recipe, all the ingredients are right there), it worked out perfectly. So it was a fun week in terms of our culinary experiences. For the meal pictured below she seasoned the orzo, she added the pesto, she stirred in the peas and spinach, she sliced the chicken. And then she rated it an 8/10. Last night, our final meal, was an absolutely delicious Tex-Mex pasta casserole. Levi went back for thirds! The portions are large, too, so we’ve had lots of leftovers which have been amazing for lunches.

Birthday recap

Something huge happened. My baby turned 7. Yes, 7!!!

It was a mostly fun weekend, punctuated by some very not-so-fun moments because…that’s life.

We started the party on Friday; after school we packed the kids up in the car and whisked them off to the city (what we Nova Scotians affectionately call Halifax, as it is the only real “city” around) for the weekend. Abby had her suspicions, but Levi was none-the-wiser. We told them we were running errands (technically true) and he was elated when we pulled up outside a hotel – our favourite from a few years ago. (I had packed and hidden the suitcases in the trunk before we left).

Our kids love hotels. We haven’t had much reason to stay in them with a global pandemic raging, and it had been over a year since our adventure (including one horrific motel) along the Cabot Trail.

The experience did not disappoint. But let’s set the stage a bit first for these smiling faces because I went into the evening with pretty low expectations.

Friday had been pretty meh. It was raining – hard – all day. I had an 8:30 am in-person meeting to which I arrived damp. I’m not a fan of rain unless I get to stay inside the whole day.

Then I had to unexpectedly take our car to the mechanic mid-morning (amidst the torrential rain).

Then there was work stress and deadlines for both of us.

And did I mention the rain? That meant that our exterior renovations, delayed for two months and FINALLY started, were halted after about 8 hours of work (they resumed yesterday after a week of near-constant rain or snow and I am beyond excited about this).

Another highlight of the day (read on to sense my tone) included a small temper tantrum that crescendoed to the point a mask was thrown in a puddle when a requested playdate was denied. The conversation went like this:

*Child jumps off school bus*

Child: Can I have a playdate with X. (Obviously not named “X” but I’m not going to start naming my children’s friends on the interwebs).

Me: Not today.

Child: Why?

Me: Because we have a fun birthday surprise planned.

Child: What is it?

Me: It’s a surprise so you’ll have to wait and see…but it will be a lot of fun! [Said in my cheeriest tone as I could sense where this conversation was going.]

Response amid full-blown wailing and tears; there may have even been some gnashing of teeth for good measure.

Child: You’ve done this like 16 times. I. HATE. SURPRISES.

How fun and, note to self, 16 surprises is perhaps too many for a 7-year old lifetime…


Then, en route to the city, there was a rough work call that spilled over into the lobby while we were checking in.

I was feeling pretty emotional and low when we arrived and I was dreading having to jump into a cold pool. I am always cold. The only thing worse than being cold is being cold and wet. Cold swimming pools are a special form of torture.

And then…

I kid you not, the hotel pool was like a hot tub. I was so deliriously happy about the temperature, it re-set my mood for the next 18 hours. Literally. We went swimming in the soft glow of nighttime pool lights and the kids jumped and splashed and floated. It was blissful.

Then we walked across the parking lot to eat at Wendy’s because that was the birthday-boy request; I have not had a Junior Bacon Cheeseburger in almost two years. It tasted delicious.

Then back to the hotel room for the kids to eat snacks in bed and watch videos while I read an ENTIRE book, No Cure for Being Human by Kate Bowler. Let me repeat that – an entire book!

Saturday morning we did more swimming and then had one of the best hotel breakfasts ever. We loved this hotel for its breakfast the first time we stayed but assumed it would be shut down due to COVID. Not so, friends, not so.

They served people in groups and the food was incredible. The eggs were light and fluffy and seasoned with fresh herbs to perfection. And the pancakes – I am SO picky about my pancakes. Only homemade fluffy ones will do. These were homemade and fluffy. The staff were all so kind and attentive. And when they caught wind it was Levi’s birthday weekend they brought out a slice of cake to the breakfast table (just what he needed at 9 am) with a candle and proceeded to sing Happy Birthday. It was wonderful. We stayed up until the minute of checkout lounging in our enormous room (with vaulted ceilings, a first for me).

And then we trekked to IKEA to get a desk (Levi’s main birthday gift, alongside the hotel adventure) and a few other odds and ends.

Moods frayed after we got home. I prepped birthday food for Sunday. There had been too much sugar and too little sleep at the hotel. There was a meltdown that only LEGO could solve, and even then it was only a partial solution. But we made it through.

Sunday, his actual birthday, was great. Again, I started in a bit of a blue mood. I’m not a big fan of birthday parties but it felt like I was really letting him down this year. Just a few friends. No treat bags. I didn’t even blow up balloons.

We started the day with Baked French Toast – his request, and which I had prepped the night before. After church, we had lunch of meatballs rice and peas (read on to see why this is hilarious). A friend arrived to bring prezzies (as she refers to gifts) – the highlight being a locker/piggy bank that involves both a key AND a combination. Also, she played hide-and-seek for over half an hour while I sat on the couch. So fun. Then three neighbourhood friends arrived.

They played video games for an hour. Then they played soccer in the hallway. I still felt lame. I grabbed a few handfuls of leftover Halloween candy and called Abby upstairs to hide them.

When the boys emerged from the basement, sweating from their soccer game, they asked for Cheezie’s and promptly devoured a bowl. Things were looking brighter. Then they caught wind of the candy hunt, which was a real crowdpleaser. Things were looking even better!

Then we sat around the supper table and ate meatballs, rice, peas, and corn. Yes, my son asked (he didn’t think I’d say yes!) for the SAME meal for lunch and supper on his birthday. So that’s what he got. One visitor ate 10 meatballs and took home a doggy bag. Success.

The cake was delicious (one of those no-flour cakes that has so much butter, eggs, and chocolate that a few bites brings on a sugar coma – thankfully I only make it once a year and it’s a small recipe). We sang Happy Birthday. There were candles on the cake and on the table and it suddenly felt like the perfect birthday in its own imperfect way. It was small and laid-back and everyone just looked so happy (sugar does have that effect).

There were two gift bags to open instead of the usual mound – and they were perfect. One child topped their gift with a bunch of balloons – it’s like they knew I was failing at this birthday thing and wanted to make sure he got balloons. He also got a Star Wars LEGO set and two practical hands-on games (Jenga and a Slinky). And then the kids proceeded to play on the floor in the living room for almost an hour. Laughing and hitting balloons and playing Wink, Murderer and Noodle and Statue and all sorts of other games I don’t really know but that sure seemed to be a lot of fun.

Everyone was sad to go home and it was just…a great birthday. I treasure the memories, but also… birthdays are stressful. I’m glad he’s 7, glad he had fun, and glad to peek my head in the door and see him working on LEGO at his new desk.

Look at that little shadow on the wall!

Casual Friday + On Birthday’s and Doing Things for the Last Time

  • I know it doesn’t need to be completed on any timeline but when the final months of the year start ticking by I get anxious to tackle our annual photobook. I’m now officially done up to October and it feels…great. Most years Blurb has a post-Christmas sale, which I always miss. I would LOVE to order this on New Years Eve (because I’m fun like that). We shall see.
  • We have some special plans to celebrate a birthday – #7 for a certain little boy in our household! On alternate years our kids get big (8-10ish friends) and small (1-3 friends) parties – this is the year for a “small” party. His request? To invite three neighbourhood friends for video games and cake and supper. So, basically like any other day minus the video games and cake! There is always a contingent of neighbourhood kids floating around our house…and it’s not infrequent someone stays for a meal.
  • The week involved domino structures. It was a fun activity – sort of. At least 75% of the time I accidently set off my domino arrangement prematurely which Levi found hilarious…and I found shockingly frustrating.
  • I did not get the downstairs artificial tree up yet. The last few years I’ve aimed to get it up in the family room before Levi’s birthday. I had the time, I just didn’t really feel ready to launch the Christmas decorations hoopla. Renos are finally in full swing (after about a month of delays; we’re just lucky our contractors came as I know many peope couldn’t get supplies or labour this year), and so I think I’m craving all the extra peace, quiet, and calm I can get. Update! The kids and I did this in an unexpected burst of holiday enthusiam. Plan it in and do it anyway, right? And a cheery, twinkly glow is our reward.
I bought this tree on clearance for $20 at Zellers just after getting married. It has cast a festive glow over our family every Christmas since. It’s a bit of a Charlie-Brown tree and every year it loses more and more of those flimsy, plastic needles…but I love it – especially laden with all the homemade ornaments from preschool days of yore.
  • Speaking of holiday enthusiasm – I just wrapped up my #SecretSantaMugSwap2021 gift and it’s ready for a trip across the country via Canada Post. A huge shout-out to San for organizing this very fun event.
  • This week we had homemade chicken noodle soup (delicious), walked to school in winter coats (brrr), read winter-themed picture books (cozy), sourced festive postage stamps for sending out our family photocards (whimsical), and bought pecan pies for Christmas dinner (yum). The holidays are coming, y’all.
Children picture books are one of my favourite things. Christmas is another of my favourite things. So I am elated when both interests collide. It is officially holiday book season in our house and I couldn’t be happier.
  • My oldest sister is currently en route to Ironman Cozumel. She will swim 3.8 km, she will bike 180 km, and then she will finish things off with a leisurely 42.2 km run. I, on the other hand, will try to make it up one hill without complaining. It really does blow my mind she can/will do this! I’m also very jealous of the warm weather – we had snow/flurries twice this week. #notreadyforwinter.

ON birthdays and LAST TIMEs

Coming home from the hospital.

This time of year holds a lot of memories for me. Seven years ago today I was scared. I was two days away from knowing the answer to a question that had haunted me for months. After a relatively normal pregnancy, we were shocked to learn at the mid-way point that our baby could be facing some serious health complications. The ensuing months were an exhausting haze of appointments and tears.

My whole body was literally shaking on our final drive to the hospital. I knew answers were coming soon and I wasn’t feeling ready. It was like a surreal dream – life was moving in slow motion while hurtling ahead at warp speed. It’s an experience unlike anything I’ve experienced before or since and I still have flashbacks to so many details from that 24-hour period; they come into sharpest relief as we near his birthday.

It’s been seven years since that morning when I found myself lying in the operating room praying the words of Philippians 4:4-7 over and over – even when my heart was full of fear – until I literally felt the peace of God which defied all understanding and human logic. And then the miracle and joy of life and health.

This time of year I also find myself reflecting on how fleeting life is. A vapour, the Bible says.

I spent time the other night looking at baby pictures; he looks impossibly small. It feels like forever ago and yesterday at the same time.

It can be a hard balance – living in the present while being mindful that life is short and we’re all a heartbeat away from a complete and utter transformation in our experience. And that, even in little things, there is always a last time.

As I had been musing on this very topic, Jenny mentioned a recent David Cain article titled The Last Time Always Happens Now where he writes “It turns out that ordinary days are full of experiences you expect will keep happening forever, and of course none of them will.” This same day I read Laura Vanderkam’s tragic reminder that life can change in an instant. And the central premise of the Oliver Burkeman book I recently finished – Four Thousand Weeks – is based around this idea.

Memento mori, indeed.

There was a last time I washed a baby bottle. There was a last time they sat in a stroller and high chair. There was a last time I stumbled through a middle-of-the-night-feeding and diaper change. There were last goodbyes at preschool and final nights in a pack-and-play. I don’t have the dates of any of these events recorded; I likely didn’t know it was the “last” time. Or, after years of strollers and diapers and bottles and preschool pickup, the end may have felt like a relief.

And it’s not that I miss diaper changes at 2 am, but I do miss what they represent. Those days are gone. There really is an end to all things.

Like when did our baby exchange plush coats with those universally heart-melting ears…

…for fashionable puffer coats with faux fur? In the blink of an eye.

Almost every time I pick him up, I wonder when I’ll do it for the last time. And there will be a “last” time. I wonder if I’ll recognize it as such? Somehow I doubt it, and that makes me sad.

I’ve talked about that odd sense of loss I can feel in the midst of joy (I tear up at this post) and the complicated wave of emotions I get watching them sleep at night. So I try to keep this notion of “last” times in mind, while treasuring (and capturing) the moments now, as I’m able, knowing that there is good stuff ahead, too.

Hopefully, someday, I’ll pick up their children* and the cycle will continue, as it does.

*And then I will hand my grandchildren back, head home and get a full night of sleep and allow my children to experience the wonder of middle-of-the-night wakings and diaper changes…

Casual Friday + Why I Stopped My Yearly Bible Reading Plan on Day #311

A shout-out for any local readers. A friend of mine is on the board of Campaign for Kids. It's a non-profit charity that provides support for children and youth in Kings County. One of their annual campaigns is a Winter Wear Program. As a mother to two young children I can't imagine them having to brave cold winter weather without suitable clothing, but that is the difficult reality for too many kids. Unfortunately, demand this year is outstripping donations. For $100 an elementary school student can be outfitted in full winter gear; for $150, the same is provided for middle-schoolers. If you're able to support this valuable program, please see their website for more information on how to contribute (donations are tax deductible). 
  • Am I the only one that isn’t a fan of Daylight Savings? I do enjoy the extra light in the morning, but it just throws everything else off kilter. Every time. Admittedly, it’s a lot easier now that the kids are older (DST time with a toddler is the worst), but even with our age advantages, everyone has been off their sleeping game. It just doesn’t seem worth all the hassle. One perk: we’ve started lighting my favourite Danish candles at supper and it does feel very hygge (my brother married a Dane, so I feel like I can own the hygge concept with some validity; they gifted us these Georg Jensen candlesticks years ago and they still make me so happy)!

(Here’s a stock picture of what they look like in normal light – I leave them on our hutch year-round but have to steal them for the table when we start eating in the dark)!

  • After some grumpiness on my end, last Friday ended on a high note. The kids were off school all day and I participated in a game of morning soccer, arranged an impromptu playdate and packed a pinic. All good so far. But then we needed to run errands in Halifax, culminating in some thrift-store shopping. I was cold and tired and wasn’t. feeling. it. I couldn’t bear the thought of traipsing through IKEA (we didn’t actually need anything, but the kids do love eating there), so we opted to come home much earlier than planned, grab Subway (with coupons!) for supper, and put on a movie. It is getting challenging to find something that appeals to everyone as there are some strong opinions from certain children. But the kids were intrigued by the trailer for Maleficent as we panned through the offerings on Disney. I had no desire to watch it, but ended up really enjoying the movie! The kids have a high tolerance for scary things, and it was relatively tame (PG). Also, Subway was just…easy and deliciously loaded with veggies.
  • The weekend was okay. Daylight Savings and/or some mood cycling threw me off my game. But we fit in two family walks. I was feeling extra distracted Saturday morning on our walk, thinking about all sorts of things and I added guilt to the mix because I wasn’t really engaging with Levi who was happily chatting up a storm (when he wasn’t stopping every 5 seconds to throw a rock into the canal…which was frustrating me more than I care to admit). Abby and John were way up ahead absorbed in their own conversation. Levi suddenly stopped (literally, yet again) but before I could sigh he said “I bet they’re having just as good a time up there as we are back here, Mom.” And it just made me so happy – even though I wasn’t 100% “present” in that moment with him, he really was content to just be with me. He didn’t need me to engage, he just needed my presence. And then we stopped so he could take this selfie; a budding photographer.
A haircut has been scheduled!
  • Also, I am now officially “Mom.” It’s making me sad. I’ve been Mama for years, occasionally Mommy. Now I’m “Mom” and it feels very old and grownup and I just wasn’t ready for it. Maybe if I don’t respond to it, they’ll revert to Mama?
  • It has been a low-key week. Very busy, but all good. Productive at work – and I fit in some enjoyable networking events – and also got to spend quality time with friends. I survived my second consecutive week of solo-parenting (should be the last one for a while, so it felt more doable) which went smoothly. The kids were on their best behaviour in months! I hosted some of the kids friends for a supper. We had waffles for the first time in weeks. Friends stopped by for an impromptu visit. It all felt nice after a lot of ups and downs the last few weeks.
  • We walked to school most days, and it’s still warm enough that I’m pleasantly toasty by the time I get home. I have been wearing my heated socks religiously in the house. I fit in two runs (aiming for 3/week, which makes it a habit according to Laura Vanderkam).
After Monday’s post, I took a picture of the cement perch Levi seeks out each day en route to school. Someday – and likely soon – he’ll stop climbing this. But now I’ll have pictorial evidence of this stage forever.
  • We went back to the school playground twice after school this week, and then yesterday morning (a holiday in Canada), we gathered yet again. A group of us coordinated and moms talked while the kids played. It was fun and reminded me of all those pleasant afternoons pre-COVID when this was the routine.
  • Today I’m going to fit in a visit to my soup-and-sandwich oasis. It has been far too long.
  • I bought kombucha for the first time because a friend recommended it and…why not. I’m actually loving it.
  • I cashed in on freezer meals – I’ve been stashing leftovers away and it felt so nice to come home and have something hot, delicious and relatively healthy to put on the table with a little help from the microwave and/or slowcooker.
  • And then there was the day I took at shower at 6:30 and told Abby to handle shutting off all the lights and I hopped in bed at 7:00 and worked on writing projects and vegged and then turned out the light before 9:30 pm because even when things are going well life is exhausting and DST can be brutal and sleep is a magic elixar that I’m just not getting enough of lately!

thoughts on abandoning a streak

A few years ago I got a One-Year Bible; it’s a great concept. Instead of printing off a schedule, this Bible is actually pre-arranged with all the readings (one from the Old/New Testaments, Psalms, and Proverbs) for every day of the year. You literally flip to a date and it’s all laid out.

I’ve never made it all the way through. Some years I’ve skipped around (reading when I could but not going back to re-read days missed); another year I made it to about May or June consecutively.

This year I didn’t actually set out to complete the reading schedule. But I started in January for lack of another plan and just…kept at it. For the first 6 months it was great; I underlined and tagged verses and really enjoyed the study.

But lately it has felt like a chore. I joined a 7-week Bible Study on the side, which came with a lot of “homework” – not required, but I wouldn’t imagine not doing it!

So I’ve been checking this off, dreading the current slog through Ezekiel more and more each day.

And then on Sunday morning in church, I realized there is no reward at the end for checking this off. What I want is spiritual growth. So better to read one verse in a day and benefit from it versus continuing on with something that is net neutral at best (I had started skimming, definitely no longer absorbing much of anything).

So I stopped*. I stopped a 365-day reading plan on day 311. And it was absolutely the right decision. It feels like a weight has been lifted and the last few days of Bible reading (short sections at a time) while taking notes has been wonderful!

*I originally wrote “I quit” but this doesn’t feel like quitting and it wasn’t even choosing to fail. It was a mindful, purposeful stop. Also, to be fair, I missed plenty of days, but would always catch-up, so it’s more accurate to say I completed 311 days worth of readings, but that wasn’t on 311 consecutive days.

Let’s hear it. How was your week? Have you abandoned a project or a streak lately?

Casual Friday + Maintenance Cleaning

  • It was another one of those up-and-down weeks. Wednesday morning I woke up feeling…blah. Tuesday I was a powerhouse of productivity – we had a great walk to school, I tackled a bunch of lingering administrative tasks, I was proactive on work responsibilities, I started thinking through year-end/corporate taxes (always daunting) and had a call with our accountant, I paid credit cards, I updated business banking, I went to the grocery store, I fit in a solo run…and then I got an e-mail that just deflated me. It’s a work responsibility completely out of my hands and something that has been an ongoing stressor for years now. Every once in a while the problem rears its ugly head and I just felt so…vulnerable. The e-mail tone was one of utter frustration and even though the take home message was: “I know this isn’t your fault,” even though my head knows I’ve put 100% into this project and the issues aren’t my fault, it still feels like my fault. I want everyone to be happy. I want my hard work to translate into everything falling in to place. But this doesn’t always happen and that can feel hard. So yeah…there was that. Currently working through how to process this (it has happened before and I know it will happen again on this particular project) and be okay with people being disappointed and realizing it’s out of my hands. Sigh.
  • Rewinding a bit – Halloween was…great. It was supposed to be raining – with high winds – the whole day. Not exactly the best weather conditions for a homemade cardboard costume held together by hot glue, tape, and some paperclips. About 4:00 pm the rain started slowing and by 5:30, when we headed out trick-or-treating, the sun was out and there was a GIANT rainbow in the sky over our house.
  • This is the first year Abby went off with another family + friends, so it was just our Superman in tow. Both kids declared it to be their favourite Halloween yet. It was mild, everyone was deliriously happy that we could actually go out (we were debating setting up little stations inside our house if the torrential rain continued and handing out candy to the kids), we all got home early enough to get settled for bed at a reasonable time + John and I even squeezed in a Sunday night date.
  • The kids are off today and we don’t have a full week of school again until the end of November. I’m working on getting some childcare in place (outside of the preschool era, we haven’t outsourced any childcare). We’ve always worked from home and managed to fit things around the kids schedules. While this is still doable, I’m questioning if it makes sense to do it. I have a lead on a high-schooler that could come home with them after school one day a week and am excited to get that set up!
  • I survived my first solo-parenting duties in almost 2 years. John returned from Las Vegas on 13 March 2020 and didn’t set foot on a plane again until this week. It has been a huge shift for our family (he travelled about 50% of the time pre-COVID). For almost two years there were no middle-of-the-night taxi trips, no jet lag, no perpetual suitcase in the corner. The kids feel a lot older now (Levi was still in preschool in 2020), and I still have the muscle memory for it. Plus, there were no blizzards or trips to the emergency room or – and this has happened more than once – both issues on the same night. It was fun to pick him up at the airport and see the little trinkets he brought home for the kids (I forgot how much they loved this part; lounge candies, conference swag, hotel toiletries = best gifts ever). And it was just so nice to have him back home again. Moving forward, work travel will be minimal. I’m glad of that – though wish we could have avoided a pandemic to get to this point. I’m also proud we survived one short foray back into a world that was once so (too) familiar.
  • It’s getting colder. I looked ahead in the forecast and see temperatures in the negative digits in the not-so-distant future. BELOW FREEZING?! Ugh. The time changes on Sunday, though, and I’m excited to not be eating breakfast in the dark…
I saw this at a local store and nearly died laughing. I should just wear this around my neck as a perpetual excuse for any bad moods over the next 6 months or so – which is exactly how long winter seems to last in Eastern Canada.
  • Also, early nights mean we have more excuses to cuddle up and watch The Junior Bakeoff together. The kids LOVE this show, and I love this show and it really is just the best way to spend thirty minutes before bedtime. We’re still watching old seasons and everyone is so invested (#TeamEliza).

Maintenance Cleaning

My decreased posting schedule means discussions on cleaning have taken a bit of a back-seat and lack the continuity I had first imagined, but I thought I’d wrap things up with a brief chat about maintenance work.

To me, cleaning is distinct from clutter-clearing, which is really the part of the process where I enjoy cleaning. I’ve gone over most of our family habits around dealing with excess clutter and I’ve written about chores, generally, and how we portion up various household tasks. I’ve discussed kid’s clutter, and who does what (and when) to keep our clothing laundered.

But if your household is anything like mine, beyond the clutter and the deep-cleaning, there is always regular maintenance work that needs doing…

do you have a cleaning schedule?

Every two weeks we have someone come and deep-clean (floors + bathrooms, mostly). I only dust every two weeks, but the other cleaning I try to stay on top of in the interim.

I don’t have a schedule for keeping the floors clean; I tend to tackle these frequently, dust-busting/sweeping every day or two. Once a week or so I will task one of the kids with doing this while I clean up the kitchen after supper. We have a long-handled hand vacuum and this works well for them to maneuver in the nooks and crannies (especially under the kitchen cabinets and around the dining room table, the biggest sources of crumbs/dirt). My husband tackles this, too, and is almost fully responsible for floors in the basement.

I try to clean the bathroom sinks + toilets exactly a week after the cleaner has come and I’ll switch out the handtowels at this point as well. I don’t touch the mirrors or bathtubs! This keeps the bathrooms presentable (though I don’t use the kid’s bathroom very often, so will warn impromptu guests I’m not sure of its current state).

what products do you use?

I use a mix of products. I went through a stint of using vinegar and water, but have to admit…I just don’t love the smell. I’ve tried masking it with essential oils, but it just smelled like lemony vinegar.

My favourite is Method all-purpose sprays, especially the Grapefruit scent. It makes spraying down the counters a pleasure.

I remember reading The Power of Habit years ago and never forgot the example Charles Duhigg gives of Febreeze and how they marketed the product in such a way that spritzing a room gave users a satisfying reward. As someone who studied operant conditioning in honeybees, and loves the “Altoid” clip from the Office, I’m not above admitting this works on me, too. While I often just wash things with hot soap and water, using a good smelling spray does make it that much more enjoyable!

what do the kids do?

I’ve already discussed the main responsibilities we give the kids (a few different times), but they are also expected to participate in the maintenance work as required.

I have them clean up their rooms periodically through the week, and will often send them on random errands of the housecleaning variety. Emptying garbage cans, straightening shoes in the entryway, picking up toothbrushes scattered around the bathroom (or kitchen – sigh) sink and putting them back in the toothbrush holder.

do you have daily chores?

No. I remember my sister sweeping her floors every day. I try to do laundry every two days, run the dishwasher when it’s full, and sweep when I notice enough accumulation of dirt and other things the kids may have tracked in that it’s obvious and annoying to me. I almost always tackle all the dishes by the end of the day (loading the dishwasher + handwashing anything that can’t go through the dishwasher). I wipe down the stove every day or two when I’m cleaning the kitchen. But nothing (aside from making my bed, which isn’t exactly “cleaning”) that I do every day.

My husband is great about getting the table well cleaned; our son loves honey on toast and so there are always little sticky drips dotted around his places at the table. It really needs to be deep-cleaned every day or two.

While I wish things stayed clean longer, by staying on top of things (mostly), it has just become part of our wind-down ritual at the end of the day. Putting things back in their place, leaving mostly clean surfaces for the morning – when it will all get undone again, because that’s life.

Casual Friday + Deep-Dive Into Laundry

  • John and Abby picked out our family pumpkins last weekend. Somehow she managed to talk him in to getting what were surely the three biggest pumpkins in the field. For real. They filled the entire trunk. The idea is to make a snowman out of pumpkins. We shall see how that goes. I’ve gladly delegated the whole task and am sure whatever they come up with will be fun and…memorable.
  • We also spent a not insignificant portion of the weekend working on Abby’s costume. Normally we do hand-me-downs or thrift store finds. This year she was determined to make her own costume and very quickly settled on creating a life-sized box of Kraft Dinner. Mac n’ Cheese is her favourite meal, especially when it’s made from scratch by Grammie. But the boxed version works too and it’s a favourite special treat on a weekend Date Night. This project involved glue (of the hot and stick variety, so bonus points?), paint, toilet paper rolls, a box, bristol board, and lots of tape. It ticked all the homemade crafting boxes. It was a lot of fun (I had been dreading the process) and she’s so happy with the end result. Levi will be going as Superman and his costume took approximately 30 seconds to select from a rack.
  • If there wasn’t already enough reasons to love fall AND our morning walks to school…John snapped this picture of the leaves on a trail we take to get home after dropping off the kids. October at its finest. Hard to beat the scenery on our commute!
  • I talked last Friday about the ups and downs that cycle through a week. Sometimes even within a day. Last Saturday was up and then way, way down. Sunday was all up. Monday was great. Wednesday was tough. I’m just writing this here so I can read back and realize the roller-coaster is real. It’s also normal and, for the most part, unavoidable.
  • Last weekend had some real highlights. Our quaint little town hosts Devour – a food and film festival. Some of our closest friends (who live just far enough away we don’t see them as often as we’d like) bought tickets for the Chowderfest. For $20 you got 5 samples of chowder and then you voted, via an app, for your favourite with a winner crowned by the end of the night. After their feast, they walked up to our house and we spent the remainder of the evening getting caught up. It’s always fun to sit and chat with other adults and feel…like an adult! They’re also a bit older – with kids having recently flown the coop – so it gives us a glimpse of the future when attending things like a Chowderfest won’t involve copious time and money related to arranging childcare!
  • Abby hosted her first in-home sleepover the same night. We made homemade pizzas on Naan bread and served homemade chocolate sauce (with coconut oil, so it hardens on contact with cold) to go over ice cream. The girls kindly let Levi hang out and watch a movie with them. The sleepover was a huge success complete with a movie, stuffed animals, snacks (of course) and a breakfast of fluffy stacked pancakes with maple syrup, peanut butter, nutella, chocolate chips and – because there clearly wasn’t enough sugar involved – a dusting of icing sugar (all masterfully prepared by John). Not quite on par with our family Whole30? I do think all that sugar and lack of sleep definitely helped derail parts of Saturday. Win some, lose some. And Sunday was great.

Laundry Deep-Dive

Okay, okay. Maybe “deep-dive” is overselling things a bit.

I’m no laundry guru – I don’t actually separate my whites from my darks (clearly a satisficer in this category). But I do try to stay on top of laundry and minimize the time it takes. Because, quite honestly, laundry isn’t one of my favourite things to spend time on. I’ve heard that some people actually enjoy ironing. I’m sure they’re lovely people…but wow.

To me, laundry is a necessary evil. It doesn’t taste good, like food, which helps offset the time invested in grocery shopping and cooking. Much of the time laundry doesn’t even make an aesthetic difference. My sheets don’t look dirty when they need to be laundered.

Yet, since I spend several hours a week doing various tasks related to laundry, it’s not an insignificant chore.

I’ve tweaked my approach to laundry various times over the years. When Abby was younger, I’d aim to do 2 loads/week (both on Saturday).

Now, with two much larger children in tow, I do one load almost every day.

Last year I did most loads in the evening, now I aim for the morning.

Last year I would dump all the clean, dry clothes on my bed and sort things there. Now I handle everything in the laundry room.

Different seasons have called for different approaches and here’s what’s working for us now.

When do you do laundry?

My preferred time is morning. I like turning the washing machine on before breakfast and then I’ll move things to the dryer when I know I’ll be home for the whole cycle (I don’t like leaving the house with the dryer going + I like to handle clothes fresh from the dryer to prevent wrinkles because above all else I loathe ironing).

Sometimes I’ll leave the washed clothes sitting for several hours in the washing machine, but the whole process of getting clean, dry laundry is usually completed by lunchtime.

where do you store dirty laundry?

We have a single laundry basket at the end of our hallway that everyone dumps into. When it’s full, it’s time for laundry.

If things get taken off downstairs in the laundry room (which connects to our downstairs bathroom/shower), sometimes we’ll leave a small pile of clothes on the floor or put items directly into the washing machine. But, for the most part, everything – clothes, towels, sheets, dishcloths – all go in one spot.

I know someone that has laundry baskets for every bedroom; she does separate loads for each child’s items, towels, sheets, even kitchen paraphernalia! It feels like more work to me but to each their own.

How do you separate clothes?

I don’t. I wash almost everything on the cold water setting. Especially dirty items or things we’re washing during an illness (hello, flu season), I’ll do on the hot setting. I buy detergent that works for cold water and, so far, no one has complained about the cleanliness of their clothes. We don’t necessarily have the highest of standards…

It’s less expensive, colours don’t run and, since I dry most things in a dryer, they’re being exposed to heat!

Who puts away the clean Clothes?

This has changed a lot. For the last few years I had been putting away almost everything. Ugh. But in the last 6 months I’ve gladly started sharing the responsibility.

When I sorted clothes in the master bedroom, things HAD to be put away before bedtime, or we’d have nowhere to sleep. Now I sort laundry as soon as it comes out of the dryer. I shake things out so they’re not wrinkled and lay them flat in piles according to person.

Since the items are out of the way and wrinkle-free, there is a lot more flexibility in when they get put away (I usually get the kids to put away their clothes by the end of the day so stacks don’t accumulate and, since two stacks end up on the top of my deep freeze, when I need a bag of frozen peas, those clothes have got to go).

The kids are responsible for going downstairs and carting their pile back upstairs. I put socks together, but beyond that, they’re on their own.

I put away my clothes, general items like towels and dishcloths, and leave John’s clean clothes at the bottom of our bed.

These have been the biggest (and best) shifts in laundry: storing clean items out of the way (where I don’t see them + they don’t get wrinkled or dumped in a pile onto the floor which is about the most maddening experience to behold as a mother who has spent an hour doing laundry) AND passing the buck to every member in the family has been liberating.

what about big items like sheets and towels?

I’m terrible about staying on schedule with washing sheets. I feel like the kids spill or do something to their sheets every 2-3 weeks and I’m content with that washing cycle, but I definitely go longer than I should between washing my own sheets.

When I do wash sheets, I do a separate load (king-sized sheets are…large). Towels we just add to the laundry basket as we use them, and since I do a load whenever that basket is full, towels usually just get washed with other items. These also get washed in cold water, but are dried on high heat.

What about a clothesline?

To my shame, I’ve largely stopped using my clothesline. I was good about using it for a few years…but it’s a lot more work. Carting things outside, hanging them out, bringing them back in, and then dealing with the invariable soap scum on dark items. I’ll airdry big things like sheets (plus they smell so good), but just about everything else is currently going into the dryer. And I’m not letting myself feel any guilt about this.

(The clothesline gets LOTS of use for drying beach towels and bathing suits in the summer).

While I wouldn’t say I enjoy laundry, it’s not that bad. Staying on top of it by doing frequent, smaller loads, using the dryer, and making use of the child labour available in my home have all been important tweaks to help me from getting buried under an avalanche of superhero-themed underwear and pajamas.

And, for now at least, I haven’t discovered a way to keep active, outdoor-loving kids clean. And that’s fine. Run free. Get dirty. Every load is worth it.

Casual Friday + Love of the Week

  • I’m not that “in” to Halloween. My family never decorated growing up, and I like to keep my focus on Christmas. That said, I put up our pumpkin mini-lights last week, and everyone in the house keeps commenting on them. A thrift store find years ago, I leave the mini-light string up all year round (incorporating it into our mantle swag at Christmas), but slip the plastic pumpkin covers on for October. It’s the little things. And this is, literally, the only decorating I do for Halloween/fall.
  • I do succumb to checking out a few fall/Halloween-themed books. The one pictured above, The Witch Who Was Afraid of Witches is one of my favourites, and we’ve read it for years (in true minimalist fashion, I don’t actually own the book, we just get it from the library). We also got Arthur’s Halloween, by Marc Brown, which was the only Halloween book I owned growing up. Talk about a blast from the past.
  • Last weekend was great. Church was great. Date nights were great. Sunday-morning coffee (I’m off caffeine during the week now) was great.
  • Monday had a rough start with some credit card hassles (fradulent charges), work challenges, so many sets of paperwork to complete I was about ready to cry and a 1 am child wakeup. Tuesday and Wednesday were great. Busy, but productive. Relaxed in the right ways. Then Thursday hit me like a freight train. Another restless night (3 out of 4, so cumulative exhaustion), and I ended up so exhausted, so overwhelmed and frazzled that some of the jobs I usually feel very competent to handle felt onerous. I guess this is all to say – a week can really cycle through all the emotions. Onward and upward.
  • I got a haircut! It had been almost a year. Between COVID and laziness, it was very overdue. It’s short. But I know it will grow out quickly, and it will be such a treat to wash and dry 1/3 of the amount of hair for a while!
  • Stage 2 of renos is supposed to start next week. I’m getting nervous. I know there will be lots of decisions, we’ll hit snags, and things will take longer and cost more than we’re anticipating. But, sometimes the only way through is through, and I’m trying to take anxiety as a cue for gratitude and, on this score, I should be overwhelmed with gratitude! The renovations will make our home warmer and safer and a lot nicer (from the outside) on the eyes! After 4 years of living in a quasi-permanent “needs” reno state, it will be wonderful to have this major set of upgrades behind us. Here’s to getting through…
  • Date-night supper for the kids. We feed them separately each Saturday and Sunday evening to accommodate an in-home date-night. On the menu for them this week: Cheesy omelets with veggies, dip and a ketchup smile. They were thrilled – with nary a complaint about the veggies.

love of the week: My quotes book

Since I graduated from high school I’ve been keeping track of quotes from various books I read. I’ve maintained an enormous document which – over the course of this summer and early fall – I’ve been reorganizing and downsizing. I culled a lot of quotes (and now feel slightly guilty about this!), did some basic reorganizing, and then printed off a few copies, going with the same publisher I’ve been using for photobooks (and family updates) – Blurb.

It includes quotes on parenting, spiritual growth, grief/pain, work/creativity, productivity/time management, and lots more. I’ve really enjoyed reading back through all the quotes I selected, a few pages each night. I’m often left nodding my head at some nugget of wisdom someone (far wiser than me!) dropped within the pages of their book.

It’s not going to win any awards and as soon as it arrived I noticed loads of things I wish I had adjusted. But I really did aim to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good (or the done). It’s decidedly imperfect, but it’s a great starting point. And, it’s another of my 2021 goals checked off. As a form of memory keeping (my reading history over 20 odd years), it also aligns nicely with my values!

Casual Friday + Love of the Week

  • I’ve always enjoyed Canadian Thanksgiving; it’s far enough from Christmas to feel like a standalone event. And, in typical Canadian fashion, it’s relatively understated. It’s a great excuse to appreciate the wonderful bounty of fall – the final harvest of fruits and vegetables for the year. The food was great, and leftovers have been delicious!
  • Delicious feasting aside – after a challenging stretch the long weekend should have felt like a much-needed reprieve. But, in reality, it was an especially tough one. Some parenting battles that I just felt too tired to cope with in a mature way. A potentially difficult situation that suddenly popped up out of nowhere. Frustrating silence on pressing work deadlines (which I couldn’t tackle over the long weekend, but that festered nonetheless). Also, there is the added pressure of feeling extra joyful during a time set aside specifically for being thankful. I was thankful much of the time, but in an effort to keep things real – there was still quite a bit of time spent feeling stressed or grumpy or frustrated. Win some, lose some.

One stressful experience, among others, happened on a visit to Margaretsville Lighthouse. Through a series of unfortunate events involving the tide and some poor decision-making, I found myself climbing a quasi-precarious rockface to rescue the children. We all survived and no one got hurt – or wet. And we found pretty wild roses once our heart rates had recovered…lose some, win some.
  • That said, things are looking up. I’m learning the cycle. Good and bad, sometimes on the same day. Always onward and upward.
  • We managed to take advantage of grandparent babysitting priviledges and went out to dinner (sushi for the win!) and then to the movies to see No Time to Die. Is it just me, or do movies seem darker (in subject matter, not lighting) the older I get? Regardless, it was still fun to bask in the theatre experience – it has been almost two years since we went without kids, ironically enough to see Daniel Craig et al. in Knives Out.
  • We also fit in some nice family walks over the weekend, including a stroll around the grounds of a family favourite – Grand Pré. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the views never fail to disappoint. We pointed out a permanent and enormous bald eagle nest to my father-in-law and he was duly impressed.

love of the week

My eye mask for sleeping. I started using one about 5 years ago and can’t function without it (this might be a double-edged sword).

I have a whole sleep post in the works that goes through my bedtime routine (does this make me sound like a toddler) – as soon as I put on my eye mask, it really helps signal it’s time for sleep. My version of a blankie, soother, or stuffie, perhaps?

And, it means I don’t have to go crazy blocking little shards of artificial light from chargers and digital clocks and the bits of light that inevitably leak in around the curtains!