Laugh Easily – A New Life Goal?

A few weeks ago we went out for supper as a family. We haven’t done this very often since March of 2020. It felt “normal” (whatever “normal” looks like these days) and was an especially fun treat on a random Wednesday night.

When we pulled into the restaurant parking lot, John and Abby were talking about an inside joke song they had created about Abby’s new hamster, Meatball. It was nonsensical and hilarious. As I sat listening to them sing – with gusto, I might add – I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. A deep belly laugh.

After I finally finished laughing, I thought – wow, it feels so good to laugh.

Wouldn’t this be a great life goal – to be someone who laughs easily? (At appropriate times, of course; I understand laughter at the wrong time can be devastatingly hurtful!). Sure I can smile when I hear a funny story or silly lyrics. But why not take things one step further and muster up a laugh? It almost always feels extra therapeutic.

Your turn. Do you laugh easily? If so, do you have a go-to source of laughs (maybe a favourite sitcom, comedian, or family member)? Nate Bargatze is our favourite comedian and I also happen to be married to an extremely funny person who goes out of his way to make me laugh every day <3

Header photo by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash

Life Lately: What’s Working (And What’s Not)

When I read Katie’s post earlier this week, I had to wonder if she has been brushing up on her mind-reading skills. She wrote about what systems were working well as part of her fall routine and her post came on a day I was drafting my own thoughts on the same topic!

I spend a lot of time tweaking things that aren’t working well in my routine but don’t always take time to appreciate what is working. The next step, of course, is to find ways to promote the continuation of these positive behaviours and routines!

Without further ado…

things that are currently working well

  • Bedtime. This has been so much better in September. I would say at least 5 nights a week I have been in bed – lights out! – by 10:30 pm. I still regularly feel tired, but at least I know I’m getting to bed at a reasonable time and suspect much of my exhaustion is just carryover from our busy summer when my sleep hygiene was horrific!
  • Reading less. While it’s very normal for me to slow down book consumption over the summer, I was feeling guilty about how I haven’t transitioned back into a reading routine (either solo or with the kids) now that we’re settled into the back-to-school season. But then I thought: what I’m doing is actually working for me. In between a sharp uptick in the extracurriculars the kids are involved in, work and home responsibilities, my focus on getting outside and exercising every day, time spent writing here, etcetera, etcetera…there hasn’t been a lot of excess time to read. And that’s okay! Although I enjoy reading, I don’t want it to become a tedious “to-do” I have to check off. I’m reading solo 3-4 nights a week for 30 minutes, and probably spend about 2 hours over the course of the week reading to the kids which feels like a good balance for our current stage of life.
  • Scheduling work e-mails to send in the morning. I know this “hack” is old but it is the first time I’ve used this option consistently. Even though I work from home and my hours are flexible, it can feel like I should fit every task into the confines of a normal 9-5 working schedule. This doesn’t actually happen, though, nor is it the most efficient way for me to complete work tasks. I typically receive an influx of e-mails between 5-7 pm. So, a few times a week, I’ve been doing an evening “shift.” I set all the e-mails I draft to send the next morning at 8 am (or, if I’m doing it over the weekend, 8 am on the next weekday). I’m able to put in a bit less working time each week while feeling more efficient/effective in my role. I’ve been doing evening work for years, but always sent emails immediately, which meant in the morning I’d have an inbox full of responses. This new layer of automation is definitely working well.
  • Middle school independence. I’m only a bystander to her experience, but I am so, so happy with how excited Abby has been about the new opportunities of middle school. On Sunday, after helping with preschool-age kids during the first church service along with a whole gaggle of other middle-schoolers and then attending her own middle-school group (all independent from her brother and parents!), she was positively glowing when she said: “Mom, I love youth group soooo much.” Her enthusiasm is wonderful to see. Drama camp, choir, school soccer, various groups and clubs – this weekend even involves an overnight camp retreat! It’s an exciting time in the Frost household.
That sandwich came out of the freezer seconds before I snapped this photo!
  • Freezing sandwiches. Yes, you read that right. Freezing sandwiches. This is a trick my sister taught me when we visited South Carolina. She has a big family and a VERY hectic schedule. One of her time-saving hacks is making up a batch of sandwiches and freezing them. I was skeptical at first, but it works like a charm. It takes about the same amount of time to make 12 ham and cheese sandwiches as it does 2. We’ve mass-produced (and frozen) ham + cheese, butter + jam, and egg + bacon. I just pull two sandwiches out the night before and put them into their lunchbox frozen. I might add something like mustard, mayo or lettuce/spinach to the sandwich at this point, but there are no crumbs to deal with and no cheese to slice. We do still prep fruit/veggies the day before, but not having to make a fresh sandwich has been a game-changer.
  • My Sprouted planner. I have been LOVING my Sprouted planner recently. To be fair, I’ve loved it all year (*not paid or perked!*), but I feel like I’ve made it work extra hard in September and it has been invaluable for keeping me on task. I’ve come up with some new tracking systems and have settled into a daily routine of maximizing the heavy lifting my planner can do.
  • Limiting coffee. A few years ago I had a Meridian Stress Assessment done and was told to eliminate coffee from my diet. For months I avoided coffee completely (tea and other caffeinated beverages were fine). I do not find coffee gives me a jolt of energy, so consuming it was all about taste and the pleasant relaxation of sipping a hot beverage. If I drink it consistently, though, it really upsets my stomach. Demerit alert: I had been back to drinking way too much coffee. Lately, I’ve been allowing myself one cup a week – and my stomach is so much happier.
  • Intuitive eating/no scale. For months now I have just been…eating food. Nothing has been off-limits. I eat when I’m hungry. Sometimes I eat emotionally. Sometimes I skip a meal when I’m not hungry at a prescribed time. Sometimes I have a late-night snack. Sometimes I eat carrot sticks, sometimes I eat a chocolate. After two decades of either dieting and/or eliminating foods to try to get to the bottom of health issues, this is a very, very big change. I also used to track my weight each day and haven’t touched a scale in months. My clothes might be fitting a tad snugger but such is life. I’m active and healthy and it’s (mostly – see below) working well to spend less time dithering over food.
A Sunday afternoon family walk post-hurricane. We were so relieved (and surprised) that our favourite woods path emerged completely unscathed.
  • Daily walks. These continue to be a great tool for my mental and physical wellbeing. Do 12 minutes outside each day solve all my problems? Nope. But it has felt comforting to have a daily ritual in place that I know is so good for me. Occasionally it does feel like a burden, but the majority of the time I recognize and celebrate the fact that it is such a blessing to have a body that is strong and capable of walking; that it is such a blessing to have clear air and safe streets where I can walk; that it is such a blessing to have the flexibility to make this activity happen daily.

A few things not working so well

I would be remiss if I didn’t address a few things that are NOT going well…

  • Phone use. I’m back to spending too much time on my phone. On Tuesday I picked up my phone 125 times – 125 times?! – and responded to 91 notifications. Allow me to throw out a few flimsy excuses. Excuse #1: this fall has had a lot of logistics to juggle. This means plenty of texting to coordinate rides and schedules. Excuse #2: I have two e-mail accounts at work that require 2-step authentication for sign-in, which means I have to access my phone regularly (every time I switch between accounts which could be a dozen times a day) for the Authenticator app. Once I pick it up to confirm sign-in, I have a bad tendency of checking texts or the latest news headlines. These excuses are legitimate but, if I’m being honest, most of my pickups are superfluous and it’s starting to make me feel icky and restless. I think I might go back to tracking my time + pickups each day? It is frustrating to be back in this place after doing so well with reducing phone use in the spring. What’s that Japanese proverb? Fall seven, rise eight. I guess it’s time to get up again..,and put down the phone!
  • Fruit and veggie consumption/menu planning. While I’ve worked really hard to retrain my brain to think about food less critically and to eat more intuitively, I definitely feel like I’m in a cooking rut. We’re eating fine. I’ve made several soups. We consume fruits and vegetables every day, but I don’t feel like there is any rhythm to food prep these days and I’m definitely often throwing something together out of convenience. For years I had a very concrete structure for what I always had available (e.g. homemade salad dressing and fixings for salads) and I’m just not energetic or organized on the kitchen front right now and I’m not sure how to jumpstart my enthusiasm. While I want to eat intuitively, I also want to make it easy to make choices that will fuel my body to perform well…and that takes a bit more mental bandwidth than I’ve been allocating to the task lately.

Your turn. Any current routine that is working particularly well for you (or not) as we transition into fall?

Header photo by Tetiana Padurets on Unsplash

Tranquility By Tuesday (Or Some Approximation Thereof)

As part of my September reboot, I’m looking for ways to refresh my weekly routines. I want strategies that encourage personal accountability, with a healthy dose of flexibility. The older I get, the more I realize there is a sense of freedom that comes from establishing boundaries. And, since I’m an adult, I actually have a lot of autonomy over what boundaries I choose to set – or break through!

Enter Tranquility by Tuesday.


I know some readers here follow – and have even been actively involved in contributing to – Laura Vanderkam’s work on time management. (Sarah is co-host of the Best of Both Worlds podcast and Lisa was recently a guest on that show!)

So the timing of her newest book, Tranquility by Tuesday, is fortuitous as I’ve been feeling a desperate need to “calm the chaos.”

You know this. I’ve talked at length about the challenges of renovations, overnight company, parenting, work, health issues, negative storytelling, and lots and lots of water woes. (I discuss plenty of positive things too, but there has been a liberal sprinkling of chaos and frenzy in my life recently. I’m sure you can relate.)

Most of you only know these details because you read along in my little corner of the internet, which I finally got off the ground – and into the cloud, pun intended – after participating in Laura’s Tranquility by Tuesday time study back in 2020/2021. So writing about her book in this space brings the experience full circle.

(By the way, I’m not being paid or perked to talk about the book, I just really love the message and Laura’s delivery. The fact I make a few cameo appearances – she discusses how one of her rules spurred me on to finally launch this blog and references the giant chalk Chutes and Ladders game we constructed in the driveway during a COVID lockdown, among other things – is just a giant cherry on top.)

Laura starts off by suggesting that “people want…to stop feeling like they’re either racing against the clock or wishing time away.” At the very least, most of us are likely working toward the same goal: increased satisfaction with how we spend our days.

I know I am.

So over a series of weeks, back in 2021, I – along with 149 other people – systematically implemented her nine rules aimed at “calming the chaos.”

TRANQUILITY BY TUESDAY RULES

  1. Give yourself a bedtime.
  2. Plan on Fridays.
  3. Move by 3 pm.
  4. Three times a week is a habit.
  5. Create a back-up slot.
  6. One big adventure, one little adventure.
  7. Take one night for you.
  8. Batch the little things.
  9. Effortful before effortless.

There’s a lot to unpack, which may be why Laura wrote an entire book detailing strategies to most effectively incorporate these rules into daily life.

Every “rule” – and I use that word loosely because she never comes across as a drill instructor – felt doable and broadly applicable. More importantly, several rules were specifically designed to bring more fun/adventure into everyday activities. And I think that final point is key: she’s not just suggesting we alleviate pain points (though she helps with that, too) – she’s encouraging readers to actively schedule time for joyful pursuits.

While all of us have unique challenges and privileges, we share the same time constraints of a 24-hour day. But the stories we tell ourselves about those constraints can make all the difference in how we structure our lives. Tranquility by Tuesday provides practical suggestions for how to prioritize the energizing parts of life, while effectively dealing with the mundane – but largely unavoidable – managerial aspects.

We can participate in a community soccer league and be someone who manages to get our garbage to the curb on Thursday morning.


After I completed the time study a little over a year ago, no one was there to lecture me if I didn’t Move by 3 p.m.; I didn’t get weekly reminders to Plan on Fridays.

In lieu of any oversight, did I stick with the rules perfectly? Not even close. I’ve already admitted to the appalling state of my bedtime this summer. I almost never planned on Friday. I frequently picked away at little things inefficiently throughout the day instead of batching. During one low point, I ate onion rings and chocolate in response to catastrophizing about how long it had been since I had been running – instead of getting up off the couch and, you know, actually going for a run (the epitome of effortless before effortful?).

But her strategies have influenced my thinking. A lot.

I show up here at least three times a week which, according to Laura, makes my writing a habit.

Would I have been as open to packing in so many summer adventures without her One big adventure, one little adventure rule? Unlikely. It was thinking about this rule that inspired me to invite a friend to go out for ice cream one night…without kids. It was delicious and a highlight of my summer. This rule spurred me to pursue a second Broadway show in New York City (which, ironically enough, Laura went to see with her son a few weeks later).

Her Move by 3 p.m. rule was the subconscious nudge I needed to start my daily walking routine (which I’ll do today for the 265th time in 2022).

Last Saturday I got up early and did a gentle yoga video instead of lounging in bed because I knew doing something Effortful before effortless would set the right tone for my day. No onion rings required.

I’m trying hard to Give myself a bedtime. For two weeks now I’ve carved out time to Plan on Fridays, and this intentional “appointment” to structure the upcoming week has felt both efficient and, oddly enough, comforting.

Last Friday, after tackling an outdoor painting project with a friend (a big adventure for me, a self-declared DIY novice), slogging through hours of a work backlog, and making even more renovation decisions, I Batched the little things. I sorted paperwork that had accumulated for weeks in an office drawer, paid credit cards, and completed an online order. I had time to do the painting job because I had Created a back-up slot (I even said “no” to a last-minute meeting pitched to land right in the middle of my Friday morning back-up slot).

I planned an hour-long lunchtime walk with a friend on the first day of school and, later in the week, an evening walk with another friend. So I took time – even if it wasn’t always at night – for myself.


Undoubtedly the fact I got to test-run these rules in my own life has given me a special interest in this project. But as someone who regularly reads time management and productivity literature, I think this is an especially great book in this genre – and not just because of my sprinkling of appearances.

Laura’s writing is practical. It’s also funny and highly relatable. I described the book to someone – both topically and stylistically – as healthy comfort food for my mind. And that’s exactly what I need as I ease into a new season at work and home. She references wanting to be a “good steward of life’s possibilities,” and I feel the same way.

Admittedly, stumbling along with my own application of these rules hasn’t led me to a state of tranquility (I’m thinking I might be too high-strung to ever achieve “tranquility”?). But they have made me feel better about how I use my time. They’ve made me more mindful of my autonomy to choose well. While it’s tempting to consider a complete life overhaul, sometimes what we really need is the inspiration to finally launch a little writing space online or pick up a dusty guitar…or commit to a 10:30 p.m. bedtime (this last one is harder than it sounds).

Early in the book she writes: “I believe the big pieces in your life are probably good. I don’t want to change those. I want to change how you spend an average Tuesday.”

Well, today is an average Tuesday. I’ve written a blog post, I’ll walk the kids to school. I have a slew of meetings ahead. Likely there will have been some little adventure sprinkled in and around the remaining hours. And hopefully I’ll get to bed on time.

Your turn. It’s an average Tuesday for you, too. How do you plan on spending it?


P.S. If you’ve never heard of Laura before, I highly recommend following along with her blog. You can pre-order her book here; it launches on October 11th.

P.P.S. And because you know I love a good quote, here are some of my favourites from the book (I got an advanced galley version because of my participation, and pre-ordered my hardcover copy last week!)

Going to bed early is how grownups sleep in. [Sing it. After the shambles of my summer bedtime routine, I’m recommitting to this rule.]

There is no right way to do a morning routine. A morning routine exists to serve you. [Mornings are not. my. thing. and it’s very nice to not hear “Your life would work perfectly if only you got up by 5 a.m.” I can’t, I won’t, and Laura isn’t trying to make me.]

…strategize ways to ignore, minimize, or outsource anything that you’d like to spend less time on. [This is definitely an issue for me. I tend to crave control over everything, even if holding on to responsibilities that could be outsourced or – better yet, eliminated altogether – is driving me further into the chaos.]

When we don’t take real breaks, though, we take fake ones, which explains how you lost forty-five minutes the other day looking through photos of a high school classmate’s dog on social media and then clicking on ads for stylish pajamas. [I’m not on social media, but I still fall into this trap because, let’s admit it, dogs and cats do some pretty funny things that make for a great diversion from writing a thank you note or taking a walk!]

Tuesday will pass one way or another. All time is eventually just water under the bridge. But thinking about how we’d like to spend future time can nudge the course of the stream toward something more fun, or at least more memorable.

There is a big distinction between “never” and “not as much as I want.” [It reminds me of the wise relationship advice to avoid starting a sentence with “You always…” or “You never…” because, in reality, these blanket statements are typically both unhelpful and untrue.]

We don’t ask “where did the time go?” when we remember where the time went. [I have NEVER felt like a summer lasted as long as this one. And while it’s true that we started things early, I think the main reason this summer has felt so long is because it has been filled with highly memorable adventures – especially our never-ending quest to find public bathrooms on our road trip.]

Seconds tick forward with the steady beat of a metronome, and yet we experience time in vastly changing ways depending on what we’ve done with it.

To plan adventures each week, we have to plan our weeks…with a satisfying emphasis on planning what we want to do, and not just what we need to do. [I do like the spontaneity of heading out in search of unplanned adventures, but there is a special satisfaction of anticipatory delight when we plan adventures in advance. And anything can become an adventure if we make it so; see next quote.]

…adventure is more a state of mind than an objective standard of measurement.

To qualify as an adventure, something needs to be enjoyable, awe-inspiring, meaningful, or at least generate a really good story for parties. [I mostly love this quote for her permission to classify something as an adventure solely on the basis that it makes for a “really good story for parties.” This reminds me of The things that go wrong often make the best memories line I say regularly.]

A lot of time when we feel tired, it’s not necessarily our bodies are lacking energy, it’s that our minds need change. Kathleen Paley [Yes, yes, yes!]

Tasks expand to fill the available space. When we give them less time, they take less time. [Simple but brilliant. And we all know this to be true.]

Ultimately, there are no prizes given for enjoying your life the least. And there are no prizes given for being too busy to get what matters done. If you like how you spend your time, great. If you don’t like it, change it.

She borrows Brigid Schulte’s description of small pockets of time throughout our day as being “time confetti.” [This description made me smile! It sounds like something Ingrid Fetell Lee would say if she were writing on the aesthetics of time. Time confetti = a minute here, two minutes there that we can turn into something that is, if not overtly productive, fundamentally joyful.]

Header photo by Nong V on Unsplash

Casual Friday + Back to School

It official! The kids are back in school and, for the first time since March of 2020, things felt largely…normal. There is no mask mandate, though there are still extra COVID precautions in place. We all had predictable jitters. One child declared their teacher was “very strict” but that concern already seems to have abated somewhat. Another child was quite distraught (angsty you could even argue) over class configuration. But we’re almost through the first week and it does feel good.

I purposefully left most of Tuesday open; I did a few hours of deep work early in the day, but stopped in time for a scheduled lunchtime walk with a friend. She started working in town last spring, but we’ve only managed to overlap on her lunch break a handful of times. Tuesday afternoon, after the unpacking-bookbag rigmarole, we went to play tennis as a family. Note to self: I am officially horrible at any team and/or ball sport. Horrible. But it was still very fun and I’m excited to do this more frequently (and get slightly less horrible?).

Wednesday and Thursday were a gong show of meetings, interspersed with checking in on contractors finishing the last of our renovation work. September and October are my busiest months of the year at the university. It’s expected, of course, but always surprises me just a bit. Things are going well overall and I’m doing my best to address each curve ball as it comes – both at work and in terms of the house.

While the return to school didn’t magically make our lives feel like a day at the spa (there are lunchboxes to prepare, school forms to fill out, and lots of post-school emotions from the kiddos), it has felt good to slowly ease back into a rhythm.

A few tidbits from the week.

SOUP | I made a soup! I haven’t yet catalogued all the great reader suggestions for soup recipes and ended up making a loose version of the Pioneer Woman’s Chicken Tortilla Soup. I’ve been making this for years and while no one “adores” it, I had all the necessary ingredients and it was a great way to use up some leftover veggies in the fridge.

COOKIES | I rarely make cookies these days. I decided if we were going to consume giant circles of refined carbohydrates, I might as well outsource the cooking bit somewhere else. As a result, we don’t eat many cookies. But for the first few years Abby was in elementary school, I always made a fresh batch of cookies (or some other homemade treat) on Friday afternoons for when she arrived home. In honour of our fresh start, I whipped up a batch of chocolate chip cookies that were all ooey and gooey when the kids walked through the door after their first day of school. About this they had no complaints.

Flowers spotted at the end of a run. So pretty!

RUNNING | I’m trying to ramp up my running efforts ahead of my 5K next month. Though I haven’t been running a lot over the summer, I’ve averaged at least one run each week, almost always over 5 km. So, on paper, it shouldn’t be hard to increase output, but my ankles and knees are definitely protesting a bit.

I’ve done two runs with run-walk-run intervals (a huge shout-out to Jenny on this one!) and my splits are faster. Like 12 sec/km faster. I know this is an underlying message of this particular running strategy, but it was still shocking (and a bit embarrassing) that I run a kilometer faster…when I walk a portion of the distance.

In adorable running news, one of my partners has been Levi who has been very enthused about running lately. One night I came up from the office just as John was tucking him into bed. I mentioned casually I was headed out for a run and he pounced on the opportunity. Cue a change back into play clothes followed by a leisurely 3 km walk-run combo. (Never again, though. He came home hungry and spent 20 minutes eating, which required another round of teeth-brushing, followed by changing back into pajamas, then out for water etc., etc. It was very cute, logistical nightmares of bedtime routines aside).

SLEEP/MORNING ROUTINE | I remain committed to shutting off my light by 10:30 pm and, for the most part, it’s going well. My alarm goes off at 6:30 am. If sheer willpower could transform a person into a morning lark, I’d be up doing calisthenics on the front lawn by 4:30 am every day. Alas, I am not a morning person. No matter how many things I try to make it so. I don’t like mornings (anything before, say, 7:30 am = early to me). I also know conventional wisdom says things like “Don’t turn on your phone right away. Don’t check your e-mail when you get up.” Honestly, doing a quick check of e-mails and texts in the morning is about the best segue into my day I’ve found, and it means I can check at least one to-do off my list before we launch into the kids morning routine.

Is there room for improvement? Sure. But so far, I’m happy with the cadence we’re slowly settling in to.


And that’s a wrap. Happy weekending friends. Any fun plans for the next few days? Did anyone else launch school-age kids back into an academic year earlier this week?

Header photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Things Making Me Smile

I love writing posts like this – brain dumps of the little things that brighten up my days. Especially since those “smile-triggers” can often appear out of nowhere. I expect to grin when I leave from a show on Broadway, but maybe not when I walk by a parking lot.

In no particular order, some things making me smile lately.

Earl Grey, bagged, with oat milk on the side.
  • Three smiles at a coffee shop. Last week I had a few hours of time to dedicate to deep work on a project. I headed to my favourite coffee shop (Smile #1), turned off all Wifi connectivity and settled in to work. I’ve been going to this coffee shop for years now but between masks and changes in personnel – and despite the fact I always make the same order – I have to provide full instructions every time. Earl Grey, bagged, oat milk on the side. This day I walked up to the (relatively new) barista and launched into my ordering spiel and when I was almost finished she said “With oat milk on the side, right?” Yes! I do want oat milk on the side. The fact she remembered the final nuance to my order made me grin from ear to ear (Smile #2). I settled into my seat and pulled out my little pencil case. I’ve owned this…for a long time. It was gifted to me by an aunt when I was just a kid. Since finding merchandise labeled as Elisabeth with an “s” is basically impossible, she personalized it for me. My Mom found it stashed away somewhere and gave it back to me a few years ago. I love that I’ve come full circle to using this childhood pencil case again (Smile #3).
  • Note to a friend. I left the coffee shop – having made great progress on my project! – and decided to fit in my daily 1 km walk before collecting the kids from a morning activity. A few minutes into my walk I saw what I knew to be a friend’s vehicle parked in a nearby lot. I rummaged through my bookbag and wrote a quick note of hello and stuck it under her windshield. It made me smile to know it would make her smile to receive this note at the end of the day!
Luckett Vineyards – the view is even more spectacular in person as the picture doesn’t capture the fact those cliffs in the background are a stunning red clay!
  • Fall mums + a view. One afternoon last week a friend called me out of the blue and asked if I wanted to meet at a local nursery to help her pick out some fall mums. A few hours later we met and dithered over what mums looked “the happiest.” True story, I actually used Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe to make my final choice because I am just that infantile and opposed to making decisions. I came home with three beautiful plants that now make me smile every time I approach our house. Then we took a quick spin up the hill to a local winery to appreciate the views which are spectacular. This much natural beauty ten minutes from home? Smile.
  • A “perfect” Saturday? Full of smiles.
  • My pedicure. It is still going strong nearly a month later!
  • The most adorable fire hydrants. Almost all the fire hydrants in Liverpool, Nova Scotia are painted to resemble the King’s Orange Rangers who defended the town against American privateers in the 1700s. I always love spotting this adorable detail in yet another quaint Nova Scotia town (it’s right next to the beach we visited on Saturday).
  • Meatball. He really is just the sweetest, cuddliest little fella. I owe you pictures!

Your turn. What’s been making you smile lately?

Recent Demerits and Gold Stars

I view September as a sort of annual reset, especially now that both kids are in school. Our schedules change dramatically over the summer and the return to a more structured family routine gives me a new lease on life. Summer is lovely, but fall has long been my favourite season.

It also feels like an appropriate time to catalog recent foibles and successes with a look toward positive growth in the months ahead.

Let’s start with the bad news first, shall we?

demerits

  • Sleep hygiene. Sigh. This has been an absolute mess since…late May. When we came back from South Carolina I stayed up late every night to watch a 13-part Netflix documentary. Then the whole time we were on our Toronto/New York City road trip I stayed up for at least an hour after everyone else went to sleep in an effort to maintain my sanity. This was a double-edged sword since I was often running on 5-6 hours sleep and trying to manage the ups and downs of a big family vacation on too little sleep. Alas, I continued to ignore common sense and stayed up late when we had company visiting – and then I’d stay up even LATER after I retreated to bed in an effort to unwind. The situation is dire. I’ve averaged 6 hours most nights over the last three months, and I function best when I get closer to 8. Over the last week I’ve been respecting a reasonable bedtime (10:30 pm most nights), and I’m optimistic things will continue to improve as our whole family routine morphs to accommodate school scheduling.
  • Library faux pas. I knowingly kept an overdue book an extra week. But here’s the worst part of this demerit – I knew it was an in-demand book. I wasn’t able to renew it, and the only reason I didn’t prioritize getting it back on time was because our library no longer charges fines on overdue books. Even if it was only going to cost me $0.50, I would have moved mountains to get that book back on time. But with no monetary strings attached, I kept on reading at a leisurely pace long after its due date. This is the ONLY time I have knowingly done this, but as someone acutely aware of the frustration of waiting for a book when patrons are keeping books past their due date…I know better.
  • Lack of vegetables. I am basically being kept alive by chips, hotdogs, and ice cream. Thankfully this is a bit of an over-simplification of my summer diet – there has been hand-roll sushi and Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon and BBQ and lots of cucumber salads and watermelon and plums and apples. But still. I’ve had more hot dogs and ice cream over the last three months than I usually consume in three summers and I regret not putting a bit more effort into incorporating additional fruits and vegetables. Bring on the soups!
  • Ignoring my planner. I’ve managed to stay relatively organized, but it makes me a bit sad to look back at July/August and not have a neat continuation of my planning structure from the rest of the year. My weekly attempts at planning almost make the whole situation more pathetic as I’ll rally on Monday/Tuesday and then have nothing for Wednesday – Sunday. I think I’m going to make maintaining my planner over the summer an official 2023 goal. Biblically, I know we’re not supposed to put too much stock in tomorrow (the older I get, the more I learn this to be true!), so I’m trying to hold on to my plans with hands wide open – but having colour-coded grids and neat agenda items in place for September feels like a breath of fresh air. (FYI: I’m still using, and loving, the Sprouted Planner I received from SHU and I plan to order the 2023 version when it launches later this month.)
  • Abandoning my electric toothbrush. I love my electric toothbrush, especially since I splurged and got such a happy colour! Yet I’ve largely stopped using it because I’m impatient and it forces me to brush my teeth for two whole minutes. Do I really feel so rushed I can’t take 2 minutes to brush my teeth? In fact, since it’s an electric toothbrush, I don’t even have to brush my own teeth as it does all the work for me. So I am both lazy and impatient. Tsk, tsk. I also know it’s great for my oral hygiene, as feedback from my dentist confirms. Onward and upward. In September I’m aiming to use my electric toothbrush (almost) daily.

gold stars

  • I got in the water. I jumped into a pool on a windy day from the diving board. Twice. I went boogie boarding in the ocean. I’m blind as a bat without my glasses (which I can’t wear swimming) and my core temperature plunges to approximately -40 degrees about 3 seconds after I get into just about any body of water. But I chose the bigger life and even though it was freezing and I couldn’t see anything…it was also worth it. So gold star(s) to me for braving the water on multiple occasions.
  • Playing Golf with the kids. A friend taught us a simple card game called Golf. I have played hundreds of games of Golf over the summer. I really enjoy it, but I could have been perfectly happy with playing, say, 50 games of Golf. My answer is No to a lot of things as a parent. But I’ve said Yes to Golf almost every time the kids have asked and I don’t regret those yeses at all.
  • Showing up for our summer of fun. There were plenty of days where I was checked out mentally and physically. But, for the most part, I’ve tried to go along for the ride. Talking with company. Making favourite dishes. Going on almost all of the outings. For the most part, staying home wasn’t going to make me feel less stressed, as there was chaos from renovations and other moving parts. And I know this too shall pass; the kids will get older, we might not always live in this part of the world, I have no idea what the coming months and years will bring. So I said yes more than I necessarily expected I would.
  • No middle-of-the-night bathroom breaks. I wrote before about how my awful bout of insomnia last fall was primarily triggered by waking up to use the bathroom. Since my second C-section, I’ve had a lot of issues with scar tissue adhesion and osteopathy has really, really helped. But when things improved, I let treatments lapse for over a year (demerit alert). Months ago I scheduled an appointment and within a week my nighttime waking – to use the bathroom at least – was completely eliminated. Gold star to osteopathy and gold star to me for making the appointment.

Your turn. Any demerits or gold stars you’re wanting to share as the summer season starts winding down? Has anyone else had great results from osteopathy? Anyone else committing to improved sleep hygiene this fall?

Header photo by Crystal de Passillé-Chabot on Unsplash

You’re An Adult. You Can Give Yourself Permission (Repost)

Back with another repost which, ironically enough, corresponds with me spending a summer eating intuitively (or, as I look back on other stages of my life – just eating normally). Also ironic? How I mention being responsible about my bedtime which is a complete and utter lie this summer. The bedtime situation is dire, friends.


Not long ago I stumbled across an essay written by a woman dealing with an esophageal burn. To promote healing and lessen the pain, it was recommended that she follow a soft-food diet.

With many staple foods no longer an option, she was forced to confront the slew of arbitrary rules she had assigned to her eating over the years. In time, through consultation with a dietician, she was able to switch her focus to finding foods that didn’t cause discomfort, which required disregarding many of those self-imposed restrictions. She writes:

“I had never eaten a pint of ice cream as a meal in my life; I was convinced this was some kind of food rubicon I would cross, and that afterwards, all my meals would become pints of ice cream.”

One day, hungry, and stuck in traffic, she bought ice cream:

“I ate my fill of dulce de leche ice cream with a plastic spoon as it grew cool and viscous at the edges and felt like I’d won a prize. Literally nothing bad happened. Instead, two good things happened: I was no longer painfully hungry, and I’d had ice cream.”

While the article then turns to discussing the benefits of intuitive eating – an approach to food that involves consuming foods to satisfy hunger, without restriction or labeling foods as “good” or “bad” – I was struck by her final observation.

At the worst of my injury, friends would say enviously, Oh, at least you get to eat all this ice cream.

But guess what: We all do, whenever we want.

Wait a minute? I can eat ice cream for supper?

This reminds me of this fascinating article/podcast episode by Gretchen Rubin where she discusses the experience of Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgaard. Ironically enough, this story also involves an adult consuming ice cream in a way most would consider unusual in the context of the unwritten “rules” of adult moderation (he ate two ice cream cones in front of his children). It also succinctly highlights that we adults have far more autonomy over basic decisions than we acknowledge or leverage.


As a side effect of mild anemia, I struggle with cold extremities; my hands and feet are perpetually frozen (ice blocks, my family calls them). I exercise regularly, bundle up, wear heated socks, use Magic Bags constantly, turn up the heat, wear slippers, and have invested in high-quality winter gear for Canadian living. But, at the end of many days, the only thing that can bring relief is a very hot shower. For years I would look forward to the evening so I could finally get warm, desperate to get the kids settled in bed so I could finally get relief from the penetrating cold.

Then I had an epiphany. I could take two showers in a single day. I could take ten if I wanted to. There was no Shower Patrol limiting my access; there was no cutoff valve on the hot water tank that would stop me after five minutes of gloriously scalding water.

While I don’t do it very often, on those particularly frigid days when I just cannot get warm, I take a second shower. And literally nothing bad has ever happened.

Another example involves sleep. One evening John and I, usually relatively responsible about our bedtime, stayed up and binged the entire Waco mini-series on Netflix. It was close to 2 AM before we finished and I felt both horribly guilty and exhilarated. It felt like I had just broken some high school-era curfew; as if when the morning rolled around and my elders learned about this, I’d be grounded for a month and lose access to the family car.

But, once again, nothing bad happened.

Truth is, I am an adult. A perk – and curse – is the right to make a tremendous number of decisions. Turns out, most of the rules I project onto my life are my own construct.

I can eat ice cream for supper. I can have dessert before a meal. I can mix a load of light and dark laundry. I can say yes to that late-night conversation with a friend, even though it’s past my bedtime; I can skip my morning run even if I’ve got a 30-day exercise streak; I can decide not to give teacher gifts this year.


Mileage will vary on this; I suspect different personality types would find wildly different applications. And I’m not advocating for the rampant embrace of unhealthy decisions. But I think we would do well to revisit the rules we’ve assigned and see if they are adequately serving our needs. Because eating ice cream for supper doesn’t make me an unhealthy person…it just makes me a person who ate ice cream for supper.

I’m actually not a big fan of ice cream anyway…now Sweet Chili Heat Doritos are another story. But chances are, if I eat a bag for supper tomorrow night, literally nothing bad will happen.


Thoughts?

Header photo by Rachael Gorjestani on Unsplash

Casual Friday + Not My Circus

Where did that week go? I’ve felt like the ball inside a pinball machine lately – sometimes in freefall, sometimes getting whacked around by the flippers; sometimes up, sometimes down, sometimes careening around too fast to tell what way is up!

This summer has been a wild ride, but it has also scored high in adventure. I’m ready to hop off for a while, but we’re coasting back on the homestretch this weekend, squeezing in one final adventure with friends.


For the first time in months, the exterior of our house isn’t at least partially covered in staging. We can open our sliding door, walk outside, and actually use our new deck. Imagine that.

There is still lots to be done. We have no functional doorbell or exterior lighting on one side. The drywall is very much a work in progress. The energy assessment I was trying to plan around? The auditor got COVID, so the appointment has been rescheduled for a month from now.

Our final round of company has come and gone. We had a good visit. It was chaotic, but I think being in the middle of the tornado was a lot less stressful than anticipating the tornado. We made lots of great memories and in some of the more unpleasant moments (five kids in a confined space is bound to produce many tears and arguments), I told myself: “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” This is now officially one of my new favourite sayings. I read it in a book a few weeks ago and didn’t think much about it until I was listening to a child tantrum. Since it wasn’t one of my own, I opted to remove myself from the situation. There was literally nothing I could (or needed to) do, so why stress? It was even a little bit…relaxing. To hear a stressful situation unfolding and know I had no role to play provided a weird counterbalance to my overanxious mind. Not my circus, not my monkey.

We went to the beach on an absolutely gorgeous day. Beaches in Nova Scotia are almost always at least ten degrees colder than any place inland. There is often fog. I packed long-sleeved shirts and braced myself for frigid temperatures.

It was hot. It was sunny. We picnicked out of the back of the car. Every child and adult had a great time. I fit in my 1 km walk along the beach. I played catch with Levi in the water for an hour. I went boogie-boarding and caught two great waves. (I rarely submerge while at the beach because I find it so cold). It was all a lot fun. And I let out a proverbial sigh of relief. People are visiting. People are happy. We are surviving and enjoying this.

We had a bonfire supper on the beach. Kids threw rocks into the water and hunted for live crabs and other “sea creatures.” They got filthy – mud and s’mores is quite a combination – and then came home and sat on our couch. Sigh.

Abby is willing to create art using any canvas; this night, it was the smooth rocks at her feet.

I took one day off from the adventuring. I went to my favourite cafe for several hours and caught up on work (and peace and quiet) while the rest of the family went to our all-time favourite NS destination – Peggy’s Cove.

Then I came home and powered through tasks at high speed.

Don’t kid yourself – there were plenty of moments where I thought I might lose my mind. Most notably, our rainy Tuesday where lots of things went awry including a bike crash incident. Things were capped off by a minor flood in the upstairs bathroom where water leaked through the floor into the ceiling below. (If you’ve been reading here for long, you know water woes are apparently my lot in life.)

I didn’t cry, but I definitely wasn’t on my A-game during many moments. That’s okay.

And I persisted with my joyfinding exercise during the week, making notes in my daytimer when something made me smile. Here are some moments that made the cut:

joyfinding

  • A senior I spotted confidently wearing the most adorable blue and white polka dot dress. Her dress just looked so…happy!
  • Following my sister’s progress at Ironman Tremblant. I’ve never monitored her progress so closely and it was a lot of fun. She did great, despite some unfortunate complications.
  • This sign, spotted en route to the beach. We try to regularly appreciate the efforts of volunteer firefighters (we know several) – and thought this was an effective and funny – albeit honest – way of advertising the position.
  • Watching Top Gun again. This is just such a great movie. One evening we had all the kids in bed in time to have an adults-only supper and movie night. Bonus points because while we watched, we ate a homemade chocolate PB sauce drizzled over ice cream, topped with Skor bits and crushed Oreos. (Which felt even more indulgent since we hadn’t given the kids any dessert at their supper time!)
  • Watching Abby take the plunge at a local waterfall.
  • Toddler exploration is always a joy to watch. All my nephews were very enthusiastic crab hunters – we found a lot and managed to avoid pinched fingers or toes!
  • Waking up yesterday morning in a tent. I’m not a big camping fan and it doesn’t feel like it fully counts because I’m 10 feet from running water (perhaps this deserves the glamping designation?), but it’s still a thrill.
  • Watching the sun set from the middle of the lake with my parents. It never gets old. Our transportation: a motorized canoe we’ve been using for decades.

Happy weekending.