Casual Friday + This Too Shall Pass

And just like that, we’re nearing the end of March Break. I’m tired – there were a lot of hours to fill – but I’m also satisfied with all the fun we managed to squeeze into the days.

While we didn’t escape the cold/snow/rain of winter in Canada, we did escape the normal routines of life by visiting my parents in New Brunswick.

If you look up a definition for the “middle of nowhere,” there should be a picture of my parent’s home. They live deep in the woods, surrounded by trees on one side and water on the other with their nearest neighbour over a kilometer away. This isolated spot also happens to be one of our favourite places on earth.

There’s nothing fancy about their home – it’s quite small and has lots of creaks and drafts; we pack tattered clothes and expect to spend lots of time outside getting dirty (or wet). But it’s a truly magical location.

I always love seeing my parents. Lately, though, I’ll admit each visit seems to be tinged with sadness – the sort that is inevitable when you have aging parents. They’re still in relatively good health, but I can’t help but wonder how many more years remain where my Dad will split his own wood and tap maple trees and tromp through the snow. How long will my Mom be able to make her famous cookies and beat us in games of Crokinole and sit down at random points in the day to play the piano?

No one knows what the future holds. I understand this. It’s best this way, but there is still the gnawing sadness – with hints of desperation – that asks: “What if this is the last time?” Because life – at any age – can change in an instant. Instead of feeling burdened by this reality (though, admittedly, it does feel heavy), I try to focus on saying yes to memory-making activities for everyone’s sake – myself, my parents, the kids.

For so many years I’ve reminded myself “This too shall pass!” Knee-deep in diapers? This too shall pass. Weary of home renovations or work stresses or health challenges? This too shall pass

But I’m learning that “This too shall pass” is relevant for good moments, too – things we don’t want to “pass.” These visits with my parents in their home on the lake? This too shall pass.

Now let’s set those big thoughts aside and dive into a little recap of the week. Note: many of the pictures below (and in other blog posts, too) come from John – my favourite photographer, whose abilities far outstrip my own. I don’t credit his photos specifically, but want readers to assume all the best pictures come from him!

MAPLE SYRUP | We were planning to participate in a maple syrup demonstration at a local historical site, but the weather conspired against us and we opted to stay home. My father was happy to give the kids a behind-the-scenes peek into the art of sugaring. He hasn’t tapped trees in years but still had all the relevant equipment. This activity was, without a doubt, the highlight of my week.

Just being in the woods feels like such a gift. As much as I have loathed winter this year, I really do feel at home trudging through the snow; seeing raccoon (and moose and bear – I told you they lived in the middle of nowhere) tracks; smelling pine and fir trees (this always make me think of Christmas, regardless of the time of year).

We simmered sap on the wood stove for days; the week of collecting will produce enough maple syrup for only a single supper of waffles, but how delightful! In a world where I simply add a jug of maple syrup to my grocery order a few times a year, to have had a hand in every step of the process was prime #joyfinding.


Levi and I went out sledding one evening right before supper and were just in time to catch the beginnings of a beautiful sunset. Hard to believe we’ll be swimming here in just a few months.

BONFIRE | Dad made a fire in the snow one evening after supper and we roasted marshmallows, sandwiching them between homemade chocolate chip cookies for a delicious (albeit sticky) dessert.

EATING | Speaking of food. Oh goodness. Any plans for intuitive eating went out the window this week and I tried to be okay with that. Mom made a new homemade peanut butter toffee (which was unspeakably addictive). There was a turkey dinner with all the fixings. I made East Coast donairs and chicken noodle soup. We had stew and homemade rolls, meatballs and rice, Mac n’ Cheese and all the other family favourites. The pièce de résistance: her strawberry rhubarb crisp – every mouthful was pure delight. I know they say scent is the biggest trigger of memory, but all the familiar flavours from my childhood “take me back” like nothing else.

I always lament how a visit to my parents derails my “healthy” eating patterns. I mostly avoid dairy, sugar, and refined carbs like bread and pasta. But those food groups suddenly become the central attractions. For many years I’ve brought some of my own food, or passed on dishes because of what they contained.

But, I realized, for better or for worse, making these “favourites” is one of the main ways my mother demonstrates her love! She delights in seeing the family eat and enjoy all these special food items. She feeds us the “highlight” reel and…it does make me feel loved (though my pants were uncomfortably tight by the end of the week).

*Keeping it real. At this exact moment, I heard excited shouting and found the family looking out the kitchen window watching a COYOTE walking by on the ice. Regarding my “middle of nowhere” argument, I officially rest my case.*

I’ll be glad to get back to normal fare next week and I know it wouldn’t be good for my mind or body to eat this way regularly. But reframing the food situation from this new angle helped me better appreciate the food (which is delicious, I just cannot manage reasonable portions when someone else is cooking and when refined sugar is involved) and express gratitude to my Mom – regularly – for all her time and effort.

EXERCISE | I lost count of the hours spent outside this week (partially offsetting the extra influx of sugar). We did lots and lots of walking through the woods, but I also dusted off my brother’s old cross-country skis (decades-old and held together with electrical tape, which worked like a charm). It was on this outing – with John snowshoeing – we caught sight of bear tracks.

Looking out at the island that played host to the Poison Ivy Incident of 2021.

We also took near-daily treks on the ice – a unique highway. The kids loved running and sliding between patches of snow (which they called islands). Twice we walked up the shore to an abandoned camp, which also lays claim to an old Volkswagon Beetle.

We visited two “real” parks, but the most fun was had in one the kids created for themselves in the woodshed. They made a: swing, a slide, a hammock, a table and chairs, 2 Tarzan rope swings, and they even had a “mitten tray” for holding their gloves. They spent hours and hours creating this space (my Dad drilled a hole in a board to make the swing, but they did all the rest independently, including tying all the ropes/knots, which seemed remarkably secure)!

The swing…
The slide…

WATCHING | Anne of Green Gables. Following the pattern I set in 2021 of watching movies that accompany books we read, we finally got around to watching the Megan Follows version of Anne. I hadn’t seen the movies in over a decade but remembered so many details and found myself involuntarily quoting chunks of the dialogue. I enjoyed every single minute we spent watching these together. The cherry on top – we watched the original VHS tapes my parents bought in the 1980’s. You should have seen the kid’s look of amazement when we hit rewind. It blew their mind! (My Dad reminded me that the first time our family watched these movies it was before we owned a TV so we went – you guessed it – to Ralph and Margeurite’s.)

I also finished Rainbow Valley this week. This book doesn’t even pretend to be about Anne and she rarely makes an appearance. Sigh – I miss Anne. There wasn’t nearly enough Susan, and I’m feeling a bit tired of the cliche misaligned romantic elements (and felt increasing ire against Mr. Meredith as I watched his neglected kids raise themselves). One more book to go; I have to admit watching the movies makes me want to turn around and read the first three Anne books again and stop there. Those early stories are, in Anne’s words, “deliciously good.”

GAMES | Crokinole, Sorry, UNO, Wordle (my Mom’s first exposure to this phenomenon) and more Wreck This Journal. Mom really got into the spirit of things for the “White” page and sourced all sorts of items including: lace, coconut, icing sugar, white sugar, flour, lace, bandages, gum, string, Kleenex; I, for my contribution to the project, wrote over the black lettering with white chalk.

MISC | Abby worked steadily on her button collection. My Mom has a stash to rival any seamstress and many of them came from my grandmother. Maybe Abby will hand down some of these buttons to her children or grandchildren one day?

The sweetest moment? When Mom gave Abby the elaborate jeweled buttons that had been on her going-away outfit after her wedding in 1972. You can almost make them out on the sweater my Mom is carrying over her arm. Also, do people still wear “going-away” outfits after a wedding (I didn’t)?

Two local pint-sized friends came to play outside one afternoon and we had a little pre-birthday celebration for Abby complete with cake (which Abby decorated herself). The girls brought a jar of buttons along as a gift and I continue to be amazed at the sheer diversity and beauty of all the buttons in circulation! Abby’s collection has reached about 400 at this point – and I’ve really enjoyed helping her categorize her growing stash.

Now it’s back to routine – more disciplined exercise, school, work projects, tackling laundry, and re-stocking the fridge after a week away.

And keeping it real: it’s 7:55 am on Friday and I am not feelin‘ it. I’m wearing my snow pants (inside) because the office is cold and dark (thanks, DST) and since it’s only Friday I have to come back to earth and get into the swing of work tasks. I tackled anything urgent while I was away but there is a nice jumble of non-urgent tasks that I can’t avoid any longer. All the pictures above are certainly of the ‘highlight-reel’ variety, but coming back from a little break is…anticlimactic. Looking at all the to-dos for next week feels overwhelming and, well, that’s life.

The fun, the routines? These too shall pass…so here’s to making the most of things while we can. Remembering it doesn’t have to be fancy to be memorable or joyful. Delight can come from the most unexpected of places…(like my pink puffer coat that I’m also wearing as the office warms up).

I hope everyone had a great week. It’s nice to be “back” in this space.

28 thoughts on “Casual Friday + This Too Shall Pass”

  1. First of all, it’s good to have you back!
    Your vacation looks INCREDIBLE. Your question of “What if this is the last time?” definitely has a tinge of sadness, but it can also enrich your experience. If it really were the last time you would make the most of it- eat all the food, spend quality time, not let yourself get upset by little things, treat everyone in a loving way. It sounds like that’s exactly what you did! Ideally we would be living like that all the time. Of course it doesn’t work that way in real life, but it’s a good thought to come back to as often as possible.
    Good luck getting back into the swing of things! We also had spring break this week, and my daughter has Monday off as well. I think school should always start on the Tuesday after a vacation week- much more civilized that way!

    1. Aww. Thanks, Jenny! It’s nice to be back.
      It feels like too much pressure to always live in that mindset, but it can be helpful to reframe a situation and just, in general at least, be more mindful of how quickly life can change!
      My kiddos had the Friday BEFORE March Break off, so today is the last hurrah. I went back to work (meaning I holed up in my office at home), but we’re all reconvening soon for a long family walk. It’s 11C and sunny outside, and I am GOING TO WEAR SNEAKERS. The joy of that last statement is almost too much to bear (especially since my $4 winter boots sprung a leak and I refuse to buy new winter boots because spring starts on March 21st and woe to any snow that falls after that date).

  2. I definitely can relate to that feeling of aging parents. Mine are celebrating their 50th anniversary today, and we went out to see them last weekend. Their health is good for now, but who knows, right? My MIL turns 80 this year, and she is getting more and more forgetful with each day, which is alarming, since she lives alone. It’s good to remember that moments are fleeting and that everything passes, even the good things.

    Looks like you had a fun week! I really like how you embraced the eating of the foods your mom made. Food is my love language for my kids, so I feel a kinship with your mom. After all, you can eat regular foods anytime, you don’t always get the delicious love-filled foods from mom!

    1. Congrats to your parents. My parents celebrate their 50th this summer.
      It is true – foods from childhood are such a link to the past and I hadn’t really thought about how it really is a huge way of how my Mom shows her love. And, in many ways, it’s a big part of how I show my family love, too (we joke sometimes that my husband married me because of my biscuits; I don’t think that’s entirely true, but it didn’t hurt)!
      In terms of my Mom – we all have our own favourite things and she gets a huge amount of joy out of making them for us. And the love does make them even more delicious; I don’t want anyone else’s homemade pickled beets or S&S Meatballs – I want hers.

  3. My MIL was a person who showed her love through food. Because my husband has so many food restrictions, she would do tons of research ahead of our visits and cook special things for him. When I asked, she would write down recipes for me. Whenever I pull out those recipes, I get a little teary to see them in her handwriting. It’s good you let yourself just enjoy the food – because it won’t always be the same, as you pointed out.

    I had an acquaintance who was giving away her button collection (she died about a year later from breast cancer) and I took all those buttons. I know that some of them had special memories to her and I wish I knew what those memories were. I LOVE that your mom gave Abby some special buttons and told her about the memories. It’s so sweet and wonderful and a powerful way for them to bond.

    I just realize both of these comments were about important people in my life who died and I’m really sorry about that. I think I started thinking about my own aging parent and realizing that COVID has interfered with some quality time I could spend with her. Time is so precious and fleeting!

    1. The food restrictions your husband faces provides a whole other level of showing love through food – because I’m sure your MIL wanted to make things he both enjoyed and didn’t negatively impact his body. Also, you have a great point about the handwriting, too. I have one book from my grandmother (who passed away about a decade ago, but had dementia for several decades), and I treasure the book for her handwriting. I should ask my Mom to write down a few recipes in her handwriting (she also is a “pen pal” with Abby and they exchange written notes and I’ve started saving all of those). It’s incredible what things can be such rich triggers for happy memories. Handwriting, scents, or making a long-forgotten recipe that was a childhood staple.

      I remember pawing through my Mom’s button collection when I was little, but never really thought much of it and don’t think I asked about any behind-the-scenes insights on where certain buttons came from. I LOVE that a current “thing” is trading buttons. How cute. And, also, they’re so small so having a collection of 400 of an item isn’t a bit deal (obviously now that I don’t have a toddler to keep away from such little things). There are just so many cool buttons. I legitimately have been astounded at the range of shapes, sizes, textures and materials from which the buttons are made.

  4. Mortality is a tough thing to think about. SHU shared a post in the last year or so that was all about thinking of the # of times you will see your parents going forward. It was particularly sobering to read that during the pandemic because we saw my parents a little bit less than we would have otherwise in an effort to protect them from potentially getting covid from our kids, especially in 2020 when there was no vaccine. Hopefully your parents remain in good health and you have many of these trips to look forward to. I’m going to guess they are close in age to my parents who are 73. They both have longevity in their genes, though, so I am optimistic that they will be around for 15-20 years more, potentially, and hopefully healthy for those years. My maternal grandma will turn 99 in May and she’s in excellent health. She emails, has a facebook account and I’ve introduced her to wordle!

    The visit home sounded wonderful, though! When I am at my parents lake home, I also eat differently and indulge in things I normally wouldn’t eat. My mom loves to cook and plan meals that she knows we will love. It’s definitely her love language! But it sounds like you were really active so that does offset some of the indulgences, and I do have a bit of a YOLO perspective when it comes to things like travel/visiting my parents.

    Overall we’ve had a good week although sleep hasn’t been awesome. Will is getting his 4 canines and they seem to bother him more than the molars did? I can’t wait for him to have all of his teeth! He’s been waking up early and woke up during the night several times this week. So I’m feeling a bit weary!

    Congrats on your shout-out on SHU’s blog today!!

    1. My parents are both in their early 70’s. And they have, sadly, had many friends of the same age demographic (who were in relatively good health) pass away recently. It is very sobering. Both of my grandfather’s died in their early 40’s (long before I was born!), so I am always so, so thankful that my kids have grown up being able to meet both sets of grandparents.
      My Mom had a whole grid drawn up of her meal plan which was so sweet! I was active, but still…I just have such a hard time with portion control (at the best of times) and it tends to get away from me when I’m at my parents (more than when we’re on vacation in a hotel, for example, where it isn’t as easy to say yes to seconds, or to snack endlessly on homemade taffy).

      You’ve had so many challenges lately, but hope that the sleep turns around. The time change + teething is a tough combo. Honestly – I blamed all whining and crying on teething until my kids were almost ready to hit school. It was just this ever-present thing. This too shall pass, but it can honestly feel like it’s taking forever to get through those stages of such intense sleep deprivation. Hoping you get some long stints of sleep this weekend!

      Katie (at Law and Creative) kindly mentioned the shout-out in her post; I hadn’t gotten around to SHU’s blog and was oblivious 🙂

  5. I enjoyed reading about and seeing your photos of your vacation to the middle of nowhere. I imagine you’re right about how your mother’s food is love. Good that you can enjoy it while you can. I remember the Megan Follows version of Anne. I loved it. My mother had the VHS tapes of it, too. We watched them many times over.

    1. Megan Follows IS Anne to me. Maybe that’s why the later books in the series don’t resonate to the same level? I think I stop picturing Megan Follows once Anne starts having babies?

  6. I am rediscovering Anne through my daughter, and I love her so much. Also! I am so happy to have found your blog. This post was just lovely. My dad died in 2019, and I miss those normal visits home more than I can say. I am so happy that you have the presence of mind to appreciate them while they’re happening.

    1. Thanks, Sarah. And welcome!
      It’s the little, “normal” moments that can be the richest. I’m trying not to take them for granted, while also recognizing I can’t hold on to them with an iron grip.

  7. My parents are also getting older and I’m more aware than ever that “this too shall pass” applies to the good as well as the bad.

    What a beautiful week spent with family. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Such beautiful pictures!!! Sounds like you had a great week. I can relate to your thoughts on aging parents. Mine live just a few blocks from us, so we see each other often. It’s a bit of a Catch-22, though, because while I appreciate having them close by, there are times when I do wish for a little more distance, LOL.

    1. I can relate – my parents rented a home where I live two winters pre-COVID. I LOVED having them so close, but it also felt nice to have some separation because it just made the time I spent with them even more precious.
      If borders re-open next winter (they can get into NS but the person they rent from/housesit for goes to New Zealand), they’ll likely spend 4 months living nearby and I’m very excited about that! But the rest of the year we see them every few months which seems like a nice rhythm…

  9. Oof, I just about lost myself in your dreamy words. I want to go to your parent’s house! Your words: “the gnawing sadness – with hints of desperation – that asks: “What if this is the last time?” resonate so deeply with me. I lost my mum last year and I had been feeling that for some time. I would grab each moment and savour it and yet, in the end, it still wasn’t enough. It never is. After losing my niece soon afterwards I realised that I had to stop the gnawing sadness about multiple “what ifs” because I notice that even when we do try to pay attention, it’s still never enough. So I’m going through a period of trying to just be. To absorb everything around me; people, place, time, and be okay with that. I hope that makes sense. Probably sounds a bit rambling! But, anyway, your words hit me deeply and I wish you many more wonderfully magical times at your parents house in the woods. Not least because I would like to be taken there again through your words!

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Alice.
      I’m so sorry for the loss of both your mum and niece. That’s the hardest thing about love, isn’t it, that it almost always involves some form of saying goodbye and heartbreak. And vulnerability. Love makes us feel vulnerable and I feel that way about my parents right now – and vulnerability is always hard (though, life for all of us is “but a vapour”)
      Everything you say makes COMPLETE sense! There is a lot of talk about seizing the moment, but as soon as we try to grab ahold of experiences we start to realize we can’t actually hold life steady in our hands. Letting go and just being can be so, so hard but I’m trying to do this as much as possible, too.
      For me the biggest shift in my approach is by paying attention. Looking around me at the little details that make a moment rich. Attention is the first step in devotion, and it’s amazing what we see when we slow down and absorb all the beauty and wonder in the mundane details of life. Just yesterday on a family walk I noticed a stick shaped exactly like a “Y” – I was about to walk by it but stopped, took a picture, and showed the stick to my son. That example may sound ridiculously unimportant, but it was just this added layer of richness to the experience (because, admittedly, dragging the kids out on a long family walk isn’t always their idea of a fun time!).
      Thanks again for your lovely comment <3

  10. Oh, and I almost forgot! Anne! I watched the entire series on VHS tape when I was pregnant with my daughter (I had watched it as a child too) and delighted in it again as an adult. Now, to observe my own daughter’s love of Anne fills me with happiness every time.

    1. They are such classic films that really get to the heart of the books (which I always appreciated).
      I couldn’t believe how much dialogue I remembered!
      I hope I’ve made converts of my kids; they both really enjoyed when we read the first book together and both were absolutely mesmerized by the movies.

  11. Wow, your parents live in a truly beautiful place. How wonderful that your children get to spend time there. I would love to tap for syrup, I have never done it. I hear you on ageing parents, it is a worry and a there is a time when this shall pass but not in good way. I try to savour all the moments but it is hard isn’t it, knowing that there will be an end at some point.

    Lovely to read along with your in your space. I am glad you had a lovely holiday with your family.

  12. Oh, Elisabeth. What a magical time with your parents at this absolutely stunning place in nature. The pictures are wonderful and I am so glad you had this precious time together.
    I must admit, with Covid and all (and the fact that I haven’t seen my parents – who are also getting older, who would have thought?- for 2,5 years), I’ve been thinking a lot about what you said about the “limited time” we have left with our loved ones. Life is always fragile and things can happen at any time, I’ve been especially thinking about the fact that I don’t see my parents very often as it is and I wonder how long I’ll be able to spend time with them. They’re both in excellent health and active, but you still never know… hold these special moment close to your heart <3

    1. I’m so sorry you’ve been apart from family for so long, San. Yet another thing that Covid has “stolen” from our lives.
      We do never know and I try to extend that thought to all the special people in my life. Of course my parents are aging and so that takes precedent in my mind, but I’ve had friends survive cancer…and other friends succumb to it. The older I get, the more I realize life is so, so fragile and I want to make as memories as possible with loved ones because I never know when I might lose one of them (or have something happen to me). Why put off to tomorrow what I can do today?

  13. Oh, this speaks to me, Elisabeth. I am so, so glad you got this time in the woods with your family and your parents. I know all too well the feeling of “how many more times?”, despite their (current) good health and ability to do what they want to do, when they want to do it. Your time in the woods looks spectacular, if a bit chilly, and the quality family time you had is so much fun to see. I love that your mom and Abby collect buttons, and that your mom recognizes Abby’s passion and contributes to it with important family heirlooms. My parents were married the same year, in April, and I don’t remember my mother having a going-away outfit in pictures but perhaps she did?

    I am glad that you (finally) gave in and indulged your mother’s need to nurture and feed you. It’s her love language, perhaps? (Is feeding others a love language? If not, it should be, because that is my mother’s too!) I struggle with the same but then often realize (or remind myself) that the time spent with family and the joy in their presence far outweigh any perceived negatives of derailing my usual eating habits. Plus, you were so physically active I suspect you offset a fair amount of that delicious food!

    I hope that reentry smoothed out and that now, a week later, you are feeling a bit more settled.

    Oh, and Anne! I think my approach is generally to think of the books post-House of Dreams as being “Anne adjacent” vs. “Anne centered”. That helps, a bit. But it’s still hard to see the focus on the other characters, and find them wanting when compared to the young Anne and her mischievousness. (That took me 2 tries, btw. :>)

    Hugs to you on this Friday.

    1. I don’t think food is officially a love language, but it definitely has lots of elements of Acts of Service involved!
      Good job on mischievousness – I only JUST started spelling spell colleague correctly.

  14. I also have a tinge of sadness about doing things for the last time, or with a “this too shall pass” feeling. When I was hanging ornaments on my Christmas tree last November, I had a strong “this too shall pass” memory, knowing that Christmas may not always be as joyful as it is now when my mom is no longer here to enjoy it. I wish I could be better at savoring that feeling and not feeling melancholy about it.

    Your March break looks so lovely! I’m glad you were able to spend lots of time with your parents and enjoy the wonderfulness of being secluded with the ones you love.

    1. Christmas is definitely a major point of reflection for me – charged with so many memories! The melancholy IS part of how I process that experience. I’m so excited to read Susan Cain’s new book Bittersweet because I think I’ll really be able to relate!

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