Casual Friday + The “Lights” Game

Hypocrite, thy name is Elisabeth.

Last Friday I wrote the following: “I will remain absolutely rigid about staying offline (for work purposes) all weekend.

Yesterday I wrote about how much I value margins.

(You can surely see where this is going.)


March, for all my talk of simplicity and white space, has been very hectic. Some of it is self-induced – wanting to cram lots of fun into these sabbatical days – and some of it is just…well, life has a habit of getting busy.

By Sunday, I felt utterly swamped and demoralized for the week ahead. John asked if I wanted to carve out some time to work in the office. On principle I said no, but then rethought the situation and decided that getting a few things off my to-do list would make the week feel so much lighter. Two hours later, I had drafted a dozen e-mails to send out first thing Monday morning, dealt with piles of paperwork that had accumulated by my desk, and generally managed to claw back some margin for my week.

I guess the moral of the story is this: I like margin, but sometimes have to bend my own rules to achieve it.


For years now we’ve played a game (for lack of a better word) around the supper table. (It ebbs and flows; we might go a month without posing these questions, or it might happen daily for weeks.)

We ask: What was a lowlight, what was a medium-light, and what was a highlight from your day?

Lowlights and highlights tend to be rather obvious, but we like to sneak in another opportunity for positive news. Medium-lights are things we enjoyed but that fall short of deserving the “highlight” label.

Once we spill the beans (the adults play too), we ask everyone to categorize their day as a low-, medium-, or highlight day.

So here, without further ado, are my answers for the week (I’d say it was medium-light week with lots of great highlights).

LOWLIGHTS |

  • A tough peripheral situation that cast a wide shadow.
  • PMS that has lasted almost two weeks. You know before you start an arm wrestle with someone you agree the other party can call mercy? Mercy.
  • A rambunctious game of hallway soccer (with a firm ball…not our beloved IKEA balls) got out of hand and a sconce shade fell and broke…which means if we want a shade again, we’ll almost certainly have to replace both sconces. Sigh.
  • Grating my finger. I’ve mentioned before how much I hate grating. I do everything to avoid this activity. So, one might ask, how did you come to grate your finger? Simply BY WASHING DISHES. I grated my thumb, badly, washing our microplane.

MEDIUM-LIGHTS |

  • Wearing sneakers on most of my walks. I’ve even ditched snow pants several times. Spring is coming (even though it’s currently snowing outside my window).
  • There was an error with my paychecks from January through to the end of February; I discovered the issue a few weeks ago and it finally got fixed. What a happy moment to have the back-pay show up in the bank account. (Yet another reason to track what money flows in and out. If I hadn’t identified the issue, it almost certainly would have stayed off their radar in the payroll office!)
  • My giant bowl of oatmeal Sunday night. I love oatmeal, though in truth I just view it as a vehicle for all the toppings; I prepared 1/3 cup of oatmeal and added about a cup of toppings – walnuts, pumpkin and chia seeds, chocolate chips, Greek yogurt, raspberries, banana, cinnamon, peanut butter, oat milk. It was so, so delicious.
  • We had a pirate supper – it has been years but the kids had a playmate over for supper and it was very fun and easy!
  • John taught me how to use the record player. The whole process seemed very intimidating. But now I know. And oh how I love listening to music!
  • Speaking of music, we finally moved a Google Speaker into the office. Since John and I share an office – and he was typically on work calls 8-10 hours a day – I couldn’t play music out loud, and defaulted to using my headphones. Now I am often working alone in the office and it has been such a treat to play music through a speaker. A tiny change, but one I’m disproportionately happy about.
  • Playing card games after supper one night as a family, with no evening meetings to work around! #Sabbatical

HIGHLIGHTS |

  • A successful birthday party for Abby. There was giggling and lots of special food and games. Hosting is not my forte, but I think it went well and everyone seemed to have a good time. I’ll share a few more details in another post!
  • The picture below is not going to seem like a big deal. But it is a VERY big deal. For almost a year we have had no blinds on our windows (renovations) and it made our main room into, as my father so graciously put it, a “fishbowl.” I dreaded the thought of shopping for custom blinds (it’s almost as painful as shopping for paint). We are so unhandy it’s laughable. But we did it and we re-used our old blinds (so this project was free) and they look great and, most importantly, it’s done.
  • Monday-night supper invites. We’ve started inviting people over for supper on Monday. Odd timing, I know – but it’s perfect. Guests come around 5, so we have enough time to tackle the post-school stuff that needs doing – lunchboxes are put away, homework is completed. I’ve made up a big pot of something on Sunday and just have to heat it up Monday for the crowd; one week it was soup and I set out two small bowls of crackers, this past Monday it was Chicken Mango Curry (the recipe is buried in this post) and I made up rice and a 1/2 batch of cornbread. It’s hard to get simpler than soup and crackers, but it has felt so nice to welcome people back into the house after COVID + John’s crazy working schedule. Definitely simple.
  • The Button Party. Abby and some friends have been collecting buttons from all sorts of sources. There are so many incredibly beautiful, unique/bizarre buttons out there! A mom of two of the girls involved in this button trading offered to host a Button Party. She sent pictures of the girls on the floor with their piles of buttons – it looked like a rainbow had exploded in her living room! So many colours and shapes. How fun!
  • Walking with Levi’s class to skating. When I cleaned the snow off the car (sad, but true!) and headed down, I was less than enthused. But it ended up being so much fun. Mostly because the kids loved having a parent there skating with them. Levi walked with me the whole way which was sweet. I’m so glad I said “Yes!” when the teacher asked and I’m so thankful the kids can do some of these pre-COVID activities, even if they do still involve masks and separate cohorts. It feels more like “normal” which I welcome for these pint-sized sweeties.
  • One of my best friends from university had an adorable baby girl – after what she described as an “accidental home birth” in her living room.
  • A few weeks ago I mentioned a situation I had been putting off; when I finally tackled the to-do, it was not. a. big. deal. Well, I did it again. At work, I had allowed a Tiny Job to morph (in my head) into a Very Big Job. One day I put on my big girl pants and just did it. Not surprisingly it ended up being a Miniscule Job and as silly as I felt for making it such a big deal, I was also elated I could cross if off my list. (What makes this even more ironic: to AVOID doing this Very Tiny Miniscule Job, I had put several hours of work into finding an alternate workaround which failed; had I tackled the Very Tiny Easy Miniscule Job first thing, I would have been so much farther ahead.)

reading

Ox-Cart Man is a classic. I love this book, and the mention of homemade maple syrup was a fun cameo. The Wolf, The Duck & The Mouse is hilarious and I adore the illustrations. But my favourite of this set was Why Do You Cry. It is an excellent affirmation of human emotions – it’s okay for us to cry! even adults! – and the kids and I agreed it was a great book.

Straw is funny (we’ve already read Chopsticks and Spoon, the other books in this “series”?); I’ve lost track of the number of times someone has picked out Grimelda: The Very Messy Witch at the library (this time it was Levi who insisted we bring it home); Caps for Sale is a classic we return to once a year or so and No Fuzzball is hilarious and another re-read.

The Lincoln Highway. I consider A Gentleman in Moscow one of my favourite fictional books ever. I didn’t finish Rules of Civility. So I have had mixed results with Amor Towles and knew that his latest book – The Lincoln Highway – had elicited some strong opinions.

Overall, I loved the book. It was a bit too long (the circus situation, Pastor John, Townhouse and a few other characters and settings could have been eliminated, in my mind), but I think the character development was superb. And I liked the ending. 4.5 stars

A few quotes:

  • …a farmer with a mortgage was like a man walking on the railing of a bridge with his arms outstretched and his eyes closed. It was a way a life in which the difference between abundance and ruin could be measured by a few inches of rain or a few nights of frost. // But a carpenter didn’t lie awake at night worrying about the weather. He welcomed the extremes of nature. He welcomed the blizzards and downpours and tornadoes. He welcomed the onset of mold and the onslaughts of insects. These were the natural forces that slowly but inevitably undermined the integrity of a house, weakening its foundations, rotting at its beams, and wilting its plaster.
  • It’s just that every day at Salina was an every-day-day…Though Billy was just a boy, or maybe because he was just a boy, he seemed to understand that while there is nothing wrong with waking up or getting dressed or having breakfast, per se, there is something fundamentally disconcerting about doing these things in the exact same fashion day in and day out, especially in the one-thousand-page version of one’s own life.

You know what would be magnificent, Billy? You know what would be absotively magnificent?

Marking his place, Billy looked up from his book. What, Wooly? What would be absotively magnificent? 

A one-of-a-kind kind of day.

  • But why doesn’t the waiter mention it, if it’s the specialty of the house?

He doesn’t mention it because it’s the specialty of the house. That’s the way it goes with Fettuccine Mio Amore. Either you know enough to order it, or you don’t deserve to eat it. 

  • Questions can be so tricky, he said, like forks in the road. You can be having such a nice conversation and someone will raise a question, and the next thing you know you’re headed off in a whole new direction. In all probability, this new road will lead you to places that are perfectly agreeable, but sometimes you just want to go in the direction you were already headed.

And just like that, I’ve finished the Anne of Green Gables series. It was one of my 22 goals for 2022 and I have to say I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Rilla of Ingleside. This book didn’t pretend to be about Anne (like Anne of Ingleside which had Anne in the title…and then wasn’t about Anne at all). In the current world order – a global pandemic and with literal wars raging – it felt like there was so much to relate to.

When they mention the juxtaposition of one day feeling “normal” and the next day waking up to a world spinning on another axis…well that has been life these past few years.

And as much as I wanted to live in the fairytale that Montgomery’s life was as golden as her heroine’s, her life, like Anne’s, contained the bitterness of war and a son that never came home. This book made me better understand the life circumstances through which she must have processed writing this final book.

  • This had all come up with the blackness and suddenness of a thundercloud. A few days ago nobody had even thought of such a thing. It was absurd to think of it now. Some way out would be found. War was a hellish, horrible, hideous thing – too horrible and hideous to happen in the twentieth century between civilized nations.
  • [When Rilla starts caring for baby Jims]: “What must I do with it tonight, Susan?” // A baby by day was dreadful enough; a baby by night was unthinkable
  • [After Rilla learns Walter has enlisted]: “I cannot bear it,” she said. And then came the awful thought that perhaps she could bear it and that there might be years of this hideous suffering before her. 
  • “It seems hundreds of years since those Green Gables days…They belonged to another world altogether. Life has been cut in two by the chasm of war. What is ahead I don’t know – but it can’t be a bit like the past. I wonder if those of us who have lived half our lives in the old world will ever feel wholly at home in the new.”

And that’s it from me for the week! I hope everyone has a great weekend filled with lots of highlights. Now I’m off to maybe/sorta be rigid about staying offline for work this weekend?

Header photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

Casual Friday + A Nature Highlight Reel

Time is funny, isn’t it? Some days seem to last forever and yet, in the blink of an eye, your firstborn wakes up one morning as an 11-year-old when you could swear – just yesterday – they were a colicky newborn.

It’s Friday – at the end of a busy week – with a little birthday party scheduled for later today. But first, a recap of the week that was…

JOYFINDING |

I spotted another (different!) knitter in church on Sunday on the other side of the (huge!) room. This knitter was working on a very large and very colourful blanket or scarf.

The kids had a sleepover on Saturday night and I heard their conversation go late into the evening. I thought one child was making up an “audiobook” for the other – they do this and have actually said “I need to finish this chapter“…about a story they’re making up on the fly. The next day I asked what they’d been talking about and one child said: “We were talking about life.” My kids are old enough to “talk about life?” What happened to discussing plot twists from the latest episode of Paw Patrol?

I was at the grocery store and the elderly lady behind me in line had one item. A box of Fruit Loops. Maybe she was buying this for a grandchild (or, more likely, a great-grandchild). Something about seeing someone so old go through the checkout with ONE ITEM and that ONE ITEM be a classic children’s cereal made me smile. I wouldn’t have batted an eye at Cornflakes, but will admit I never saw the FruitLoops thing coming.

EATING |

Friday
Wednesday

Waffles (last Friday because it was Friday and that means it’s Waffle Day + Wednesday, just because) loaded with peanut butter and fruit and Greek yogurt and chocolate chips and HOMEMADE MAPLE SYRUP.

This stuff is the best. I boiled it down a bit too long, so it’s actually the consistency of thick honey, but that also means it’s even sweeter than typical syrup and is basically joy in a bottle. Joy that we captured from a tree with some tools and our own hands. My mind is still slightly blown. I suspect this is how gardeners feel? But, with two brown thumbs, I’ll stick to 250 ml of maple syrup and call it a day. Using this maple syrup has definitely been a treat.

I am also eating a lot fewer carbs/sugar as I hang out in detox mode after March Break. It feels good to understand there are times for “feasting and fasting” and to recognize both states can be healthy and enjoyable.

Lettuce, coleslaw, hard-boiled egg, feta, snap peas, pumpkin seeds, green pepper, tomato, 1 diced fig, grilled chicken

WORK |

After 5 years spent managing a project for which I felt completely out of my depth, I have officially handed over the reins to a colleague.

It feels…amazing. I don’t think I recognized how much this constant low-level stress impacted me. In terms of the sheer volume of working hours, the project didn’t end up demanding much time, but it was an ever-present source of low-level anxiety and I felt obligated to deal with “emergencies” immediately (at which point the project became a source of high-level anxiety), which could happen at any time (24/7/365).

In another role, I am…not sure exactly. I don’t think it’s imposter syndrome? Maybe a bit? Or perhaps it’s the unshakeable sense I’m treading water? Everything is fine, but I’d like to have the sense that it’s great and I don’t know if that’s even possible? I’m still working through that mentally and practically.

There wasn’t much time for reflection, though, as this was a very, very busy week. I felt like I was juggling things adequately, but also that one more e-mail full of action items would be enough to send everything crashing to the ground. Most items are of the rubber-ball variety, but still. I made a big colour-coded work chart to organize all my to-do’s and am working through that systematically, which helps. I learned two big tasks that I thought were someone else’s responsibility are actually mine…so I’m now starting work on them much later than I would have had I known they were on my plate. C’est la vie.

But just a few more hours to go before the weekend, and while I did some evening work this week, I will remain absolutely rigid about staying offline (for work purposes) all weekend.

READING |

I have mixed feelings about Jennie Allen. I read her book Restless years ago and LOVED it. Every book since has left me feeling “Meh“. I think that while some (much!) of the content in her books is great, I just don’t relate to her personally? A friend contacted me asking if I would be willing to do a deep dive into the book with a few other local friends. I have never belonged to a book club (which this is not, really), but I graciously declined. She persisted, I said I’d think about it, and the next day she managed to get a book into my hands and that settled it!

Something about how Allen relates her experiences seems foreign to me (talking about searching for friends that will show up randomly with pizzas or arrive early to help prep dinner – this is not my introverted thing). BUT she had some great points in the book; we’ve lost the village mentality which, frankly, is how we were designed to operate. In a world that often promotes individualism, we all end up on the losing end. We crave – and need – friendships and connection. Amen. So I like the message, but don’t always completely align with the extroverted come-over-anytime messenger. A few quotes…

A village of people meeting different needs and loving you in different ways provides a fuller, richer way to live…You just have to spot what gifts they bring to your life and also own the role you play for others. What do you bring to your friendships?

We have no use for empty platitudes. It’s the “I know you and I love you” that we crave. [This reminds me of my Valentine’s Day post!]

We carry weighty purpose into every interaction we have, and every human carries in them a weight of glory. When we understand this idea, we love differently.

As long as we are on this earth, we will ache for something bigger, because we were designed for something bigger – something better. We are designed for an intimate relationship with God forever.

Into the Wild. This is a divisive book (and topic). Some people consider Chris Mccandless (and Jon Krauker) to be heroes; others view them as ignorant. I thought it was an interesting, well-written book and felt sorry for Chris and how the story played out.

Keep Moving by Maggie Smith was a recommendation from Nicole. It was a refreshing mix of affirmations and kick-in-the-butt motivation delivered in bite-sized chunks. I used an shocking number of sticky tabs to highlight favourite quotes. I was going to post some of them here today…but there were too many so I’ve decided to dedicate a whole post to this book (currently tied with Matt Haig’s Notes on a Nervous Planet as my favourite books of 2022).

The Circus Ship is an old favourite (oddly enough our library system doesn’t have a copy so I got this via interlibrary loan). I didn’t actually read the Colors of Habitats (the kids looked at it solo) as it’s just labeled pictures – but if you have a child that is into animals the illustrations are absolutely gorgeous! And while the Goldilocks book wasn’t unique in any way, we just all seemed to like the illustrations and pacing of the book.

WATCHING | Everything we’ve watched over the last month or two has had a similar (and not necessarily uplifting) theme.

Inventing Anna. B- for the acting; that might actually be a generous grade as I found almost all of the acting stilted and subpar. A for the craziness of the story; I really want to watch a documentary about this story. F- for the amount of gratuitous swearing (I don’t care how much her lawyer swore in real life, it felt forced, completely unnecessary, and detracted from the quality of the show).

Bad Vegan. What a crazy story.

The Dropout. The story of Elizabeth Holmes is mesmerizing and infuriating. I read Bad Blood a few years ago. While I had a hard time getting into the book, I thought this miniseries was very well done. Having co-founded/worked in startups for almost a decade now, it also just felt very relatable (not the bits about defrauding investors, being mean to employees, and overt lies…but understanding the time, effort, and occasional foray into smoke and mirrors required to build a successful business).

When you pull in the fact we recently watched The Tinder Swindler, if this was the only media I ever consumed I would surmise two things: 1) I need to assume EVERYONE is a liar, and 2) For the love of everything NEVER SEND ANYONE A BANK WIRE. Never, never, never. The number of bank wires in these shows is dizzying.

Spiderman: No Way Home. I found this to be a solid superhero movie (and have to admit the unexpected throwback to Tobey Maguire (who was Spiderman when I was in high school) was a fun blast-from-the-past. But…the general storyline struck me as tragically avoidable and the scene with Marissa Tomei/Aunt May was heartbreaking.

We continue to sloowwwllly watch the Beatles documentary Get Back. Such a slow burn (and it’s sad in its own way because of what was ahead for the band members), but I’ve really enjoyed this. We were listening to the Let It Be album the other day and I heard George Harrison ask for cauliflower with cheese sauce (the songs were recorded live) and we had JUST watched that exact scene on video the day before. If you like the Beatles and behind-the-scenes footage, I highly recommend.

nature’s highlight reel

Too often I forget to appreciate that God has created such a beautiful world. I’m thankful I have eyes to see, ears to hear, and a nose to smell because there is just so much beauty out there!

I’ve been listening to Alice Griffin’s Dream Into Spring series; one day she mentioned “collecting Earth’s jewels“. But you have to have your eyes open to see them, first!

I think kids help immensely with this. They were quick to spot an ENORMOUS pile of snow on a back-woods trail (it must be a dumping ground for a local municipality). These pictures do not capture the true scale of this pile; we only let them climb the short side – further away was a sheer drop that was at least twice the height of the smaller side they climbed.

One the same walk, I spotted a perfect “Y” – we have all sorts of pictures of sticks like this over the years (lots of “A’s” surprisingly enough). I also spotted a distinctive heart shape in some branches outside our window and now I can’t “unsee” it, which is lovely!

On our Thursday morning walk to school, within 2 minutes of leaving our house, we saw a male cardinal singing at the top of a tree, 4 bluejays, and 4 Canadian Geese. We listened, we looked up, we noticed! It takes the noticing bit – and if we allow ourselves to notice, there is just so much to see!

The old traintracks downtown
Morning commute to school
Note the SHORT sleeves. We had a few days of this and then went right back to windchill warnings. Sigh.

One last nature jewel – my (almost) birthday girl in a flashback to our time spent in the woods.

How was your week? Are you a nature-lover? If so, what “jewels” have you spotted lately? Anyone else celebrating a birthday (I know Jenny did; feel free to pop over and say hello!)?

Header photo by Isabella and Zsa Fischer on Unsplash

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.

SLEDDING |

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.

Casual Friday + A March “Break”

It’s Friday.

It was a good week. I’m tired, but mostly content with how things went and what got accomplished (and, conversely, what I left unchecked on my to-do list – I’m learning that sometimes I have to live with the discomfort of not checking off all the boxes I set for myself, though that does feel uncomfortable).

Let’s look back at the week that was…

READING |

My Best Mistake. I always enjoy Terry O’Reilly. Under the Influence has long been one of our favourite podcasts (the kids loved it too, but we learned the hard way there is just enough unpredictable adult content that episodes need to be prescreened; ditto for this book). My Best Mistake goes through stories of all sorts of people (Steven Spielberg and Jaws; Steve Jobs and Sculley, the 1984 ad, NeXT; Billy Joel writing Piano Man; Steve Madden and prison; Frank Epperson and Popsicles) who made made “mistakes” that ended up being blessings in disguise. Each chapter is a stand-alone feature on one person/product. Some of the chapters were great and some (to me, thematically) were boring. The chapter on pink fiberglass insulation, oddly enough, was the most interesting. (The product was supposed to be red, but they didn’t add enough dye to the batch; contractors preferred the pink colour and the rest is history. Also, this was the first time a colour was successfully trademarked – Owens Corning Pink – setting the standard for things like Tiffany Blue and Louboutin trademarking those distinctive red heels!) 3.5 stars

How We Eat. This was an interesting look at how we shop and what food procurement will look like in the future. I enjoy anything that delves into the psychology behind why we behave the way we do, and this book tackled that topic in the world of grocery shopping. I learned global demand for bananas is high – 153 million tons, annually, to be specific. (Walmart sells 1.5 billion pounds of bananas each year and it is the entire company’s best-selling product. Who knew?!) Discussions on vertical farming in urban environments were fascinating. There were some aspects of the writing style that got to me – tedious dialogue and the author seemed to be working too hard at injecting levity – but overall this was a solid book. 3.5 stars

Anne of Ingleside. I continue to work my way through the Anne series; this book was much better than Anne of Windy Poplars, but it still lacked the magic of those early books. It focuses on the adventures/misadventures of Anne’s (6!) children. I did enjoy much of the content, but there was a recurring theme that irked me – the portrayal of motherhood. Anne is a saint (of course)! Her kids regularly disobey and get into all sorts of (often dangerous) predicaments…and yet any punishment is always overlooked because they’ve already “suffered enough.” Kids run away to sketchy sleepovers, throw perfectly good cakes into rivers, and pick some truly awful playmates. There was a lot of “Mother dearest” and “Oh darling” and I just wanted to see Anne…be a bit more realistic as a parent; maybe lose her patience a time or two? Susan is a hilarious firecracker and probably my favourite character in the book. 3.5 stars

Here are a few quotes:

“Oh, Susan,” said Anne when Susan brought in her supper, “what a world it is! What a beautiful, interesting, wonderful world! Isn’t it, Susan?”

“I will go so far,” admitted Susan, recalling the beautiful row of pies she had just left in the pantry, “as to say that it is very tolerable.”

Mic drop. Did I mention I like Susan?

It used to be delicious to wake in the night…to lie and look out her window at the night’s unfolding loveliness…to hear Gilbert’s regular breathing beside her…to think of the children across the hall and the beautiful new day that was coming. 

Coming out of a recent battle with insomnia, I can confidently say I’ve yet to describe the experience of waking in the night to be “delicious.” But, go Anne.

KIDS BOOKS |

Some good books this week. If Levi knew I posted reading highlights he would insist I include Paolo by Mac Barnett. It was okay to me, but he loved it…so I’m sharing! The Sniffles for Bear was hilarious (as are the other books in this series, but I think this is my favourite so far), and we read Hello, Arnie twice (also funny).

I read The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown solo. The kids would have likely enjoyed it too, but it had a decidedly existential tone. Here is the text from my favourite page in the book. I didn’t get the full meaning of the third line until I read some backstory and learned that Margaret Wise Brown DIED from kicking her leg high into the air (to demonstrate how she had recovered from a health issue, ironically enough) which dislodged a blood clot that traveled to her heart, resulting in a fatal embolism. So tragic.

Lives don't work the way most books do.
They can end suddenly,
as fast as you kick your leg in the air.
Lives are funny and sad,
scary and comforting,
beautiful and ugly,
but not when they're supposed to be,
and sometimes all at the same time.
There are patterns in a life,
and patterns in a story,
but in real lives and good stories
the patterns are hard to see,
because the truth is never made of straight lines.
Lives are strange.
And there are people who do not like strange stories, 
especially in books for children.
But sometimes you find a book that feels as strange as life does.
These books feel true.
These books are important.
Margaret Wise Brown wrote books like this,
and she wrote them for children,
because she believed children deserve important books. (emphasis mine)

Along these lines (maybe a bit of a stretch?), I read the following quote from a Gretchen Rubin interview with author Jason Gots:

…we often misunderstand what happiness is. It has so many nuances, forms, and shades. In the grinning advertisement that is America, happiness is a bikini body on a perfect beach, beers with friends… in Turkey, where my wife is from, there’s a concept called “huzun” which might be translated as “the happiness of melancholy,” like the feeling you get in Istanbul looking out across a city where centuries upon centuries of civilizations lie buried beneath the hills, or scattered in fragments among the gleaming modern buildings. 

Our concept of happiness needs to be spacious enough for the vastness of life itself. It needs to encompass the fact that we’re mortal, and that the people we love are mortal. The ordinary suffering of life—aging, illness, death, change itself—shouldn’t be seen as irritations that get in the way of the “real work” of happiness. Any happiness we cultivate has to swim in these same waters. 

Food for thought.

JOYFINDING |

I haven’t given space for a proper “joyfinding” category lately. This week reminded me that, yes, sometimes joyful moments can fall right into our lap. But, more often than not, we need to keep our eyes wide open to spot joy – and then label it as such. It can be hidden in mundane places and activities.

  • Looking up in church and realizing that someone sitting in front of us was knitting during the sermon. Somehow this just made me so happy (I take notes and it helps me pay attention, but I think handwork would serve a similar purpose). And it’s knitting. In church.
  • Driving home that same day through a snowstorm. The roads were terrible, but we ended up on a deserted back road and John stopped to take some pictures. It has been a long winter. A very, very long winter. But there is beauty to be found – even in the endless snow.
  • Same drive – spotting all sorts of bald eagles with the kids (we live in an area with a big population of bald eagles).
  • Chocolate cake with chocolate icing. Enough said.
  • Skiing with John last Friday. There is something uniquely exhilerating about hurtling down icy slopes. The adrenaline was real and I actually laughed out loud from joy – and relief – when I reached the bottom without falling (came close twice, but never fell, miracle of miracles).
  • Skiing with the kids on Tuesday and Wednesday. It’s a lot of work to load up all the gear, get to the hill, and get everyone kitted out. It was outrageously windy. One child fell the first ride up the T-bar and there were some tears. The slopes were a solid sheet of ice. My hand-me-down skis are too big. For the first hour I felt like a complete and total imposter. This was only my 6 + 7th times downhill skiing in my life and all around me children – who look like they were in utero no less than a month ago – were zooming by in full confidence of their abilities. At one point a complete stranger came over and (very kindly) told me I was doing something wrong with my equipment. I couldn’t stop thinking about how I didn’t belong in this environment. But eventually realized how wonderful it is for the kids to see me – an adult, their mother – attempting to learn a new (hard!) skill. I have to let go of my desire to be “good” and accept that I’m a newbie and the best thing I can do is enjoy the process. This is hard for my ego; I like to master tough skills (or avoid them altogether!). Abby, from Day 1, has been a naturally skilled skier and shows absolutely no fear. Instead of feeling silly about my ineptitude (I feel twice on Wednesday, though thankfully the only thing hurt was my pride), I can be happy that she gets to legitimately claim superiority in a specific skill set! It’s a bit sad how much of a mental battle this was on Tuesday/Wednesday, but the sun came out – proverbially and literally – and we ended the day on the bunny hill just…having fun. So I’m a skier, who feels like a fraud, but I’m living with that discomfort and making space for joyfinding in the middle of imposter syndrome.
  • Hosting friends on their lunchbreak this week. One of the hardest things to coordinate with John’s work schedule was making time for friends (well, and a global pandemic really put the kibosh on shared experiences, too) and we’re excited to welcome people back to our home. It was low-key lunch and we only spent an hour together, but the food was delicious and it was…fun.
  • To round out said meal with friends: eating a thick slab of fresh-from-the-oven lemon bread. Worth every calorie.
  • Woods walks. How I love woods walks! A treadmill or sidewalk just doesn’t recreate the experience.

LAUGHING | Abby sourced a Harry Potter joke book from the library and I have to admit, some really had me chuckling. I know there are a few Harry Potter fans who join me here so, in honour of our shared delight in all things HP, here were some favourite jokes.

  • Why was Mad-Eye Moody such a bad teacher? Because he couldn’t control his pupils.
  • Why does Voldemort prefer Twitter to Facebook? He wanted followers, not friends.
  • You can say a lot of bad things about Voldemort, but at least he wasn’t nosy.
  • What shoes does Voldemort wear? TOMS

You know you’re a Harry Potter fan if:

  • You wonder if an empty hanger is actually empty…or if it’s holding an Invisibility Cloak.
  • You refer to school as “Muggle Studies.
  • You’ve ever blamed a bad test score on a Confundus Charm.

March Break + A break

Despite the header photo, we are not going somewhere warm. In fact, we are staying put in very cold, wintery Canada. Sigh. But spring is coming and then summer and fall which are absolutely beautiful here in Nova Scotia.

Our winter/spring school break always happens in March and so we call this event – wait for it – March Break. It varies by province, but today marks the start of our March Break!

In light of John’s sabbatical and the kids being off (though there is nothing novel about that after a month off over Christmas and then approximately 1 billion snow days, but who’s counting? I am. I’m counting school board), I decided to take a break too. I might pop back at the end of next week with a Casual Friday post…or I might not. I already have a post lined up for Monday, 21 March, so I’ll see you back here then, if not sooner.

Have a great weekend! Any great moments of joyfinding in your life this week?

Header photo by Sean Oulashin on Unsplash

Casual Friday + Sabbatical, Day #1

It’s Friday! Let’s recap the week that was…another week with snow days (2) which I handled with increased levels of sighing. Sigh.

This too shall pass. Spring will come. Right? Sigh.

EATING | Chicken Pot Pie Soup – this is the kids favourite soup recipe and it tasted extra yummy this time; I made buttermilk drop biscuits to go with the soup and it made winter feel slightly less maniacal.

Bulletproof coffee. Coffee tends to upset my stomach and I’ve avoided it for months. But, with another snow day thrown into the mix and multiple nights of poor sleep, a creamy, delicious bulletproof coffee really did hit the spot.

READING|

Miss Benson’s Beetle: I couldn’t decide how to rate this book. I think it was a 3.5-3.75 star book, but since Goodreads provides neither 1/2 nor 1/4 stars, I rounded up and gave it 4 stars. It was nothing like I expected (though, honestly, I don’t know what I was expecting). The first part of the book had me mesmerized. I read every. single. word. But then other parts of the book were just so…long. And boring. (I don’t know how people don’t skim parts of books? Or maybe they stop reading?) I definitely skimmed some sections. But it was a captivating story, I found the main characters likable, and the plotline felt original. 3.75/4 stars

Floor Sample: I’ve read a number of Julia Cameron books about creativity and have appreciated both her writing style and insights. So it felt like a natural progression to move on to reading her memoir.

When will I learn?

A bit like learning about the tragic life of Lucy Maud Montgomery alters the reading experience of Anne of Green Gables, this memoir really coloured my interpretation of Julia Cameron’s work. She’s had a hard, sad life which is in such stark juxtaposition to her fame. It was frustrating to read about decisions she made that were so clearly damaging her mental health. She experienced a lot of trauma and addiction; the book often felt like watching a train wreck and it also left me trying to make sense of what she was writing at the time (creative advice) versus her personal reality. I finished the book, but wouldn’t read it again or necessarily recommend it to anyone else. The writing was fine but I didn’t find it overly cohesive. I tried to go by the prompts from Goodreads and would say “this was okay” which = 2 stars

PICTURE BOOKS |

For anyone who has experienced the heartbreak of dementia, The Remember Balloons was incredible. My kids really appreciated the message of the book and my voice kept catching as I read it while thinking of the various loved ones I’ve had that have been touched by Alzheimer’s or other forms of memory loss. Such an impactful, beautiful book about such a hard subject.

The Incredible Ship of Captain Skip is an interactive story. You actually build a little paper boat and then slowly modify it as you read through the book. The illustrations are also very whimsical. I think the writing could have been better, but the kids thought the hands-on aspect of the book was fun.

The Boy and the Sea had gorgeous illustrations and was another book that filled me with a bittersweet dose of melancholy (also exploring themes of aging).

For much lighter fare, Interrupting Chicken – suggested by reader Lisa – was a huge hit. Very, very fun reading!

PLAYING | Chess and puzzles.

THRIFTING |

I have thrifted more in the last month than I did in all of 2021! But the kids really needed some new clothes (both kids had holes in the knees of virtually every pair of pants which are hard to find second-hand…because other children have holes in the knees of their pants).

It was a great haul (Abby and I went together and it was really fun as she can now browse through clothes independently and I only have to offer feedback).

Everything was in like-new condition. As for prices: a Champion sweater ($2.00), Old Navy star shirt ($2.55), a Levi’s sweater ($2.00), jogging pants ($2.00), puffer coat ($3.85) and jeans ($3.95). No complaints on the quality or price!

No on to the exciting life change coming our way…

Sabbatical diaries: day one

Since John and I met, one Sunday morning during our final year of undergraduate study, there really hasn’t been much time for rest.

Somehow, through the whirlwind blur of our romance, we managed to finish our degrees. I headed into a summer of research while he went off to do fieldwork for a geophysical research company. In early July, I said “yes” to his big question.

At the end of August, I had exactly three days to pack up one chapter of life (tearfully saying goodbye to Dot) and head to another. Three days to recuperate from four years of intense work. (Note to self: gap years are a thing. Investigate.)

This also meant I only had three days to say goodbye.

We spent the next year engaged and apart. He worked, I studied. We called each other constantly. I got an unlimited phone plan. That worked for a while until I got a $250 phone bill. Turns out I had “exceeded reasonable residential usage.” I would call and then stay on the line while I worked on various projects, just wanting his silent companionship.

We got married – I took less than two weeks off; summer was my only opportunity for a field season. Work and study filled the next year. Suddenly I went from being tired all the time to being exhausted. There was a good reason! By the time I defended my thesis I was seven months pregnant, working full-time on a research contract, and working part-time for a local university. For his part, John was completing a Master’s and working full time.

And since then…

The last decade has been a blur. I don’t know how to encapsulate the crazy string of events and career developments that John has gone through. And, really, that is his story to tell. But it has been an exciting and wild and stressful ride.

And we signed up for this roller-coaster.

But, at some point, everyone needs a break from the amusement park rides – the constant excitement and rush of adrenaline can become a bit too much.


John often describes his work as functioning nonstop at 10,000 rpm (and we as his family, of course, get pulled along for the ride). Even at the dinner table, he has 25 “tabs” open in his mind. Leading strategic business globally for an Australian technology company (that has grown from 20 to 180 people in his 5 years there) means something is always happening in some time zone that he needs to be across.

We recently decided it was time for life to purr along at 2,000 rpm for a while.

While it is his job, not mine, as any partner to a person with a busy career knows, it becomes a “family business.”

There are tradeoffs. It means I have made multiple trips to the emergency room in the middle of raging snowstorms (during one of these trips I received a text from him – he didn’t know where I was – with a picture of him taking a client to a pro hockey game; not his fault, but I was more than a little bitter), overseeing contractors in the basement jackhammering our house foundation (he was in Japan), and just about everything in between. But really, the hardest of it all, is the day-to-day minutiae of maintaining a house and children during the many periods when I am the only one available. It’s being the doctor and the sheriff and the chauffeur and the chef and the nanny. It’s remembering to take out the garbage and receiving calls from the school about sick children. And most of these are glass balls I couldn’t drop.

About a month ago – during his work trip where I pitched my adult tantrum while stuck home alone in the middle of a blizzard with the kids – the next step seemed obvious.

While he has a generous vacation bundle, his own passion for success (and the thought of coming back to an avalanche of work post-vacation), combined with Covid putting a dampener on more enjoyable, carefree travel, has meant most of our “breaks” over the past 2 years have taken the form of long weekends.


A few weeks ago I wrote a post, and buried in the comments section Lisa wrote the following:

getting upgraded to first class or being able to pick exit row or bulk head seats isn’t an adequate trade off for what you give up. I will never have status with an airline again and I am THRILLED about that.

In our household, John’s airline status has made the miserable art of regular travel seem…slightly less miserable. Upgrades and concierges and all the other perks are nice.

But that status represents something else. To get that status it means he has dealt with jet lag over and over and over. He’s dealt with the agony of canceled flights and early mornings. That status means we’ve all been apart far more than we would have liked.

Status, of course, can take all forms. It could be airline status or it could be a fancy car or house or a big job. But, almost always, status comes with a cost.

We knew we needed an extended rest, but it can be hard to take the necessary steps. But we did and today marks Day #1 of a 6-month sabbatical; we’re so grateful that he works for a company that supports this.

Life will continue to happen during this sabbatical. The kids will go to school and people will need to eat. I still have my own work responsibilities to attend to; we have a personal work project to tackle together.

But there will be no work travel. No jet lag or delayed flights or weather delays (that aren’t shared experiences). No evening meetings. No fires to put out. No Slack. No Zoom. No e-mails. No “Shhh. Daddy’s on an important call.” No rushed suppers.

I wouldn’t change anything about our story. It has been a wild ride but we’ve ridden it together and learned a lot. I’m also aware that being able to make this decision is an enormous privilege.

But today, on Day 1, I’m so excited to take our foot off the accelerator and hop off the ride for a while. Maybe we can settle in and get comfy on a park bench and dig into an funnel cake while other people queue up for those adrenaline-laced amusement rides.


Happy Friday. Anyone else recently make some big decisions to step back…or “lean in”?

Header photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Casual Friday + When Do I Work? When Do I Write?

And just like that, we’re back to Friday.

It’s another snow day…except there is no snow on the ground. So really, it’s just another day off school for the kids (though I’m promised the snow is coming). Appropriate to today’s post, I have some work emergencies to attend to while juggling snack breaks, video consumption for the kids (my go-to for when I have video meetings – I wasn’t expecting to have the kids home today when I arranged my schedule!), and overseeing inevitable sibling fights.

But we’ve already fit in our outside walk and are tackling Wordle next, so the day won’t be all bad.

There were some tough moments this week, especially globally as headlines switch from talk of COVID numbers to missile strikes. One crisis to another; and once again the world feels like it might just buckle under the heaviness of it all. But there is still joy to be found.

This was another week where I’ve discovered that joy can present itself from the unlikeliest of places. It comes in comments about decanting. It comes from poems posted on the side of the road. It comes from the sunshine streaming through the window as I type these words. It comes from lint rescued from the recesses of our pockets. It comes from solving Wordle with the kids at 9 am on a Monday. It comes from bright pink jackets and taco soup. It comes from noticing – and naming – these (mostly) ordinary things that bring joy or delight.

EATING | Maybe if I admit this in a public space I’ll feel more (positive) pressure to act? I’m channeling my inner Gretchen Rubin and giving myself another big demerit on the eating front. I can only ride the excuse of hormones for so long. I had ice cream four times last week. FOUR TIMES! I can have ice cream occasionally without any problem, but I can’t have it four times. Sigh.

I’ve had a good reset the last few days and I’m hoping the worst is behind me?

  • Tuna filling inside nori. Yum.
  • Homemade pizzas; storebought mini Naan, simple tomato sauce, pepperoni, and cheese (pre-shredded, obviously). They are shockingly delicious and I make these several times a month. I had roasted veggies instead (how I love roasted veggies) since I knew I needed to back off the dairy/gluten for a while.

WATCHING | Two very infuriating documentaries centering around human greed.

Downfall (Netflix) about the Boeing 737 Max planes that crashed (before the entire fleet was grounded). Heartbreaking, avoidable, and left me disgusted at how quickly the almighty dollar can trump the value of human life.

The Tinder Swindler (Netflix) – It was one of those stories where truth is stranger than fiction. It was incredibly depressing to learn that the “swindler” is already a free man and history is repeating itself.

We also started watching The Beatles: Get Back (Disney+) documentary. It’s a slow-burn, but I love behind-the-scenes footage…and it’s the Beatles! After the other documentaries, this was much better for my blood pressure.

Oh, and you know what text you don’t want to receive from your husband a day after watching an entire documentary about faulty Boeing 737 Max 8 and 9 jets.

This text.

Spoiler alert: his flight went off without a hitch and he told me he used to fly on these planes all the time before they were grounded (not sure if that’s supposed to make me feel better?)!

THRIFTING | I have not been in a regular routine of thrifting lately, but had the chance to stop by my favourite store last week and scored some great finds. When I write more about my wardrobe, I’ll plan to cycle back around to the concept of thrifting because virtually all of the items in my closet are from thrift stores!

In this haul I bought:

  • a robe ($2.70) + cozy leggings ($3.00) for Abby. A ski jacket ($5.25) and snowpants ($4.00) for Levi (these may not fit him for several years but both were in like-new condition and I know he’s always going to need to size-up in snow gear). A very comfy shirt ($3.55) – this is probably my favourite colour for tops and I already own two in this colour, but liked the interesting button detail on the shoulder. A pink puffer coat (the biggest splurge at $7.75).
It looks like I have been partially swallowed a giant bottle of Pepto Bismol, but since I don’t wear many bright colours, it seemed like a fun choice AND it’s very warm. My current puffer doesn’t have a hood so while I would ordinarily choose black or navy, through the wonder of this being the only option at the thrift store, Bubble Gum/Pepto Bismol pink it is!

(OLDER) FRIENDS | Last Friday I was able to visit a friend who is 76; we drained cups of tea and talked and then she made me a delicious lunch (long-time readers might recognize this as being my soup-and-sandwich-oasis; we haven’t seen each other properly since November!). Then, on Tuesday, I met up with a friend (58) for a last-minute lunch at our favourite cafe. Between the two of them, these women experienced a collective 66 years of living before I was even born. I cannot get over how much I appreciate my time with them – they have already lived so much of the life I’m now experiencing (e.g. parenting littles, trying to sort out work-life balance). In addition to being so wise, they’re also just really fun to be around!

*In case this makes it sound like all I do is “lunch” – it was November 2021 since I last had lunch with a friend, so while a very welcome change this week, it is not the norm!

READING | This was a “B” week in the book department.

The Family Firm (Emily Oster) – This was my first book by Emily Oster and I found it…a bit of a snorefest. I appreciate the underlying message but didn’t find the book overly engaging. I read the redshirting section with interest (we’ve already done this and it was absolutely the right decision for our family, but I appreciated her weighing the various pros/cons). It was well written, but it didn’t quite pull me in as I had hoped. My favourite parts were her discussions of decisions related to her own kids. 3 stars

Remodelista – I enjoyed the pictures, but it wasn’t as inspiring as I had hoped. Lots of minimal decor (which I love) but too much talk about decanting (see below) and every other page suggested installing a peg hook. 3 stars

Anne of Windy Poplars (Lucy M. Montgomery) – It pains me to say this, but I had a hard time getting through this book in the Anne series. I love Katherine Brooke, so that part of the book was A+. But, overall, the book felt too scattered and I really, really missed Marilla. 3 stars

Miracles and Other Reasonable Things (Sarah Bessey) – This was okay. I have no idea how this showed up on my holds list. Did someone recommend this to me? Did I happen upon it while browsing new releases inside the library system? 3 stars

Pippi Longstockings (Astrid Lindgren) – I read this over several weeks with the kids. It has some descriptions that show their age (e.g. conversations around maids), but the kids found the book hilarious and I edited some of the content as I read this out loud. 4 stars

As for picture books.

The Bold, Brave Bunny is a family favourite that we checked out once again. The cover gives you a sneak peek at how the illustrations do double duty.

A Gift For Mama and Everybody’s Welcome never fail to inspire us; The Snuggle is Real and T.Veg: The Story of a Carrot-Crunching Dinosaur were the two new-to-us books we enjoyed the most.

Top – A Gift for Mama. We LOVE Alison Jay illustrations. Bottom – Everybody’s Welcome; sweet illustrations and it’s one that has some cutouts that ramp up the interest level.
The Snuggle Is Real – this is a board book and on the younger side of the audience spectrum, but it was sweet.
Mo Willems. I rest my case. Hibernation Station was a gentle, fun rhyming book. Aimed at young audiences, we still enjoyed this enough to read it twice!

joyfinding

  • Going on a long walk with my friend – Joy – last Saturday where we chatted about minimalism and our conversation included the following statement: “So you have to decide – how much decanting is the right amount of decanting?” The fact that our conversations can go from discussing the content of Caste to parenting conundrums to shoe repair to topics like decanting really does bring me joy. On a related note, I had no idea people decanted their DISHSOAP. I know people do this with hand soap and dry goods like pasta and rice. But DISHSOAP? Where does the decanting stop?
  • At the start of the pandemic, a woman on our normal family walking route started posting original poetry on the sidewalk outside her home every week. It became a beloved tradition to stop and read the poems together. We haven’t been walking this loop lately, so what a thrill to see she is STILL updating her poetry (though it does serve to highlight just how long this pandemic has been dragging on).
  • Looking down to see his legs crossed under the table one day. When he sits up with his back straight as a board with those little crossed legs…it melts my heart.
  • A neighbourhood soccer game. The snow and ice are down to a level where soccer games have resumed (at least temporarily) and the kids are in their element.
  • Tree climbing. There has been a lot of tree climbing in our yard lately. What a cliché childhood activity, and yet it really does transcend time. The sense of independence, of being hidden from view (kind of), and of taking some (calculated) risks. It really offers the whole package for kids.
  • Freshly showered kids in pajamas all snuggly and soft and warm, piled in to bed to read a bedtime story. The days can be long, but the snuggles are the end can be worth it all.
  • Receiving a video from a friend of her toddler saying the word coconut. I have to agree with her description of it being – “unbearably cute.”
  • Skating. In a haze of déjà vu, I took the kids to the afterschool skating program in a neighbouring community. For over two years I did this twice a week all winter with Abby. Levi has been on skates less than a dozen times in his life, where Abby used to go that frequently in a month! It felt so, so weird to be back. The first year I took Abby to this skating program, I pushed Levi around the ice in a stroller! It’s incredible how much has changed in the last few years. Joyfinding: seeing Levi fall down and pop up SO fast with a huge smile, saying: “When you fall down, you just have to get right back up.” And then he scooted off again. Right you are, my boy. Right you are.
  • Also at skating: Abby and I used to create games using the advertisements painted on the boards. She asked me if I remembered playing; I did – this is how we had spent hours of our time while skating – but had no energy to be creative and quickly deferred her veiled request. But then, I thought…if not now, when? So a few minutes later I sidled up by her and asked her to find four advertisements that would make someone think of liquid; a few minutes later the quest was to find five adverts that related, in some way, to the automobile industry; then two that contained a picture of a maple leaf. While the inertia in my brain was real, I’m so, so glad we played this game again. I suspect it won’t happen many more times as she grows up so fast…

family/heritage day

Monday was a holiday. Since I was home solo, there were a lot of hours to fill. Part of me wanted to be spontaneous; to pack up the kids and head out on a long drive or to come up with a fun adventure.

But I didn’t have any ideas and I’m getting rather tired of being outside in winter weather. I had a babysitter scheduled, but that fell through. Despite waking up with the remnants of a headache, I was determined to just let the day flow. And it ended up being great.

Abby came to my rescue, planning a schedule for the whole day. (Though at 7:15 am she was literally throwing her plan in the garbage can because her brother was vehement that he would NOT follow her plan for the day. Sigh.) I convinced her to rescue said schedule from the trash and we ended up following it to the letter up until lunchtime, Levi included…

I’m not going to lie – when 8:00 am found me playing a new-to-me version of hide-and-seek (you write clues + leave arrows on Post-It notes leading the seeker to your location), I was not enthused. But at 8:30 am she had slotted in our daily 1 km outside and that both cleared my head and ticked off a big check beside that to-do for the day.

By 9:00 am we had completed the daily Wordle together + Abby had introduced me to Vertex (pictured below) which, I have to admit, is also addictive.

I swore to myself I would stop posting Wordle answers on the blog (#noonecares), but for the record, the kids are getting really good and we got it every day (but Thursday) in 3 tries! I can’t believe how much we’re enjoying Wordle!

They did some screentime. I made muffins.

We had lunch – grilled cheese and apples (Levi, who is quite picky about apples said: “These are really good apples, Mom.” For some reason this made me happy, as if I could take full credit for the superior quality of these Gala’s).

Levi had a neighbourhood friend come over and they did LEGO and lightsabers and Nerf guns; while they played, Abby and I worked together on her Wreck This Journal. ALERT: if you need a gift idea for a creative kid in the 8-15-year-old range, this has been SUCH a big hit in our household. Some of the prompts we used Monday included: writing something with a pen/pencil in your mouth, standing on the book in dirty shoes, and lots and lots of colouring. We also made a paper cup out of one of the pages (prompted + pattern included) and Abby drank water out of it. We collected lint and other miscellany from our pockets and taped it to a page. We stapled two pages together and covered one page in circles and dots; I gave Abby 3 more fruit stickers to add to her growing (prompted) collection. It’s a very fun, interactive activity book. Highly recommend.

This was the “write something with a pen/pencil in your mouth” page.

I took down the faux evergreen swag. It was time. I have never, ever left up a “Christmas” decoration this long but only in the last week did I feel like I was finally ready to set it aside for the year. With the evenings getting longer, it didn’t feel right to still have something that festive up in the living room. I have no idea how to style the mantel – this doesn’t feel like the right fit, but it will do for now!

The boys switched off and went to the friend’s house and Abby went to visit someone she was last scheduled to see before Christmas…when Omicron put the kibosh on that playdate (and life in general). I enjoyed a few quiet hours at home where I did…mostly nothing. I sat on the couch in my new pink puffer jacket, worked on this post a bit, and enjoyed the peace.

I had soup prepped in the fridge ready for supper; we ate, read some books, and I think I crashed pretty early? Surviving a holiday solo (without having an adult tantrum) always feels like a major coup.

when do I work! When do I write?

How I find time to work (and write) came up in a comment section earlier this week (thanks for the prompt, Jenny) and since it seems to have been a question on other people’s minds, I thought I’d delve into the topic a bit further.

(I also partially address these subjects in: How Do I Do It All? I Don’t, and Neither Does Anyone Else + What Do You Do? A Work Q&A + A Day in the Life (Circa October 2021).

But I’ll rehash the main points below.

when do I work?

First, I DO NOT WORK FULL-TIME. I’m not going to get into all the particulars again, but I work between 10-40 hours/week. That’s a big range! I am slated for 27 hours of work/week at a local university divided between two distinct roles + the highly variable work I put in as co-founder of a small business (where my role and responsibilities vary significantly based on current projects and time of year). But I can end up working as little as 10 hours/week. And while that is not ‘nothing,’ I suspect many of my readers consistently work full-time…

So when do I work?

My working hours are flexible. While I do have set deadlines and meetings, in general, I can work at 2 am or 10 pm if I so please. I do not have to clock in or out, and this has been my working reality for over a decade now. For the most part, I have full autonomy over when I set work obligations. And, when I don’t (i.e. an external meeting), things are still remarkably flexible. For example, on Wednesday I had to be on a conference call with a major international company but the last 10 minutes of the call overlapped with me getting my kids off the bus (the same day we went skating). I had warned the chair about the timing issue ahead of time (turns out we finished the meeting 30 minutes early anyway – jazz hands – so it was moot) and simply asked for notes from anything covered without me. I suspect the flexibility I have is atypical.

I work at my own pace with deliverables, not hours, in mind. I have jobs I need to accomplish and when those are done…I’m done (I am salaried for a set number of hours/week, so I get paid the same regardless of whether I go over or under; in October, for example, I had several weeks in a row of going well over my allotted hours). When establishing contracts, my supervisors estimated what they thought it would require in terms of working hours but regularly reiterate there is zero pressure to fill all those hours if I can meet my working objectives in less time.

I work efficiently. Because I know the more productive and efficient I am at getting through work tasks, the more flex time I have, I’m motivated to stay on top of things. I sketch out work reminders in my planner weeks in advance allowing me to stay on top of deadlines and so things don’t sneak up on me. An ounce of planning saves…a lot of time. I circulate agendas before meetings so we can stay on task and to ensure 30-minute meetings don’t morph into an unproductive, scattered hour. I make note of action items while I’m in meetings and draw large highlighted boxes around them so I know exactly what I have to tackle when I get off the call. I honestly believe I could fill every single hour every single week, but I wouldn’t be getting any more done…I’d just be slashing my productivity.

I let work accumulate. Over the last few months I’ve gotten better and better at not responding to emails the instant they arrive. Typically, letting things filter in from various sources saves me a lot of time in the end (questions are often answered over the course of e-mail threads and letting that naturally work out and then reading all the back-and-forth in a single sitting can save a lot of time. I try to work in batches, triaging things as they come in; when enough work has accumulated I dive back into it.

The university where I work is currently on strike. One of my roles involves organizing academic support for students which is not relevant right now as students are not in class. My other position, within the research department, has continued on as per normal.

Another note: while I do not “work-work” full-time (as I refer to paid work), we have essentially no childcare (I just started hiring 2 hours of babysitting every two weeks). Beyond that, and because my children are currently only enrolled in 1 hour of extracurriculars a week…I am a full-time SAHM when they are home (snow days, holidays, weekends, after-school).

In summary: my work certainly doesn’t fit a conventional career mold, but it has worked for our family and has given me the flexibility to start writing over the last year…

when/how do I write?

I posted my first blog post on April 24, 2021 and have published 194 posts since that date.

Full disclosure, my biggest insecurity with writing is how much I write. I’ll start thinking to myself: “These posts are too long.” Or “I should stop posting 5 times a week – that’s too much. People will get tired of my voice.” Or “My posts explore too many existential themes. Lighten up!

It can actually be hard to click publish on much of what I write because it feels “longer than what Laura Vanderkam would write” or “more melancholic than Gretchen Rubin” (these are self-criticisms, not something people have actually said, by the way; and I’m using these two authors as examples because they’ve really influenced my thought process).

But I’m telling myself that, ultimately, I’m writing for an audience of 1. I want to show up the way I do because that’s my style. My writing doesn’t have to strike a chord with everyone (though, if you’re reading this post, you’ve likely gotten used to the fact I write long posts, show up 5x/week, and talk about existential themes). I write for myself – to work through what’s going on in my own brain – and I write because it’s fun. It has to be a pure bonus when something I say strikes a chord with others.

I have wanted to write for so long, it feels like since giving myself permission to provide space for this creative outlet, I have a lot I want to say! This isn’t surprising to me: I have a decade of very long, detailed family updates under my belt and my favourite part of doing research was getting to write my theses and submit articles for publication. I genuinely love to write. I don’t want to knit or play piano or enter poker tournaments – I want to write!


I’m sure people wonder when I find the time or why I post so much. (That’s okay! Very legit questions! I’m not offended!)

In terms of my writing, it does take a lot of time, but maybe less than people expect? I’m a fast writer. I mentioned this in the comment section the other day, but I tend to write drafts very quickly and then let them sit for a while and come back to “polish” them off once I’ve had a chance to digest the material.

I am currently spending 5-20 hours a week on writing. That’s a lot, and another big range! I’m expecting this will slow down as the novelty wears off (maybe?).

So how do I find these 5-20 hours in a week? I covered many of these points in the How Do I Do It All? I Don’t, and Neither Does Anyone Else post but it mostly relates to what I’m not doing.

  • I don’t use social media (I imagine many people could easily spend 5 hours – or more – on social media each the week; I put in precisely 0 minutes).
  • I exercise about 8 hours/week, but at least 7 of those hours are spent exercising with someone. Walking the kids to school with John, going on walks with friends. I know many people that exercise for several hours a day – solo. For me, exercise is a big part of my social life.
  • Our kids do not have structured schedules outside of school hours (a combination of pandemic life + our family mode of operation). This will change some over the summer, but they are currently each in just a single hour of extracurriculars each week + we attend church on Sunday morning. And both of those locations are within 5 minutes of our home. No hockey tournaments 100 miles away. No weekend swim meets. No debating or chess club. They come home from school and we do stuff (friends, adventures, screens, homework etc.). And sometimes I sit at the table and write while they climb trees or play soccer with their friends.
  • Aside from date-nights, I don’t watch TV. I watched maybe 6 hours total of Olympic coverage. I don’t follow any shows other than my annual binge of the latest season of The Great British Baking Show. When my husband is away for work I watch exactly 0 minutes of shows/movies.

In terms of my writing process, I write when I can. I don’t sit down for 3 hours on a Wednesday afternoon and write. I don’t write every morning at 9 am. I might fit in 20 minutes after I wake up, and another 20 minutes before I hop into a work meeting, another 20 minutes over lunch, and then 30 minutes after the kids are in bed while I wait for John to finish his evening calls.

I try to carve out several hours (hopefully strung together) to write on Saturday and/or Sunday. The rest is all sporadic, fitting it in when I can.

And that’s the story! Hope this gives readers a better idea of how and when I write. And thanks for joining me in this space <3

Header photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash


Happy weekending everyone. Next week is an exciting one around these parts (stay tuned) and I’m really looking forward to next Friday. Until then, I’m sure there will be many unexpected sources of delight – whether that’s the lint in our pockets or the joyful luxury of pre-shredded cheese.

Casual Friday + Snow Day Highlight Reel

Happy Friday! We’ve made it to the end of another week and I’m feeling giddy about that.

This was a “good” week. All weeks have redeeming qualities, I suppose, but this one had more than many in recent memory.

So let’s look back at the week that was, shall we?


VALENTINES DAY | Sometimes I make heart-shaped pancakes for breakfast. I almost always hang up paper hearts and serve at least one meal on festive paper plates. And years ago, when Abby was a toddler, John and I decided to make Valentine’s desserts for each other in secret – I made delicious chocolate cupcakes with decadent peanut butter frosting. John made even more delicious chocolate cupcakes with far superior peanut butter frosting. What can I say – we know each other well.

This…was not one of those years. No plates, balloons, cards, or treats.

While the kids didn’t seem too fussed, other people certainly filled any void. They came home from school with oodles of paper Valentines (and candy) from classmates, and family friends stopped by with a bag full of goodies along with a whole platter of Valentine’s cupcakes.

NEIGHBOUR UPDATE | Just when you thought our cookie-making, Christmas-light-displaying, driveway-shoveling, PB & Banana sandwich-eating neighbours couldn’t get any more endearing…they did.

We ended up having a big snowstorm on Valentine’s Day and I learned that this couple – many decades earlier – celebrated their first romantic date on Valentine’s Day at a fancy Italian restaurant. They hadn’t been back since that first date and were scheduled to return to the same restaurant this Valentine’s Day. Also, the husband insisted on helping to clear out the bottom of our driveway saying: “Oh, I’m just waiting for my wife to get home. She bought me a hot chocolate bomb for Valentine’s Day and we’re going to make it together when she gets back.” PB & Banana sandwiches, Italian restaurants, and now hot chocolate bombs?! When will the adorableness end? Hopefully never.

WORK | The last two weeks have been busy. Last Thursday involved back-to-back quarterly meetings. I didn’t stop the whole day; our babysitter got the kids off the bus and I just kept my head down and worked until supper. Then this week quarterly reports were due. It has been a perfect storm of activity, but it has also been a productive time and certainly makes me appreciate the weekends!

I had a big action item to complete after the meetings and while I had at least a week to submit my contributions, I knew the sooner I tackled it the better (while the meeting discussions were still fresh in my mind).

When I circulated the draft product around to the relevant parties by the end-of-day Friday, I immediately received a: “Wow. That was quick!”

Without really thinking, I sent a witty – albeit slightly sarcastic – response about how the meetings had been so riveting I couldn’t stay away from the material and how they had played out a bit like a soap opera (it’s true, they did!) complete with mystery, intrigue, power struggles, and an Exhibit A. I finished by suggesting maybe we should pitch the transcript to Netflix. The minute I hit send, I wondered if I had overstepped a boundary. As I started catastrophizing about my decision, the following tagline popped up in my inbox:

“OK, please put a warning on emails like this.”

I immediately felt nauseous. I hadn’t been disrespectful, but the e-mail contents were laced with very dry humour. And I’ve only been working with some of these people for a few months.

I reluctantly clicked open the e-mail to face my tear-down:

Ok, please put a warning on emails like this. I almost spit the water all over my keyboard while reading this!…Thank you for the laugh on a sunny Friday where I need to sit in front of my laptop!

And then another person responded about the fact there was sure to be an Emmy award to come out of it all.

Phew. Dodged a bullet + I have now sussed out that these particular colleagues respond favourably to my sense of humour.

Putting on another work hat, there was a small bug that needed to be fixed in the custom software I oversee. The developer working on the project gave me the all-clear two weeks ago to test the update. This is the sort of task I usually complete immediately. But this time, for some inexplicable reason (does: I didn’t feel like it!, count?) I put it off and then, because I had put it off, this small job suddenly felt like it was going to be a mammoth task. I reluctantly started the process, ran into a tiny roadblock and pushed it back to the developer; he fixed the issue immediately but it took me a whole week of dreading this task to finally do it yesterday. It took 5 minutes; the update looks and functions well, and I don’t need to do anything else on this matter. It was literally no big deal. Sadly I expended far more energy avoiding the task than I did in actually completing it. As Gretchen Rubin says: “The stewing is worse than the doing.

Such is life.

PARENTING | You know you’ve been a parent for a while when the following statements seemed relatively natural to hear/utter.

[Sunday afternoon] – John: Just so you know, the kids are in the trunk of the car. *It was open the whole time, but still…

[Slightly later on Sunday afternoon] – Me (happening to look out the kitchen window while the kids were outside playing): Oh. There are sleds up in the tree. *I eventually learned these were set up to act as shelters from the snow. I have been a mother long enough to know sleds in a tree could absolutely involve something very dangerous, but they were happy and the house was quiet so I hedged my bets that they were intelligent enough not to do anything too risky. Thankfully, this turned out to be true. But it was definitely a 50/50 toss-up.

WORDLE | This has now expanded to involve the kids (we work together as a family). TWO words with double letters this week did throw us off, though. You’re getting tricky, Wordle…

Levi insisted we start with “Bread!” Other than that, this one was all John as he suggested both slack and caulk. Caulk?

EATING |

The photo, as usual, doesn’t do this meal justice!

Sausage and veggie soup. A new-to-us recipe. Abby removed the sausage from casings and Levi manned the sauteeing. Served with rosemary focaccia (store-bought!), this was a delicious meal we had two nights in a row.

Eggs in various forms, including eggs with smoked salmon for lunch one day and an egg, bacon, and spinach sandwich on a Cheddar Chibatta grilled on the panini press for Wednesday’s supper (which the kids raved about, which always feels like such a win).

Leftover Chicken Mango Curry from the freezer with extra cilantro served over rice. Perfection.

Nachos for the Superbowl (made by John and the kids).

Valentine’s cupcakes. Technically these were for the kids but I ate 3. I also ate ice cream, which I know I shouldn’t because it triggers some allergy symptoms. But I ate it anyway. Twice. Take that lactose intolerance.

Waffles. Friday was a sweet version (because Friday nights are waffle night); then John made a savoury waffle for our Saturday date night, topped with a soft-fried egg (hello again, eggs), smoked salmon, and dill aioli. So. good.

SCIENCE EXPERIMENT |

Saturday included a fun blast back into the world of Grade 5 science. Abby and one of her good friends were partnered for a project. They opted to test out Mint Mentos in Coke.

There were…some lapses in their/our scientific method. We sourced slightly different-sized/shaped bottles, but it’s Grade 5 – no one is defending a thesis here, so I hope their teacher will be understanding.

The most interesting result – Diet Coke was the runaway winner and further to that, room temperature Diet Coke outperformed refrigerated Diet Coke.

Abby’s friend happens to be the daughter of one of my best friends (for long-time readers, this is the friend who brought me the soup which made me cry – the kind gesture, not the soup, being the reason for my tears – and with whom I exchange things like turmeric and deodorant). While the kids experimented on the back porch, I browsed my friend’s 2021 photobook. She knocked this one out of the park (she takes stunning photos, including the shots for our annual Christmas photocards) and it was so nice to reminisce about her year – including lots of fun cameos of my kiddos.

Later the two of us went for a walk in 18 degree Celcius conditions! The warm weather didn’t last, but wow did it feel nice for that brief window of time.

OLYMPICS |

I’ve really enjoyed watching the Olympics. Overall I’ve seen a lot less coverage than normal, but it has felt like the “right” amount at this stage of life. I typically read before bed but, lately, we’ve been watching/falling asleep to the live Olympic feed each night. My favourite has been the snowboarding events – I find them really entertaining to watch.

It blew Levi’s mind to see figure skating for the first time. He kept saying: “This is incredible.” But the clincher for me was when the skater finished her routine he said: “Wow. She was realllllyyyyy good.” Followed by a moment of silence and then: “And she wasn’t even wearing snowpants!?” He was absolutely incredulous.

The first line of business every time we go skating is to get geared up in snowpants, mittens, etc. – the full battle regalia of winter sporting. And here was someone in a gauzy little dress, with nary a stitch of winter gear in sight. It’s funny what can blow their young minds.

Another funny Olympic story: one morning the kids couldn’t agree on what to watch. Levi wanted to see the replay of a hockey game and Abby was keen on something else. So I set him up on a different device with the hockey game. After about 10 minutes – which he spent very contentedly watching the game – John said: “Is that commentary in another language?” Turns out I had selected the Inuktitut feed. And Levi was watching it completely unphased by the fact it was in a language for which had no context.

READING |

Caste. I cannot do justice to the depth of subject material covered in this book (content = 5 stars).

(As an incredibly unimportant side-note, I found this book had a very unusual smell – a mix of my father’s woodworking shop and cracked black pepper.)

Through no merit of my own, I have won the genetic and geographic lottery. A white, middle-class woman living in Canada. This book leaves your heart aching for the men, women, and children – who through no fault of their own – lost in a “lottery” that was never theirs to win by virtue of their skin colour and genealogy.

The writing is phenomenal and raw. My only “critique” of the book – I found it oddly fractured in places. I didn’t necessarily follow along with her partitioning and found a number of sections to be repetitive. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I do think it could impact accessibility to a certain readership? I was also left wanting more from her perspective on potential pathways toward encouraging and supporting necessary change. I may, however, be an outlier in puzzling a bit at these aspects of the book.

In summary – get your hands on a copy of Caste.

Then read it.

It is horrific and maddening and also echoes important warning cries because the people who inflicted (and, sadly, continue to inflict) these horrors were/are just like us. Parents and workers and brothers and sisters and husbands and wives and children.


Just a few of the many, many, thought-provoking passages from Caste:

Unaddressed, the ruptures and diagonal cracks will not fix themselves. The toxins will not go away but, rather, will spread, leach, and mutate, as they already have. When people live in an old house, they come to adjust to the idiosyncrasies and outright dangers skulking in an old structure. They put buckets under a wet ceiling, prop up groaning floors, learn to step over that rotting wood tread in the staircase. The awkward becomes acceptable, and the unacceptable becomes merely inconvenient. Live with it long enough, and the unthinkable becomes normal. Exposed over the generations, we learn to believe that the incomprehensible is the way that life is supposed to be.

The following description, though about the death camps in Nazi Germany, are a broader reflection of all forms of caste discrimination. Of all the passages of the book, I think this struck me the most because I’m a mother. I’m not a plantation owner or a politician creating policy…but I am a mother. And how could I love my children, while casting out others?

The ash rose from the crematorium into the air…and settled onto the front steps and geranium beds of the townspeople living outside the gates of death at Sachsenhausen, north of Berlin. The ash coated the swing sets and paddling pools in the backyards of the townspeople. // There was no denying the slaughter and torment on the other side of the barbed wire. The fruit of evil fell upon villagers like snow dust. They were covered in evil, and some were good parents and capable spouses, and yet they did nothing to stop the evil, which had now grown too big for one person to stop, and thus no one person was complicit, and yet everyone was complicit. It had grown bigger than them, and now it was raining down onto their gingerbread cottages and their lives of pristine conformity. // The people had ingested the lies…that these prisoners…were not humans like themselves, and thus the townspeople swept the ash from their steps and carried on with their days. Mothers pulled their children inside when the wind kicked up, hurried them along, to keep them from being covered in the ash of fellow human beings. 

Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

So the real question would be, if people were given the choice between democracy and whiteness, how many would choose whiteness? Taylor Branch

Germany bears witness to an uncomfortable truth – that evil is not one person, but can be easily activated in more people than we would like to believe when the right conditions congeal. It is easy to say, If we could just root out the despots before they take power or intercept their rise. If could just wait until the bigots die away…It is much harder to look into the darkness in the hearts of ordinary people with unquiet minds, needing someone to feel better than, whose cheers and votes allow despots anywhere in the world to rise to power in the first place. It is harder to focus on the danger of common will, the weakness of the human immune system, the ease with which the toxins can infect succeeding generations. Because it means the enemy, the threat, is not one man, it is us, all of us, lurking in humanity itself. 


Becoming Mrs. Lewis (3.5 stars). I went in expecting to love this book. It’s a fictionalized (but, from what I can gather, highly accurate) account of the relationship between American author/poet Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis of Chronicles of Narnia fame. The first 1/3 of the book held me captivated but then, as too often seems to be the case, the book started dragging. Too much of the narrative didn’t really go…anywhere. I also felt conflicted at numerous points and wasn’t quite sure who to “root” for – it was written in first person from the perspective of Joy Davidman, but at times I found her rather…unlikeable. (Interesting side note: her first husband, William Gresham, wrote the novel Nightmare Alley which has been turned into an Oscar-nominated film this year starring…of course…Cate Blanchett, as I continue to stand by my belief that she ends up in about 90% of all movies that come out of Hollywood).

Overall the book is rather sad – there are flashes of joy but (spoiler alert) considering Joy Davidman is the impetus for C. S. Lewis’ book called A Grief Observed, you can imagine the eventual twist the story must take. I know some people that loved this book, but it didn’t quite hit the mark for me.

joyfinding

Tromping through the snow with the kids.

Rays of sunshine visible through the window at suppertime.

Snow on tree branches.

Hot soup, crunchy bread, lit candles.

The smell, and feeling, of clean floors. I could put it off no longer and just looking at them – which I just did a minute ago – makes me happy (until the kids come home from school and the cycle begins again).

NGS sharing the word lollygagging yesterday. Lollygagging is a wonderful word, and really felt like a hidden gem being revealed in my day.

Playing “dictionary” with the kids. I already forget most of the words we cycled through (it started with haughty and also included haggle), but it was fun to see what “big” words they were familiar with; bonus points to Levi for using the word “ominous” on the way to school yesterday to describe the rain clouds.


Sometimes joy comes from unlikely places. Last week I had a follow-up call with my OB/GYN. Unfortunately, the news wasn’t great. At this point, I could actually be looking at a 2-year wait for surgery. Between the pressures of COVID, an already backlogged system, and a nursing shortage in our area, it is a difficult time for the medical community. But as soon as I hung up with the doctor (this being in the middle of my reading through Caste), I couldn’t help but be grateful for our Canadian medical system. I will not pay a cent for this procedure (obviously my tax dollars go toward this, but they also go toward the heart surgery the person standing next to me at the grocery store might need or the organ transplant for a critically ill child).

I didn’t pay for my appointment. I won’t pay for my follow-ups. I won’t pay for medical care if there are complications. I know this can be a contentious issue and the Canadian system faces tremendous stress and strain. But regardless of race, gender, religion, or social status, citizens have access to free medical care. I do not have to weigh the dangers of a sick child against the balance in my bank account. And for that, I am truly grateful and count it a great joy.

hard stuff

This was a really good week. The toughest moments were, unsurprisingly, health-related.

I’ve recently started a new cycle of hormone treatments. While this approach should be the answer to my gynecological issues, my body does not respond well. I’ve been trying this approach off-and-on for several decades now and avoid it when possible. But, in weighing all the current problems – and in light of the projected surgery wait-time – I’m back on them again, and this time at an elevated level.

It has been a bit like living with non-stop PMS (without crazy mood swings, most of the time – thankfully). I wake up crampy. I often end up feeling nauseous. But the thing bothering me the most? I have been ravenously hungry. All the time. And not for carrot sticks and hemp hearts (see comment above about eating the Valentine’s cupcakes).

I’ve been trying to eat healthfully and am thankful I’ve developed an arsenal of healthy eating habits over the years. But still, for over a week I could not stop thinking about food. This tends to level out while on treatment and even in the last few days I notice it’s getting better, but this has been my worst reaction yet. I don’t like feeling out of control in this area and being consumed with feelings of hunger (but then not really feeling good when I do eat).

I felt like having chips one night last week (I try to avoid chips unless it’s a special occasion; they are my kryptonite) and ended up eating HALF A BAG at 9:30 pm. Taken in isolation that’s fine, but I a) did NOT feel good after eating so many chips – obviously – and b) felt like I could not live another moment without consuming chips.

I have also been craving sweet things. So I’m trying to compromise by making sure I have more filling/healthier options. Black bean brownies, almond butter balls (almond butter, coconut flour, a glug of maple syrup, cinnamon, vanilla, sea salt, chia seeds, unsweetened coconut – I beat the ingredients together with electric beaters and flash freeze in mini ice cube trays; the rest of the family finds them too dry with the coconut flour, so they’re all for me); granola, fruit, pumpkin/chia seeds on yogurt.

If craving chips is the worst thing in a week, I’ll take that.

highlight reel

We had a very white Valentine’s Day and the kids ended up being off school due to the poor driving conditions.

After lunch and quiet time, I packed up a back pack with some hot chocolate and we trekked out through the woods.

There are moments when the kids are fighting over who gets to say grace before a meal or who gets the blue blanket while we watch a movie on the couch…and I feel like I’m losing my mind.

But then there are days we go walking through the snow for hours and climb trees and play in partially frozen brooks and my heart feels like it might burst from the joy.

While this outing was absolutely lovely, I want to make sure that people know there is always lots going on behind the scenes that doesn’t necessarily make the cut (though considering my post on Monday included discussions of catheters, laxatives and vomiting, I think you know I’m not afraid to discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly).

So let’s call a spade a spade and I’ll admit that this is a Highlight Reel set of pictures. And it’s nice to have some days that turn out like that; no fighting, just lots of genuine smiles and happy memories.

It was quite tricky to navigate the paths; the snow was deep but had fallen over a very icy sublayer…which had gotten warm over the weekend…so there were very deep holes where previous hikers had gone through the snow…which were no longer visible because of the fresh layer of snow. It was fun, though, and no one broke a leg. That’s a relief.

We stopped for two rounds of hot chocolate. Both times they insisted on finding shelter under a tree. I love this shot of Levi with a dusting of snow over every surface of his winter gear.

The woods are lovelydark and deep

This hill was ICY and the kids had a blast creating little paths to “surf” down…the stomach approach worked well, too.

This photo of Abby crossing the bridge was not staged; I’m still amazed she didn’t give in to what I can only imagine was the deepest and darkest of temptations to step on her brother’s back which would almost certainly have plunged our walk into the depths of despair. But she didn’t and I think Levi was unaware how close our walk came to ending in catastrophe. (This is EXACTLY the thing my brother would have done to me. One of my mother’s most repeated lines from my childhood: “Someone’s going to be crying at the end of this…and I know who it will be.” It was me, by the way, as my brother was 8 years older.)

Despite the very obvious sheltering option for enjoying our hot chocolate snack, only the trees would suffice.

I LOVE this picture of Abby so casually observing Levi’s climbing antics as she sipped her hot cocoa. My Dad would look at this scene and say, sighing happily: “Those kids don’t know how good they have it.”

My Dad loves to say this.

Indeed they don’t and I think that alone is part of the wonder of their charmed lives.

Of all the places in the woods, this is my favourite. I love the towering trees. It looks like something straight of an epic historical fantasy movie set. Can’t you just see Aragorn and Gandalf trekking through a forest just like this somewhere in Middle Earth?

And right before we got off the trail, we happened upon these words of wisdom from our favourite poet. Somehow I think Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening would have been just as appropriate.

Happy weekend. I hope it’s full of lots of joy and sunshine – literal and proverbial.

Casual Friday + A Phone Usage Update

Welcome, friends. We’ve made it to Friday and I’m looking forward to logging off work in a few hours and embracing the weekend. I’m hoping it will involve some Chai tea, no snow (or freezing rain or precipitation of any sort, for that matter), and several luxurious naps.


It was a good week. I feel like my Casual Friday posts have been a bit “down” lately; I was pondering this and feeling guilty about my overall tone and determining I really should gloss over the hard this week and focus on the joyfinding. I have so much to be thankful for and even my hard, in comparison, would be trivial when measured next to so many others.

But isn’t this the very thing I’m trying to learn/share? Life is hard and messy and exhausting; at other times life is easy and neat and energizing. It’s okay to bring both realities to the table because that is life (in my world at least).

With that PSA out of the way…let’s get started and see where this recap takes us.

READING| I finished reading The Lazy Genius last week (4 stars). I’d skimmed this back in November 2020 and things didn’t really click – I don’t know if I even finished the book? But after two years of pandemic living and a renewed commitment to minimizing stress in my life, the content of this book resonated on a new level. I have intuitively been doing a lot of what Adachi suggests, so it was more of a comfort read. But it was also useful to highlight some subtle tweaks I can incorporate into day-to-day life. This is a no-guilt book with lots of fodder for anyone overwhelmed with trying to “do it all.

The Picture of Dorian Gray (4 stars). So many thoughts about this book. It definitely falls into the “slow-burn” category. At some points I thought I could never get into the narrative and, full disclosure, I definitely did lots of skimming in the middle section. But…wow. The messages were powerful. So many parallels to the Garden of Eden (the promise of pleasure and then eyes being, tragically, opened); I also saw connections to themes in Great Expectations and the Lord of the Rings. And the ending – I just loved it. I didn’t know what to expect (before getting this book I had imagined Dorian Gray was a woman), but this left me thinking long and hard.

I do want to give a shout-out to Hamnet and Judith. Here’s the thing – I did not actually read all of this book. I had ordered it based on an acquaintance’s recommendation and didn’t know the storyline; I quickly realized I wasn’t in a place where I wanted to read an account of a young child dying (fictionalized but based on a true story). That said, what I did read (and yes I skimmed it, and yes I read the ending, but I didn’t skip to the end first so…you’re welcome) was masterfully written.

I had read Maggie O’Farrell’s memoir I Am, I Am, I Am, but this was my first time delving into one of her fictional works. The book imagines the backstory of the death of William Shakespeare’s son, Hamnet, and the resulting impact on his wife and Hamnet’s twin sister, Judith. It is heart-wrenching; even though I couldn’t bear to read it all, it was unmistakably well written. And I had no idea that Hamlet is a common name iteration on Hamnet, the actual name of Shakespeare’s young son who died so tragically young.

I did not enjoy Reasons to Stay Alive OR The Midnight Library and can’t actually recall what made me pull the trigger on ordering this book, but Notes On A Nervous Planet is my favourite book so far in 2022. I rated this 5 stars (rare for me) and have already ordered myself a copy (even more rare).

(And yes I ordered a used hardcover and, yes, I will promptly ditch the dust jacket when it arrives.)

Notes On A Nervous Planet is a series of essays with a variety of formats – poems, lists, reflections. If this hadn’t been a library book I would have highlighted every other sentence. I saw some negative reviews online about the haphazard structure, but I actually appreciated how it was quasi-scattered and written in stream-of-consciousness. Instead of me trying to explain the book here are a few of the many quotes that jumped out at me:

  • So, as physical health and mental health are intertwined, couldn’t the same be said about the modern world and our mental states? Couldn’t aspects of how we live in the modern world be responsible for how we feel in the modern world? Not just in terms of the stuff of modern life, but its values, too. The values that cause us to want more than we have. To worship work above play. To compare the worst bits of ourselves with the best bits of other people. To feel like we always lack something
  • The pursuit of looking young accentuates the fear of growing old. So maybe if we embraced growing old, embraced our wrinkles and other people’s wrinkles, maybe marketers would have less fear to work with and magnify. 
  • And this is our attitude to time: something that mustn’t be wasted simply by resting, being, sleeping. We are ruled by the clock. By the light bulb. By the glowing smartphone. By the insatiable feeling we are encouraged to have. The feeling of this is never enough. Our happiness is just around the corner. A single purchase, or interaction, or click, away…The trouble is that we simply aren’t made to live our lives in artificial light. We aren’t made for waking to alarm clocks and falling asleep bathed in the blue light of our smartphone. We live in 24-hour societies but not 24-hour bodies. 
  • When I fall into a frantic or despairing state of mind, full of unwelcome thoughts that can’t slow down, it is often the result of a series, a sequence of things. When I do too much, think too much, absorb too much, eat too badly, sleep too little, work too hard, get too frazzled by life, there it is. A repetitive strain injury of the mind.
  • “The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say ‘My tooth is aching’ than to say ‘My heart is broken.’” C. S. Lewis
  • Fashion magazines and websites and social media accounts sell a kind of transcendence. A way out. A way to escape. But it is often unhealthy, because to make people want to transcend themselves you first have to make them unhappy with themselves. 
  • Change your perspective of how you view photos of yourself. Every photo you look at and think, Oh, I look old, will one day be a photo you look back on and think, Oh, I looked young. Instead of feeling old from the perspective of your younger self, try feeling young from the perspective of your older self. 
  • Value the things most that you’d miss the most if they weren’t there. 
This made me laugh…and also nod my head.

Favourite picture books from the week. Something from Nothing is one of our favourite books. Ever. Delightful illustrations, a sweet story – the kids and I keep coming back to this one. And The Library; another re-read from years ago. The title character is an Elizabeth, so it gets bonus points.

EATING |

Homemade sushi. We’ve mostly stopped rolling traditional sushi and now just make hand-rolls (so much faster!). John made up a pot of sticky rice and some filling and we put a dollop of each into individual-sized nori before dunking them into his extra delicious soy dipping sauce. Yum. This was Saturday’s date-night supper and it did not disappoint.

Scrambled eggs and bacon inside corn tortillas. On repeat. With mayo and ketchup, obviously.

And Chicken Mango Curry (the actual recipe calls it Mango Chicken Curry, but I can’t stand how that sounds rolling off my tongue, so it will forever be Chicken Mango Curry to me). If I could bottle up a jar of this curry and send it your way, I would. I have not made this recipe in several months. That’s a real shame. It’s one of those recipes that takes a bit of extra time and effort, but it’s always worth it.

I got the recipe from Shauna Niequist’s book Bread and Wine, but she got it from Sally Sampson’s The $50 Dinner Party. I make it slightly different each time, and it has never failed me yet. Because I love it so much, I’m posting the recipe below with a few notes about how I tweak the recipe to fit our family’s preferences; but I’m sure it would be great following the original recipe, too!

Chop up veggies + ginger and fry with a bit of EVOO for several minutes. Either remove from pan until after chicken has cooked, or transfer over to a slow cooker.

Mix flour + spices together and coat chicken pieces. Fry over medium heat in EVOO.

Add stock and/or coconut milk (see below) and simmer until the veggies are soft. Add in mango + raisins + lime juice + herbs about 20 minutes before serving.

Modifications:
- I'm careful how much cayenne I add - usually just a small sprinkle. If I use the whole amount, it's too much spice for the kids and it's easier for John to add hot sauce than for me to have a huge pot of something the kids refuse to eat.
- I often use tapioca starch in place of flour to make it GF. But DO NOT skip the coating step; mixing the curry and flour together and dredging the chunks of chicken is key.
- I've started cooking the dredged chicken in EVOO for 4-5 minutes, but not fully cooking it through. I toss the mostly-cooked chicken into a slow cooker with the bell peppers/onions that I've sweated down in a frying pan. It ends up being melt-in-your-mouth delicious.
- I often double the bell peppers in the recipe and sometimes add a zucchini. 
- Fresh mango is definitely better than frozen; I tend to use frozen because it's easier to keep on hand...but ripe, fresh mango is preferred! I add the mango and raisins in about 15 minutes before serving so they don't go mushy.
- I skip the tomatoes and basil completely.
- I always add a can of full-fat coconut milk. Depending on how thick you want this, you can add more/less chicken stock. I don't bother with stock anyway and just use water, adding a bit of extra salt to compensate.
- I serve this over rice; it makes it go farther and it's just so, so filling and delicious this way.
- You can freeze any leftovers. They're delicious.

Waffles. The picture below does NOT do this meal justice. (It was dark, the lighting was terrible.) Just imagine a halo of light and angels descending and singing the Hallelujah chorus. This waffle was so good. Peanut butter, homemade cherry preserves (frozen cherries, a glug of maple syrup, and tapioca pearls microwaved for 10 minutes or so), fresh blueberries, lactose-free strawberry yogurt, chocolate chips, and maple syrup). The only thing missing was some cream cheese spread and bananas.

Last weekend also involved chocolate cake. One of Abby’s Christmas coupons was getting to request Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Icing for Friday-night dessert (I haven’t been making many desserts lately). This is the end result in all its chocolate crumb glory (I froze the other 1/2 of the 9×13).

PLAY | Wordle. I’m loving it. I don’t do it every day, but it’s been a nice mental break when I remember. We got to church early on Sunday morning and there was a whole row of teenagers playing. I literally plugged my ears because I didn’t want to know the word…and then promptly forgot to play it at all on Sunday.

I got an eyebrow raise by someone in our house for using plait. Fair enough. What can I say? I have an 11-year-old daughter and know my way around a French braid. And it served me well!
It’s a bit sad how happy it made me to get this in 3 tries.
This one was tough! As a proud Canadian, I know that humour is spelled with a “u.” I puzzled until my puzzler was sore going through different options before taking a stab at humor and being glad I got it right, but also feeling very sorry about the missing “u.” I also had no idea I had previously used the word FREAK as a guess another day…

HARRY POTTER | Regular readers know that I’ve discussed one child’s obsession with Harry Potter (and now Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit). At first, this obsession mostly involved copious amounts of trivia. But it has expanded to include both baking projects and Pictionary.

This pastry concoction – completed with a babysitter – took about two hours and at least a pound of butter. Let’s just say it’s a good thing they went with Sorting Hats and not the Hogwarts Castle. (And who has the audacity to put something like this gingerbread castle in a children’s cookbook? Someone who does NOT HAVE CHILDREN, clearly.)

As for Pictionary, at one point over the weekend I looked up from the dining room table to find the whole family huddled around a tiny whiteboard guessing characters like Gimli, Aragorn, and Nazgul from chicken scratches made with a broad-tip marker. Only J. R. R. Tolkien characters. On a whiteboard.

It was very endearing.

hard stuff

  • Leak #1: Our front entryway started leaking during Tuesday’s rainstorm. It’s not a big deal – this entryway needs to be demoed as part of spring renovations, but it was still demoralizing to see the paint peeling from water damage and to step in a little puddle on the floor. Sigh.
  • Leak #2: My winter boots started leaking. The first time I noticed wet feet, I assumed I must have gotten snow down my boot. But by the next day I realized the bottom of the sole had actually cracked. These boots – a great Sorel pair – owe me nothing. I bought them years ago for under $5 at a thrift store, and I have no idea how long they had previously served the feet of some other poor soul struggling through a Canadian winter. But still. It was disappointing and not ideal timing since we still have what feels like 8 billion months of winter ahead. I told John – as we trudged home through snow after Monday’s school dropoff – “I just want to wear sneakers. Not rain boots. Not snow boots. Not hiking boots. NO BOOTS. I just want to put on a pair of sneakers and walk out the door!” I’m not going crazy and wishing for flip-flops here. Just sneakers. For the love of all that is good and merciful, I just want to wear sneakers again.
  • Leak #3: I am trying very hard to give my body a break. After a disastrous January, I’m trying a new hormone dosing schedule. Tuesday was the next cycle of treatment and I was mentally weighed down. It’s hard to do things to help one problem that create more; I called the OB/GYN office the same day and they confirmed that my doctor has been blocked from the OR for anything other than emergency cases (which I’m not) since November due to COVID. I have a call with her later today, but I’m honestly thinking it could take over a year before getting a surgery date. I’m fine, it will be fine, but it felt heavy and hard on Tuesday.
  • On the same Tuesday (February 8th) I woke up to a notice that schools were cancelled due to freezing rain. At 6:12 am that single text withered my spirit. I had allowed myself a light day of work on Monday and had a long list of things to accomplish Tuesday and suddenly it all involved having children home. I am – still – tired of filling hours. I don’t want the kids to become blobs on the couch watching screens, but with nonstop cold/ice lately, even getting outside has been hard. John’s day was stacked, but he set up a schedule for them which included chores, board games (just the two of them, no parental involvement; it went shockingly well), writing letters to distant family members, outside play, independent play, showers, and yes – their beloved screen time. I floundered through work tasks; one meeting went way overtime and the kids ended up video-bombing it (with Levi in PJ’s at 3:30 pm post shower), which actually was fun and brightened the mood of a pretty tough meeting.
  • I also had a suspicion something about the 8th day of the month and a mental health day felt vaguely familiar. Turns out it was the exact day I indulged in lamenting last month.
  • Emotional eating. Some of it is the hormones. Some of it is just winter angst. Either way, it’s so frustrating. I want to feel in control of my eating and I haven’t the last week or so. It’s not terrible – lots of carrot sticks, granola + yogurt, and muffins. But it’s not about the food, per se, but how and why I’m eating it and how I feel afterward. I know I’ll adjust and get back to eating more mindfully, so I’m not being too hard on myself…but trying to recognize the fact that eating a muffin doesn’t make me less tired of COVID and winter…and I really need to stop thinking it might just this once.

joyfinding

  • Saying “yes” to Levi when he asked (without much hope of receiving a “yes”) to cash in his Christmas coupon for a family movie night. On a Monday. I fell asleep during the movie, but it was fun.
  • Also joyful – hearing Levi say at least 5 times on Tuesday how much fun family movie night had been.
  • Crisp, juicy grapes. I love grapes, but biting into a soft grape is one of life’s ultimate disappointments. The grapes on sale this week were delicious.
  • Abby’s elaborate Shopkin/Calico Critter display. These tiny toys have been just sitting on a shelf lately, but she got into a frenzy of organizing and her creativity just knocks my socks off sometimes. She built sets for all sorts of different rooms and scenes, including making a dozen desks for a “school room” – it really does warm my heart.
  • The kids love audiobooks, but we don’t let them listen to one every night. I guess one night Abby, unbenownst to me, used her digital camera to “videotape” Stephen Fry narrating her two favourite chapters from the final Harry Potter book. So now if it’s not an audiobook night, she listens to these two chapters from her camera video. Over and over and over again. Oh that kid.
  • Monday’s supper. A big bowl of rice and Chicken Mango Curry with some fresh green beans on the side. We lit candles and lingered around the table. It was nice. And then having leftovers of the same meal on Tuesday.
  • Wednesday’s Chicken Noodle Soup. Followed by granola and yogurt.
  • Picking up the car (we were rear-ended a few weeks ago and finally got the car back from the body shop; weather + delays on parts meant the process took a lot longer than expected) to discover they had detailed it. The carpets were washed and the seats looked like new. I know with kids in the back seat this will last about 3 minutes, but it still felt so…joyful!
  • Texts with friends, especially when they send me clips of stand-up comedy routines about emotional eating (I may have texted someone I wanted to eat a whole sleeve of Oreo’s).
  • Watching the kids play outside on snow piles at dusk. They made little slides on the icy banks and something about the time of day just made it feel extra joyful.
  • Daily walks. Everyday since January 1st I’ve logged at least 1 km outside. This daily practice has been so grounding and one of my favourite moments from each day.
  • This post from SustainableMom about the challenges of living with uncertainty. Yes to everything she says.
  • This post from Diane at Life off Headset about how the daily rhyhms of daylight are reminding her to slow down and savour the beauty – free for us to appreciate – of the world around us.
  • Heather, creator of my new favourite planner (Sprouted), stopping by to comment on my “review.”
  • Hot showers.
  • Dishwashers.
  • A comfortable bed at night. Occasional daytime naps. White noise machines. Magic bags for cold feet. Kids in pajamas.
  • My uncle writing to say he is co-winner of the Wolf Award in Physics (past winners include Stephen Hawking, so it’s kinda a big deal) and saying he was embarrased to write (didn’t want to appear as though he was bragging) but wanted to be the one to let our family know. That there are people in this world who are so smart and talented while remaining utterly humble is refreshing. He also noted, very nonchalantly, that winning this award is typically seen as the pivotal step toward winning a Nobel Prize. My laid-back, sweet-as-they-come uncle. Well on his way to winning a Nobel Prize. (While I try to not eat a sleeve of Oreo’s at 7 pm on a Tuesday and consider it a job well done if I manage to shave my legs once a month.)

ode to a ‘snow’ day

Last Friday ended up being a snow day. More specifically – a freezing rain day (not to be confused with the “rain” day cancellation they had the following Tuesday). We got about 12 hours of freezing rain/ice pellets.

Not to be discouraged, we bundled up and headed out for our daily walk. At one point the kids decided it would be fun to slide down a neighbour’s side hill. We did that and then trekked home through the woods. Here are some shots of the fun.

The picture doesn’t do justice to the texture of this stuff; perfect spherical pellets of ice. Walking through it was like navigating a pile of sand/sugar crystals.

During our time in the woods, we unexpectedly bumped into a neighbour who was out running. On a snowy/icy trail that was like sugar quicksand. That is dedication, folks. This being the neighbour who offered to shovel last weekend, whose wife makes the best cookies, and who leaves Christmas lights up until the early spring just to brighten our view. Want to know another endearing fact: he told the kids: “It’s Friday. That means peanut butter and banana sandwiches when I get home!” I could not love this more if I tried. To think of someone running through the woods in freezing rain (all the gold stars) and then heading back to his wife so they can make their Friday afternoon PB & Banana Sandwiches together. #LifeGoals.

phone use update

I recently wrote how I wanted to be more mindful of how much time I was spending on my phone. While I can certainly get distracted by my laptop or other screens, for the most part, it’s my phone that has a tendency of turning me into a mindless zombie.

Here are the numbers:

Total time for the weekAverage time/dayTotal pickups for the weekAverage pickups/day
Jan 9-165 h 27 min46 min41359
Jan 16-237 h 13 min1 h 1 min41559
Jan 23-307 h 42 min1 h 6 min51774
Jan 30-Feb 69 h 18 min1 h 19 min48069

One of the things I didn’t want to do was throw the good out with the bad and my smartphone does a lot of good.

It helps me stay in communication with my family (I’ve mentioned my mother’s daily texts) and I use it regularly to capture photos.

So I took the numbers one step further and separated out the time I spend on life-enhancing activities – namely communicating with those I love, capturing photo memories, and time spent organizing my lists.

Jan 9-16Jan 16-23Jan 23-30Jan 31-Feb 6
Camera1 h 17 min1 h 19 min47 min1 h 7 min
Messages1 h 45 min1 h 13 min2 h 53 min2 h 45 min
WhatsApp24 min38 min1 h 5 min27 min
Photos44 min1 h 18 min40 min1 h 1 min
Anylist6 min5 min1 min5 min
Total4 h 16 min4 h 33 min5 h 26 min5 h 25 min
Excess scrolling time1 h 11 min2 h 40 min2 h 16 min3 h 53 min

The numbers are…better than I imagined. I don’t love the scrolling time of almost 4 hours last week, but it’s not horrific. I’ve made a point to navigate to news sites less frequently and I’m trying to look up fewer random Google search strings. (Do I really need to know more about the Dancing Plague of 1518? Turns out I do. This dancing mania killed 400 people and may have been caused by the consumption of rye flour contaminated with the fungal disease ergot, which is known to produce convulsions. I’ve now saved you 10 minutes of Googling on your phone. You are welcome.)

More than anything, I want to monitor my usage and, as Gretchen Rubin says, we monitor what we measure.


How was your week? Please don’t tell me if you’re able to wear sneakers outside every day. Try any great recipes this week? How are you feeling about your smartphone usage lately? Have you jumped on the Wordle bandwagon yet?

Header photo by Tim Alex on Unsplash