Casual Friday + Maintenance Cleaning

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

Maintenance Cleaning

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

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

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

do you have a cleaning schedule?

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

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

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

what products do you use?

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

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

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

what do the kids do?

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

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

do you have daily chores?

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

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

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

Casual Friday + Deep-Dive Into Laundry

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

Laundry Deep-Dive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When do you do laundry?

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

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

where do you store dirty laundry?

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

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

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

How do you separate clothes?

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

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

Who puts away the clean Clothes?

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

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

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

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

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

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

what about big items like sheets and towels?

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

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

What about a clothesline?

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

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

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

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

Casual Friday + Love of the Week

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

love of the week: My quotes book

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

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

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

Casual Friday + Love of the Week

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

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

love of the week

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

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

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

Casual Friday + Love of the Week

  • It felt…weird…to not post every day this week. It was a conscious decision as something has to give in light of my increased work responsibilities. But still, I really missed it. I’ve been treating this blog as though I’m writing for an audience of one (which I suspect is true most days!), but the structure and routine of writing 5x/week was so important for getting this site launched.
  • We got a chance to re-visit Point Prim Lighthouse last weekend. It was a nice drive down the Annapolis Valley; the leaves are starting to change and the sun, though warm, has the distinctly “fall” feel to it. We had a picnic lunch and then explored the rocks. As I was watching the kids pick their path and navigate what was, at some points, trecherous terrain, I told my father-in-law: “This is their happy place.” It really is. After an upswing in sibling rivalary and discontent recently, out in the wild, with their rocks to climb and seaweed to pick and shells to collect – they were just so happy. Until we got back in the car…
  • We stopped by the replica home of folk artist Maud Lewis; it is SO tiny (her actual house now resides inside the NS Art Gallery as a permanent exhibit). It is incredible to imagine her life and the sheer determination and force of will required; I need to watch Maudie (starring Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke) ASAP!
  • Abby has been so interested in food presentation lately. We had our weekly batch of my beloved oatmeal waffles and this is what she produced…I overlooked the generous helping of chocolate chips because, clearly, it was required for the purposes of symmetry.

love of the week: Fall in the Maritimes

I really do love the fall, October specifically. The air is crisp. The sun is still warm. It’s cool enough to warrant evening snuggles by the fire, but temperate enough that we can still enjoy going for a walk without the mittens, cumbersome coats, and heavy boots that will weigh us down for many months to come.

I often tell people: “Fall is my favourite season…if only winter didn’t follow.” But fall is my favourite season and this year I’m trying not to think about the snow and the ice and the long, dark nights of winter. Fall is my favourite season. Full stop.

I’m trying to savour the tastes and smells and sounds and colours and flavours of fall. Pumpkin muffins, crunchy leaves, dappled afternoon sun, fresh Honeycrisp apples from the orchard. It really is beautiful…

Casual Friday + Love of the Week

  • Last Friday Abby had a “PJ, Pizza, and Pool Party” celebrating the back-to-school season. The hosts have a pool and hottub, so she was pretty much in paradise. The rest of our little crew got takeout Subway, picniced at a local park, and chased the sunset. It’s always so nice to spend 1-on-1 time with the kids and it almost took my breath away how old Levi seemed.
Sunsets never quite translate in pictures but as sunsets go, it was a nice one!
  • We are finally emerging from the itchy cloud poison ivy cast over our lives. It wasn’t that bad, compared to some of the horror stories I’ve read about in the last month. But still, it felt pretty bad. It was about an hour each day of applying different creams and ointments, and you just felt horribly helpless to prevent the constant and clearly unpleasant itching/discomfort. What a story to tell. But there has been no cream or Benadryl all week. Hallelujah.
  • We ordered siding. We’re going with metal which I think will be partial fulfillment of John’s dream to build a shipping container house one day. It’s definitely more industrial than most of the houses around us, but I’m excited. Also, we’ve made some big decisions to scale back the addition portion of our reno…and I’m so relieved. The permitting process was shaping up to be a nightmare and I’m just so ready to get our house/driveway back and looking presentable. The final two windows have arrived and we got our front door by driving to a Home Depot about an hour away and renting one of their enormous cargo vans to bring it home (doors, like many other home reno items, are nearly impossible to source right now due to manufacturing shortages. We ended up getting a stock white Craftsman which we may paint down the line. If we were going to get things done on schedule, we just didn’t have time for a custom order. Also, due to COVID, Home Depot no longer ships items between stores – who knew – so instead of getting it delivered from the store 5 minutes away, we had to pick it up an hour away).
Ultravic Vicwest metal siding in Deep Shadow Grey.
  • We had an election this week. I actually forgot until part-way through the day. I went to vote at lunchtime, got a surge of national pride as I slide my ballot in the box…and then I forgot about it again. I woke up Tuesday morning and remembered “Wait, there was an election last night.” At $600m, it wasn’t a cheap way to get back to the same point: a minority Liberal government. Sigh. But, as is typical in Canada, people are proud to vote and then head back to life as usual.
  • Speaking of Canada (with our many failures and foibles), I just finished reading Ladyparts. I can’t remember who put this book on my radar, but while I expected to just skim through it, I ended up reading almost every word. At times a very uncomfortable read (lots of graphic details + it felt 100 pages longer than it needed to be), it was a fascinating view into certain aspects of the American health care system and impacts of the structure on marginalized populations. There are a lot of challenges with our Canadian system – an aging demographic, the increasing pressures from obesity, diabetes and other long-term health disorders that are heavy burdens for our cash- and personnel-strapped system. But, with all the flaws, I am so, so glad I live in a country where there is access to free medical care. When the author, Deborah Copaken, mentioned the cost of her deliveries ($9,000/child, after insurance), it boggled my mind. I walked in to the hospital, showed my Medicare card once, and walked out with my baby without paying a penny (after C-sections + 4-day hospital stays). I don’t think about taking my sick child to the ER, asking my doctor about a suspicious mole, or trying to decide if having another baby would break us financially. I’m not trying to take political stands – and see plenty of challenges ahead for our system – but the underlying principle of free access to health services makes me proud to be Canadian!

Love of the week: My iphone (and apple products in general)

There are some drawbacks to having a computer, camera, GPS, measuring tape, and CD player tucked into my back pocket. It can be hard to disconnect and I definitely feel an uncomfortable draw to pick up my phone when I should be enjoying the nature around me or listening to my children recount the details of their day. For the most part, I’m pretty good about putting it down and staying present, but there is still room for improvement.

But for all the potential pitfalls of modern technology, it really is a big contributor to my happiness. I love being able to walk to the bus stop while talking to my parents. I love being able to take pictures of my kids trying on Halloween costumes in the middle of the store. I love being able to text someone I care about when I’m waiting to see the doctor. I love being able to key in an address to a new location and have “someone” guide me there by the most efficient route, bypassing construction, and showing me – if I’d like – the nearest gas station for fuel and bathroom facilities.

I also really appreciate how Apple products work together seamlessly (most of the time). I know some diehard tech gurus punch lots of holes in what Apple does – and I’ve no doubt there are other phones with more sophisticated cameras or processing power – but for what I need it’s pretty much perfect. I can Airdrop pictures from my phone to my laptop. I can push activity reports from my watch to my phone. I can slip headphones in my ear and have them connect to my laptop, watch, or phone in seconds.

Apple products are expensive (though waiting to buy older tech when new versions are released can provide big cost savings + if you happen to be tech-savvy there are often some great second-hand deals).

But I see them as an investment. I’ve owned and used my MacBook Air for years and years. I’m not concerned about having the “latest” of anything, and to me, it still functions like a brand-new laptop even though it’s 5 (maybe even 6 or 7) years old!

Casual Friday + Love of the Week

  • We did not manage to avoid poison ivy after all. I wrote a few weeks ago about how we had an unfortunate run-in with the plant on our final day of summer vacation. When several days went by I thought we had dodged a bullet. A little over 72 hours after exposure the first spots started appearing. It wasn’t that bad. Now I thought we’d all but dodged a bullet. And then the blisters got bigger and spread (they don’t actually spread, the blisters just break out at different times where the skin has come in contact with the urushiol)! About 14 days in things seem to be improving. But what a wild ride. Lots of Calmoseptine and Benadryl…and extra snuggles.
  • We’re wrapping up our second week of school. The first week felt choppy; we missed three days when we were travelling to White Point. The kids had an amazing time with Grammie and Grampie and despite the poison ivy, it sounds like their behaviour exceeded expectations (which I tried to set relatively low). Phew.
  • There was an open house at school this week and I have a better sense of classroom dynamics. The kids are pretty independent these days and it’s not easy to extract much information from them. School is almost always “fine” or “good” – positive neutrality for the win? Yesterday I asked one of the kids how the day had been. “Fine,” was the response (how shocking). I wanted to dig a little deeper, as parents do, and asked what the lowlight had been. Said child remarked there actually wasn’t any lowlight from the day, then added: “It was just really boring. There weren’t any fights.” I guess drama at school sometimes elevates the experience?
  • We’re now, unexpectedly, the neighbourhood basketball hub. A neighbour across the street texted me last weekend to ask if I would come over to see her – without kids in tow. She had a proposition: someone was selling a basketball hoop and she and her husband wanted to buy it for all the kids in the neighbourhood. Would we be willing to store it in our driveway? So that’s why tonight (8:30 pm on a Thursday) I’m watching a whole gaggle of kids (not my own; they’re in bed) play a game of pickup in my driveway. We really do live in such a wonderful town (see below).
  • I’m pressing on with my daily run. Last Sunday night about 10:30 pm (I was already in bed), I realized I hadn’t run for the day. That’s how I found myself running back and forth at the bottom of the bed in my pajama’s – barefoot – in the dark. I told myself at the start of the month I wasn’t going to require a max or min…but this was definitely a min. I clocked in at 0.12 km but that qualfies as part of my one-month commitment, so I went with it.

love of the week: Wolfville

I’ve written a bit about our local travel adventures – while we loved to explore this gorgeous province pre-COVID, the combination of the kids getting older (read: no naps or diapers) and having to stay much closer to home just solidified our determination to seek out lots of fun locations in relative proximity.

Nova Scotia has a lot of offer.

But of all the places we’ve visited, I like home the best. Wolfville is an academic (Acadia University) and cultural hub (lots of art, food, and music festivals). We’re within walking distance of our: school, dentist, family doctor, chiropractor, health-food store, clinic, library, hardware store, pharmacy, grocery store, and bi-weekly farmer’s market. We have ready access to groomed trails, swimming spots, and playgrounds (and now a splashpad). There’s a broad cross-section of eating establishments, and we’re minutes from various wineries/distilleries. An hour from bigger city amenities (including an international airport and children’s hospital), we feel just “connected” enough.

Safe, walkable neighbourhoods, refreshing sea air, and hand-picked local produce coming from every direction this time of year, Wolfville is about as good as it gets.

…and now we have our very own boxcar – a cherry on top.

Casual Friday + Love of the Week

  • We got to the lake one last time. We went swimming and fished and took conference calls from rooms overlooking the water. We played UNO and Sorry. We had breakfast on the beach (toasting hearty slices of Cinnamon Raisin bread over the bonfire) and roasted marshmallows for our daily s’more fix. We lit sparklers in the dark. We skipped rocks until my shoulder ached. We caught toads (37 one evening to be exact).
All the little toads were released in short order – all 37 of them.
  • We also narrowly missed a nasty run-in with poison ivy. On our final day at the lake my Dad boated us out to a family-favourite island. It’s the best place to get skipping rocks and I’ve been going here every summer for over 3 decades. This time my Dad and I sat near the water while the kids explored inland a bit. This is a tiny island so they were only 30 feet away from us the whole time. They rarely play well together for an extended period, but this day they didn’t make a peep (they were creating booby traps in the sand, turns out) so I just let them be. When it was time to head home for lunch we wandered over their play spot. My Dad, in a very casual and off-hand way said: “I sure hope that’s not poison ivy.” Surrounding their sandy play spot was densely packed foliage – clearly all belonging to the same species. I immediately scoffed at his comment. I’ve never had an issue with poison ivy in my life, despite growing up near heavily wooded areas. Plus, poison ivy has leaves of three, I said. My Dad quickly pointed out there were indeed 3 leaves. Hmm. He was right. It’s much lower to the ground I insisted. It’s pretty low to the ground, Elisabeth. Thanks to the wonders of technology I did a quick Google search right before we left the island which started some mild panic. Then I downloaded an plant recognition app and about 2 seconds later I had a positive plant ID: Western poison ivy. I immediately had the kids jump in the lake and as soon as we got home they had a long shower in lukewarm water, scrubbing down with lots of dishsoap (per Dr. Google’s suggestion). All the clothes and towels were changed out and washed. And then/now I just crossed my fingers. Apparently it CAN take up to 3 weeks for symptoms to show up, but I’m thinking we narrowly dodged a bullet?
Leaves of three + characteristic longer stem on the middle leaf.
  • School starts in less than a week! At first I was excited and now it’s starting to feel a bit daunting? How are we going to manage getting the kids up and out the door on time. After a summer of flexible scheduling for morning wakeups – phew. It’s going to be rough. But also so, so worth it.
  • I know I’ve been circling back to the no-exercise thing, but it really has felt huge. Over the last few summers even our time at the lake has been punctuated by regular exercise. I needed something predictable for September, so I’ve made a goal to run every day. No minimum distance, no quota on treadmill vs. outdoors – just run everyday. So far so good (3/3)!
  • Also, my eating habits have been totally derailed lately. It feels good to be back home and settling in to routines. I had eggs for supper last night and no dessert. I like eating this way, but summer just has a way of slowly eroding good eating habits (when travelling at least). It was less about the food on offer (desserts, carbs) and more about my portion control (sure I’ll have seconds) and snacking. I have a pair of jeans that have always been just a little on the loose side. My comfy jeans. They are no longer loose. Oh well. Commit, Reset, Recommit. I’m recommitting!

Love of the week: My favourite little guy

Weeks ago my daughter happened to notice that John made it in as my love of the week. She was quite aghast she hadn’t yet been highlighted (I pointed out that Father’s Day seemed a natural time to celebrate a father). Her turn is coming, I promise. But this time my Love of the Week is this adorable little fella.

Levi can be so jolly. He loves to laugh and giggle. He loves to play practical jokes. He loves to play games. He loves to be outside and to get dirty. He loves to explore and bang and smash and build things. (He also loves to drive me crazy. But I can’t stay frustrated for too long – he’s just so cute, especially with his extremely bleached-by-the-sun summer hair.)

He really came into his own this summer at the lake: running and splashing off the raft (last year he was too timid); casting his own line and landing more fish than everyone else put together; skipping stones as far as the adults.

On our last night there the lake was calm, the sky was beautiful and as we stood fishing at the marina for the last time in 2021 he turned to me and said: “This is so great, Mama.” It really was.

Throwback to 2019! I’ve got to get better about getting in photos with the kids…(photo credit – Joy B).