It’s hard to come back from life at the lake. That said, there were some bumps along the road in paradise too. No matter the backdrop, parenting can still feel hard. Managing expectations and playing referee in endless squabbles can leave me feeling rundown and disheartened. And then one child’s chin had an ill-timed meeting with another child’s head which resulted in our first household concussion (minor, thankfully). All that to say we’re easing back in to life at home. And there have been lots of bright moments, amidst a few stormclouds.
We had quasi-major renos this week. Home projects stress me out. I know to anticipate the stress, so it doesn’t catch me by surprise anymore, but I haven’t really come up with any great ways to avoid it. I think a big part of the problem is my maximizer tendancies; I want to research every alternative and in the end I second-guess perfectly well-researched and solid decisions. But done is better than perfect (and there really is no “perfect,” is there). Just goes to show everyone’s good at something…and nobody’s good at everything. I, for one, am not good at managing renos! The house upgrade to-do list is long, but this was an important first step. Progress, not completion. I’m trying to tell myself that, but there have definitely been tears this week…
We had an unexpected visit from close friends one evening this week after the kids were in bed (well, the oldest did make a cameo appearance for a while). We sat outside in lawn chairs until well past dark – and well past our bedtimes – and grabbed sweaters and blankets and shooed away mosquitos so we could keep on talking. When we were getting ready for bed John said: “That was refreshing.” It really was; no planning or cooking or juggling kid bedtimes. Just friends stopping by for a night of effortless discussion.
These same friends then invited us to a spontaneous surprise birthday party the next day and we spent a fun afternoon romping around their backyard with some other kiddos.
I got COVID shot #2…and it was SO MUCH easier than the first time around. I used a local drive-thru clinic (the woman parked next to me in recovery was commenting to a friend via cell phone that she never imagined she’d go through a drive-thru to get a vaccine), which was both convenient and efficient. Everyone I’ve talked to seems to indicate people react more strongly to one shot or the other. Aside from an early bedtime on Day #1, and a sore arm for a few days, I was good to go. Hurrah.
Love of the Week: Reaching a goal
At the start of every year I make a list of goals for the next 365 days .
I’ve done a List of 100 Dreams (thanks, Laura Vanderkam!), but this is more closely aligned with Gretchen Rubin’s 20 for 20. I always have a range of goals: some relate to health (food + exercise), others career (e.g. pitch a particular product), relationships (a solo getaway with hubby shows up every year). Some are relatively easy to tick off – creating our annual family photobook, reading 3 novels by Charles Dickens; some are harder, and others fall under the category of “attainable aspirations.” Cue this website.
For years I’ve wanted to re-start a blog. Last year my goal was literally just to buy a domain. I did that and didn’t even attempt to go any further.
This year, I wanted to launch a website and produce 52 posts. It felt unlikely – I have been wanting to do this for almost a decade – and I was willing to give myself a pass. When December 31st rolled around, I decided I would count it a success if I had the framework for a website in place.
Instead, I did make it happen, the easy way. Next Monday, I’ll plan to publish post #52.
Perhaps in 2022 I’ll make it a goal to reach a specific audience or sell some piece of writing for publication. For now, though, I’m going to bask in the blue-lit glow of reaching this milestone…
As much as we love Nova Scotia, it felt great to drive across the border to see my parents. The month-long heat wave we had all been enjoying, along with near constant sunshine, came to its eventual end and we encountered some rain and cooler temperatures. But after six months of separation, the weather didn’t much matter to me. The kids helped Grampie split wood and collect water from the spring; they feasted on all the foods that “Grammie makes best” – Mac N’ Cheese, meatballs, a turkey dinner with all the fixings, chocolate chip cookies. I drank cup after cup of coffee. The kids attended a day camp (literally next door!). And John and I took work calls with views like this as our backdrop. It never gets old.
I made an effort to unplug. Aside from pictures – because, hello, lake – I mostly stayed off my phone. I set that OOO of message and tried to stick with it, only checking emails once a day or so. I tramped through the woods with the kids, roasted marshmallows, caught up with old friends; I cut down trees with my Dad, and chopped vegetables in the kitchen with my Mom. I slept 8 hours a night and never felt any pressure to clean up. We boated and we fished and we bonfired. It felt good.
John and I got away on a day trip – we drove through Fundy National Park, visited Cape Enrgage (finding fossils on the beach was a highlight of the day), and ended up in Alma at lunchtime. We enjoyed delicious fish & chips and a lobster roll at a picnic table by the ocean, literally sitting in the shadow of a fishing boat. While I’ve only visited this little seaside town a handful of times, it holds a special place in my heart. John proposed on a beach in Alma and, as we were driving away, I realized it marked 13 years to the day since we got engaged in that very town. A very happy coincidence.
Love of the Week: Daycamp
The kiddos were able to attend a local day camp for the week and it was balm to my weary Mama-soul. It has been almost 18 months since I’ve been away from the kiddos overnight and 2020/2021 has been…intense. I can feel the built-up pressure, recognize the signs of burnout. I know this is a busy season of life: juggling careers, active kids, the early stages of homeownership. Though it’s normal and expected and manageable, parenting is hard and finding white space feels great.
The day program ran from 10 AM – 6:30 PM and having them return home fed was a gamechanger. That period from mid-afternoon to bedtime can feel brutally exhausting. I’m not deluding myself that one week will cure what ails me, but it was so nice tomiss the kids. The school day never feels long enough; my list is never checked off to the point I feel like I have enough buffer to both enjoy the kids and take care of their practical needs (lunchboxes, showers, bedtime routines, homework, supper). Not to mention easing into a second shift after bedtime where I might tackle emails or even schedule work calls.
At the end of the day it was pure joy to see them come bounding toward me, evidence of tuck shop plastered all over their sweaty faces. They had so much fun! There was no pressure for me to provide entertainment. Just a week of that ol’-fashioned camp magic – for both kids and Mama.
And coming home to round out each evening with a bonfire was just icing on the cake. Or marshmallows on the chocolate…
It’s official. School is out! It feels both celebratory and overwhelming. Summer always ends up being fun, but staring down all that white space in the kiddo’s schedules can seem daunting. One day at a time, I remind myself, and we’ve started things off with a bang. In the last week of June we: hosted friends for a weekend BBQ – a first since the latest restrictions eased. We enjoyed a fun day at a family-owned cottage – swimming, kayaking, and playing lots of washer toss. Levi attended a birthday pool party, one of the few we’ve had since COVID started. I love that he’s still young enough to happily attend girly birthday parties with unicorn-themed everything. He is so into lightsabers and LEGO and Transformers, but boy he loves the girls in his kindergarten class and was obsessed with picking out the sweetest presents for them both (it was a joint party for two girls; how great an idea is that!). We got caught in a torrential downpour within seconds of arriving at the beach one day and watched epic lightning (from the safety of our car).
Yesterday we celebrated Canada Day (by doing laundry, deep-cleaning the car, and generally getting life in order). Both kids ended up having spontaneous playdates, one kiddo had a tennis lesson, and John and I fit in an at-home date night.
Every month for the last 2 years I’ve recorded a tally of my workouts (runs + walks) and total mileage across each. Several times I’ve hit 175 km exactly. Back in January I reached 175.4 km. Reaching/surpassing the 176 km marker was a clear target, but it wasn’t important enough for me to track it through the month. End-of-day Wednesday, the final day of June, I went to do my monthly tally and clocked in with 199.55 km! It was slightly frustrating to be under the 200 km mark, but I’d blown past my goal – so I shrugged and went on with my evening routine. When I happened to mention it to John, he looked at me like I had two heads. “You’re not going for it?” he asked! So that’s how I found myself recording the world’s slowest treadmill walk at 10 PM, getting me to 200.15 km of recorded workouts in June!
In honour of summer adventuring – and because I get asked for details about our favourite local destinations quite regularly (and it’s always easier to “sell” a destination when pictures are involved) – I thought it might be fun to highlight some local spots on the blog. Look for a few “Destination Nova Scotia” posts in the coming weeks.
Love of the Week: Canada
O…Canada. Like all entities (individual and collective), this country of mine is a constant work in progress. I believe patriotism should never trump morality; I recognize that there will be many challenges and mistakes – there will be times when major redirection is needed. Countries are – and have been – run by fallible human beings who bring their own depravities, insecurities, and biases to the table. Ultimately this country, like all others, needs Divine leadership for true love and justice to prevail.
But at the end of the day, I am immensely proud to call Canada home and consider it a major blessing in the lives of my family, especially my children, that we call ourselves Canadians.
Most years we hit the road; adventuring as a little family unit or meeting up with friends for good food and fun. We’ve done community slip-and-slides and dunk tanks; we’ve eaten lots of free slices of red-and-white pound cake. I’ve always made sure to get Canadian garb for the kids, and at least one page of the annual photobook is dedicated to Canada Day activities.
But I feel like our celebration this year – home as a family, preparing for a week of summer adventures – is the right pace for coming out of a global pandemic. I doubt pictures of vacuuming the car will make it into the photobook, but that’s okay. We Canadians tend to be pretty unassuming…and that’s part of our charm.
Got milk? It’s official! John – husband-and-photography extraordinaire – is the Grand Prize winner of the 2021 Saltscapes Amateur Photography contest. Cue all the jazz hands. His acceptance speech goes out to cheeky cow #88 whose willingness to cooperate for the camera is responsible for our prize: a 2-night, all-inclusive stay in a seaside cottage at White Point Resort. Yes, please!
Father’s Day was nice. Some adventure, some relaxing. Church started up in-person, we went on a long family walk. There was lots of good food: chorizo sausage and eggs for breakfast, a charcuterie board for lunch (with pecan pie for dessert), and takeout sushi for supper. Hence the long walk. Our trek to George’s Island on Saturday was fun; a bit underwhelming, but I think we have pretty high adventuring expectations and we’re all glad to have crossed it off our Nova Scotia bucket list. The highlight was a guided tour of the island’s underground tunnel network, complete with 1940’s military munitions.
I finally settled on a pair of sneakers. Oh, the drama. I ended up buying 4 pairs and trying them all out on our treadmill. One day I was running with one brand of shoe on my left foot, and another brand on the right. When I went to the Running Room I told the sales associate: any brand but ASICS. My final pick? A pair of ASICS. They’re pink and I like them. Definitely not perfect, but they’re good enough and the decision is done. As a related aside, I learned that ASICS comes from the Latin Anima Sana In Corpore Sano – a sound mind in a sound body. A pretty lofty – but fitting – logo/mission statement for a sports apparel company.
Saltscapes is now promoting their annual recipe contest. Spurred on by the success of her father, my favourite pint-sized baker desperately wanted in on the action. For weeks she’s been begging me to spend time helping her tweak our beloved waffle recipe to fit the contest brief. The result: a hearty (gluten-free) oatmeal waffle with blueberries and a whipped vanilla maple cream cheese topping. It was delicious! The grand prize is a brand-new dishwasher so I told her if she wins, I’ll give her a month off (one of her daily chores is unloading the dishwasher)!
Obligatory strawberry U-pick – check. Somehow, even if it winds up being cheaper to buy them in-store, I feel obligated to pick at least one basket of my own strawberries. A perk of maturing children: they are are a real help in the berry fields. It’s amazing how much faster, and more pleasant, berry picking is when there are no diapers to change in the field, no toddlers darting off and Godzilla-ing the berry plants.
And just like that the school year is practically over. We only have a handful of days left before summer vacation. It was an unusual year: masks, segregated playgrounds, and a month-long stint of at-home learning. Admission: I don’t feel prepared for summer. I had a temporary crisis last week when I realized just howunstructured our summer plans were; because of border closures and restrictions, it has been hard to plan ahead. Programs are just opening for registration, and certain activities are shuttered for the whole summer due to COVID. I feel like I’m slowly moving toward having a better grip on reaching that balance between having enough activities to keep the kids active and engaged (allowing the adults in our household to have enough time to handle work responsibilities) while leaving white space for spontaneity and real vacation.
LOVE OF the week: my soup-and-sandwich oasis
I have a friend. She’s decades older than me, wiser in spades…and we’re kindred spirits. I admired her from afar for years. Then, providentially, a series of challenging life events put me directly in her path. I didn’t know her well at the time and yet she said some of the kindest words I’ve ever heard at just the right time. We’ve been dear friends ever since, and it’s downright uncanny to keep uncovering our similarities.
We don’t see each other as often as I’d like, but I carved out one last visit before summer break (when my flexibility will plummet for a while; or at least my flexibility to do things without someone under 4-foot tall in tow).
My visits to her place – we call them my “soup-and-sandwich oasis.” She makes gourmet (and healthy!) soups, always accompanied by delicious (equally gourmet) sandwiches, and the best cup of tea you’ll find anywhere. We eat and discuss and laugh. We talk about hard topics like aging and grief and mental health. We talk about God and faith and existential questions of purpose and meaning. We talk about Keto, cats, and a new lentil soup recipe she’s perfecting.
I hope everyone has their own version of this soup-and-sandwich oasis. If the opportunity presents itself, befriend someone beyond you in years. Friends come in all shapes, sizes…and ages.
I got the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine last week; aside from a sore arm, the only downside was utter exhaustion on Days #2 & 3. Bless his heart, John took the kidlets on an all-morning yardsale extravaganza. I told a friend what they were doing and she said: “I hope they find some good stuff.” Too which I retorted: “Define good.” The kids, one in particular, have a penchant for weaseling their father into purchasing items (or “treasures” as they prefer to label the assortment of trinkets that trickle home) on these excursions. They actually do have a great eye, I can’t deny that. I also can’t deny the over-flowing bookshelves and toy box. Pleasantly they did find “good” stuff – some ski poles for me, a great new outdoor chair set, and I spent the morning with my feet up (literally), sipping a delicious bulletproof coffee and revelling in the quiet.
I got a blog comment from SHU, blogger extraordinaire and co-host of one of my favourite podcasts, Best of Both Worlds. Epically cool.
Last Friday was a day off school and the kids and I were joined by friends at a local hidden gem: Pirate’s Cove. Discovered by my husband Father’s Day 2020 (a day which just so happened to coincide with a mental breakdown on my part where I couldn’t fathom helping with childcare…so he spent the entirety of Father’s Day being on solo-parenting duty, ironically enough), we’ve returned to Pirate’s Cove over and over. Being out of plain sight – I drove by the spot regularly, unawares, foryears – gives it an edge of whimsy. The surrounding beach is also covered in tidal pools. Together the kids happily explored – and fell into – various tidal pools discovering mussels, crabs, and catching lots of little amphipods.
Love of the Week: John. Wonderful husband, father, friend and an all-around great guy.
It’s Father’s Day this weekend, and I’m so thankful to be navigating this parenting labyrinth – and life in general – with this wonderful man by my side. Forget love of the week, this guy is the love of my life!
It will be a low-key weekend, but we’re anxiously anticipating a time (in the hopefully not-so-distant future) when we can steal away for a few days together sans kiddos.
We’ll be in the middle of a particularly tough day and one of us will just sigh and say: “Remember ____[insert trip without children in tow]?” At this point I’d take a shanty in Timbuktu…
Looking forward to celebrating his role as an awesome Papa with some delicious food – takeout sushi and pecan pie will most certainly be involved – and some local adventuring. We’ve also got tickets to visit George’s Island, recently opened up to the public. Lighthouses, a ferry, and picnicking on a sunny day – sounds hard to beat.
I didn’t even make it through my towering book stack. In a fit of desperation, I put my giant to-read pile into the library-return bag…unread. It feels like treason, but it needed to be done. In the last few years, I’ve gotten better about abandoning books after the first 50 pages or so, but these were mostly books I knew I would enjoy and had wanted to read. That’s one of the (many, many) great things about books – they’ll wait until I’m ready.
So, I was on a podcast. Kind of. I got a text from a friend this week saying: “I just heard you on Best of Both Worlds.” What?! In this week’s episode, Laura and Sarah answered my listener question. Aside from the trauma of hearing a recording of myself, it was a fun experience. My question shows up around the 30-minute mark.
Remember me mentioning the thought of picking out new running shoes is enough to drive me crazy; well, I ended buying FOUR pairs of sneakers (and counting) last Saturday. I’ve made a table and am evaluating each one on various categories, before assigning an overall comfort score. Each sporting store I visited encouraged me to take them for a test run, so I’ve been doing 20 minutes in each set of sneakers on our treadmill. For the amount of time I spend on my feet each day, it does make sense to maximize this purchase…or so I’m telling myself.
I went out for supper with one of my closest friends (the wise one I mentioned) this week. It was my first outdoor dining experience since the lockdown lifted and it was lovely. No kids, a great friend, wonderful conversation, and delicious food (I didn’t prepare). Per tradition, I treat this friend to supper each year around her birthday; somehow the predictability of it makes us both happier. No dithering about what gift to buy and, if we want to shake things up a bit, we can always vary the restaurant (though we rarely do). Supper was followed by some fun and productive thrifting. I get such a thrill reinventing – or at least rejuvenating – my wardrobe in an inexpensive, environmentally-friendly way.
Love(s) of the Week.
#1. Outdoor dining.
I had my love of the week picked out (see below), but then just had to add another because eating outside really has been such a lovely addition to my life.
With the kids back in school, I’ve been eating my lunch under our apple tree. While the blooms have passed for the year, it provides great shade. I don’t use a device – no audiobooks or browsing the news. Just me in a comfy chair, enjoying my lunch break.
We picnic as a family regularly, but it’s a different (more relaxing) experience when I’m dining solo. No one is spilling their water or asking for seconds of fruit salad…and there is no bickering, complaining, food throwing or other unpleasant sibling interactions (not that my kids ever participate in these sorts of behaviours).
#2: Oat Milk
I’ve struggled with lactose intolerance since my daughter was born over a decade ago. After a lifetime of consuming milk (daily) and enjoying ice cream, cheesecake, and other delectable treats with immunity, overnight I had to rethink my diet.
It’s been a relatively seamless shift. I’m not much bothered by avoiding dairy, and when I do consume it – accidentally or on purpose – I’m lucky enough to not have any major issues.
In terms of milk substitutes, I’ve tried them all: soy, cashew, almond. For anything requiring cream I’ve made the shift to full-fat coconut milk but, for everything else, I’m a full-blown convert to oat milk. My favourite brand: Suzie’s from Costco, made with only two ingredients (oats and water, thankfully). Delicious on cereal, in baked goods, and when added to tea and coffee.
In-person schooling resumed this week in Nova Scotia. The announcement came on my birthday – best gift ever. Online learning was doable but not ideal for our family, so it was a huge relief to see the kids able to safely return to their teachers and friends to finish out the school year.
Last week I mentioned feeling like I needed to take a break from new books. It is a combination of information overwhelm plus the (admittedly first-world) stress of managing library due dates and prioritizing what book to read next – all while in the midst of a COVID lockdown. A few days ago I stumbled upon a set of digital Morning Pages I wrote in June 2019. I opened a day at random (I know Julia Cameron discourages re-reading, but I think I get a pass since it’s been 2 years; I also do them digitally so I’m basically a full-blown heretic anyway), and read the following: “I’ve tried to cut back on book-reading. Practically, it hasn’t meant much, but I’ve not ordered in any books for myself this week (even though lots have arrived), and I’m just going to let things come in as they do and not constantly be trying to read/learn. I feel like I can attack things full-tilt in the fall again if I want to. For now, as odd and sad as it sounds, I want to watch more mindless TV.” I’m sensing an annual pattern? Bleak Canadian midwinter = give me all the books. Short, glorious Canadian summer = give me all the Vitamin D. Once the current stack is complete (currently loving The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman – how have I not read this before?), it will be back to old favourites from my bookshelf for the summer.
We are officially a Rubix cube family. While it warms a Mama’s heart to see her crew deep so deep in game-centric thought (see picture above; he sat on the couch for ages, mumbling moves to himself), it is making bedtimes and breakfast more of a gong show. I had two kids at the kitchen table tackling Rubix cubes this morning while their father worked on one nearby; I had to remind them to eat and we barely made it out the door in time, but I guess as obsessions go, it could be much worse. Funny aside: one day Levi was working on a cube with some friends and came racing inside to announce he had solved it in its entirety! Turns out our mischievous little scallywag had just pulled the blocks off and rearranged them manually. It was good for a laugh; he can, consistently, get 2-3 sides completed sans “cheating”.
Love of the week. Nate Bargatze specials. Comedy preferences vary so much and I guess his brand of humour could fall flat with some viewers?! But in my family, his routines are pure comedic gold. My husband and I quote some memorable line from one of his specials almost daily. Not only is he relatable, but his clean (you can watch these with the kids), deadpan standup persona is just…hilarious. I’d recommend watching the specials in order: his first (<30-minute) routine in The Standups series followed by his two specials: The Tennesee Kid and The Greatest Average American, the latter of which was released during COVID.
It’s my birthday week. What a year this has been. Such an unusual time for our family, our country, our world. Some things have maintained a predictable rhythm, and then other things – like school, border and church closures – still feel so dystopian. Lots to reflect upon, so much to be thankful for and, yes, another year older, if not any the wiser for it…
I’ve been working my way through a huge stack of library books and think I’ve reached the point where I need to back off from new reads and return to some of my favourites on the book shelf. Time to dust off The Lord of the Rings, Jane Eyre, and An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth. Something about the pressure of retaining new information and making sure I stay on top of due dates all just feels like stress I don’t need to be juggling right now.
Monday was a holiday in Canada; not statutory, but the kids had the day off from online learning which felt like a reason to celebrate. We made the most of it, traveling to a local hiking trail where we proceeded to walk exactly 0.5 km before stumbling upon a stream (in the loosest sense of the word; it was more like a generous trickle). Thus ended the hike. The kids spent nearly two hours making bridges out of rocks, sticks, and moss. It was glorious. We also made a life-size version of Chutes and Ladders in the driveway. I have been sore all week from that bending, and rain unexpectedly came earlier than the original forecast had predicted, but it was worth it for the two days of fun it provided (sneaking in Math skills and exercise along the way).
Love of the Week: Randomly enough – Twizzlers. Strawberry Twizzlers.
My father has always loved candy. Gummy bears, peppermints, jelly beans. You name it, he loves it. In high school I used to walk to a local corner store and buy penny candy; in university, Saturday evening movie nights with friends were always preceded by piecing together a bag of candy at Muddy’s Convenience (Top 3: Fuzzy Peaches, Sour Patch Watermelon, Swedish Berries).
Then I had a baby and somehow candy just didn’t feel like something a healthy adult, let alone a new mother, would prioritize in her diet. I genuinely lost interest in sugar-coated sugar. But, somehow, my childhood love of licorice never wavered. My Dad always liked black licorice the best, which I tolerated as a kid. But now that I’m grown, I go only for Strawberry Twizzlers. No knock-offs, no Nibs, no strings (yech).
Not only do I still love Twizzlers, I also have very prescribed habits around consuming them. I get Twizzlers twice a year. My husband knows to buy me a package for my birthday and at Christmas.
And then I eat the entire package – by myself – in less than 24 hours. I savour most other treats, but Twizzlers I eat in bulk and allow myself to feel zero guilt. Since I have planned on receiving and eating them only twice a year, and because I genuinely love eating them in large-ish quantities, I just go for it. It is my birthday after all. . .