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Why I #runDisney

Goodness . . . it’s been a LONG time since my last post.  And while I’ve missed jotting down my musings here, there’s been a few things going on . . . like a little kitchen renovation project . . .

and gardening season . .

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which, after several days of planting, is turning into this:

and of course all the end of year, planning for next year, stuff of life that happens when you have kids.

But as crazy as the past month has been, in those quiet moments, when I’m driving to an from schools, or design stores, or I’m speed planting flowers in my garden, my thoughts keep returning to the #runDisney event I did four weeks ago.

Those that know me, know that I love to be active.  I’ve joyfully participated in crossfit of some form or another for years now.  I faithfully train with the Coach a few times a week.  And it’s rare for a day to go by without me finding my way into the gym.  But I have NEVER, EVER considered myself a runner.  The fact that my running “form” has been compared to both a bunny rabbit and a kangaroo perhaps offers a clue as to why I’ve never been a natural at running.  Although, quite frankly, running was always the one form of physical activity that I just could never find the mental fortitude needed to see my way through a run that lasted any longer than about 20 minutes.

But something changed this fall.

Over the summer, I had gradually, unconsciously, built up my ability to run.  With just a kettle bell, a skipping rope a yoga mat, and dirt roads at the cottage, short running intervals played a large part in my daily workouts – if only to break up the monotony of burpees and skipping.

Then my son signed up for the cross country team at school, and was able to earn “bonus miles” for runs he did at home. We started doing short runs together, working up to 5k, earning some virtual Harry Potter run medals in the process, and culminating in finishing the 5k portion of the Toronto Waterfront Marathon.  Those runs I did with my son taught me a lot – the gentle encouragement and support I offered him as he worked his way through our runs made me realize how I talk myself through a workout – let’s just say my self-talk sounds distinctly different, and I wanted to work on changing that.

During those first few weeks of September, while the Husband was starting to question what I would like to do for my 40th birthday, something, I wish I could remember what it was, runDisney and Tinkerbell-run related arrived in my in-box.  Our annual trip to DisneyWorld often coincides with the Wine and Dine Half Marathon weekend – hearing the runners’ stories, seeing them walk around the parks withe their medals has always intrigued me . . .

And so, I found myself registering for the Tinkerbell 10K.

Before I knew it, race day arrived.  My fears that had built up in the intervening months melted away as the start of the race drew closer.  My fears of being alone (it’s the first time I’ve done any sort of sport without a coach or a teammate) dissipated as I met and chatted with other runners in my corral.  My internal debate as to whether I should run the race to see how fast I could run, or whether I should run the race for fun dissipated with each character photo stop I passed along the way.  And my worries about whether or not I could even run a 10K disappeared as I caught sight of the finish line and the Husband and the kids cheering me on.

When you run Disney, every mile really is magical.  Running alone allowed me to take it all in – to marvel at the ages of some of my fellow runners (and just how fast they could run), to admire those running in costumes, to smile at the parent/child running teams, the husband/wife pairings, or the groups of women running together.  It seemed as though everyone on the course, was happy to be there.  Myself included.

But more than anything, running Disney reminded me that just when you think it’s getting too hard to keep going, when you really just want to stop . . . you round a bend and come across something truly magical – whether it’s another runner that inspires you, the sight of a favourite attraction, the view of the sun rising through the park, or a silly character interaction.  And you’re inspired to keep going, to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

And so . . . now that I’m hooked on running Disney,  I’ve already signed up for my next runDisney race . . . the Princess Half Marathon.  I’m also looking to find a way to justify going back to do the Tinkerbell 10K again next year too . . . (but don’t tell the Husband that).

In the meantime, I will actually work on my running technique – hopefully by February, I’ll look like I actually ran the race . . . not bounced my way through it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Problem is Not the Problem . . .

The problem is not the problem.  The problem is your attitude about the problem.

-Captain Jack Sparrow

If ever there was a phrase to describe how I’ve been acting outwardly and how I’ve been feeling inwardly these past few weeks, it would be “a tempest in a teapot”.  Like the saying suggests, I feel very much like I’ve been a force of nature whirling around the house, touching everything and leaving a mess in my wake . . . while inside my thoughts and emotions have been swirling around making it difficult to settle and get myself (inwardly and outwardly) in order.

So, what exactly is my problem?

What has turned me into this whirling dervish?

Well, I’m not entirely sure.

It could be that we’re about to embark on a renovation that is going to render me kitchen-less for about six weeks.  It could be that in about eight weeks, my little one will graduate from her little school, a place that has been part of my routine for the last six years, and move on to grade 1, a sure sign that my little ones are really and truly growing up.  It could be that if I’m not a mom to little ones, I’m not entirely sure of my role in life. It could be that health issues affecting several people close to me have had me revisiting the time in my life when I had health issues, and all the emotions that surround that time in my life.  It could be that I’m standing on the precipice of my life changing in so many ways, and while all of these changes are good, change has a way of making me (just a little bit) scared.

Last night, the kids were begging for a “good breakfast”.  I heard tales of how other boys in my son’s class get bacon and eggs EVERY DAY MOM.  And how other kids in my daughter’s class get to eat fun cereals like “Frozen Flakes”.  So, I compromised as best as I could in the moment, and promised the kids pancakes for breakfast.  (I don’t like smelling like bacon when I’m trying to do a workout, so bacon is out as a weekday breakfast food.  And “sugar cereals”, well, they’re just not happening in our house.  Period).  Pancakes, on the other hand . . . well, I can make a reasonably healthy pancake reasonably quickly, that makes everyone happy (even if I did smell faintly of pancakes at the gym this morning . . . sorry Coach).  Added bonus: I doubled the recipe, made extra to freeze, so we can reheat them in the toaster when the kitchen renovation is happening.

But I digress.  As the kids were eating and I was cleaning up, my son bounded into the kitchen to tell me that there was a beautiful sky outside.  Because I was up early to make the aforementioned special breakfast for the kids, I was dressed and presentable enough to grab my camera and run outside.  And what I found was a truly beautiful sunrise.

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But as I turned to walk back to the house, I was faced with a very different looking sky.

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In other words, the skies this morning were kind of like a metaphor for my life.  Focusing on all change that’s going to happen, and resisting that change, is like standing glued to one spot looking at the gloomy, grey sky.  But opening up to, and accepting the changes that are inevitably coming, I can start to see the good in what is to come, like turning physically around this morning to watch the beauty of the sun rise.

“The problem is not the problem.  The problem is your attitude about the problem”.

 

 

Learning to Let Go (aka Accepting that My Kids are Actually Growing Up)

Can I make a confession?  It kills me that my little ones are growing up.  I miss hearing the little high pitched voices, the little footsteps running through the house, the happy sounds of the little kid cartoon shows and the giggles that went with them.  My house is filled with bigger, louder voices now, heavier footsteps (still running through the house), and annoying “bigger kid” tv shows that have me alternating between gritting my teeth and demanding the tv be turned off – at least the giggles have remained!

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I’ve been in denial about this for quite some time now.

But my great Lego project has helped me to start to put things in perspective.  Let me explain.

While the majority of our crumbling Lego sets reside in the basement, my son had a decent-sized collection of lego decorating his room.  Sadly, it was facing the same fate as the Lego in the basement – namely, it was slowly disintegrating, with bits and pieces falling off as the sets got moved.  And so, last week, I took it all out of his room and added it to my pile of Lego to disassemble, sort and bag.  While I was at it, (and while he was at school), I took the opportunity to clean out the rest of his room.  I went through the bookcases, and removed books that were clearly too young for him.  I boxed up all the Mickey Mouse ear hats we have collected during our trips to Disney.  And while I was at it, I did a good sweep of the Little One’s room too.

As I continued through the house, cleaning up the detritus of the kids’ toddler years (I was amazed how much was left), I got to thinking about clutter, and tidying up, and letting go.  While I love a neat and tidy house, I love being a mom and having my kids around more.  And thus, my house has, for the last eight years, been a jumble of toys and clutter.  Sure, it gets straightened up, on a not infrequent basis I might add, but its still there, lurking in bins and behind closet doors.

But, as the Lego, is slowly getting sorted and boxed, so are my emotions about the kids growing up.  We’re entering a new phase with them, one where we can adventure more, explore more (unencumbered by a stroller, no less!).  A phase that stands to be equally as fun and rewarding as the phase of toddlerhood has been.

And so, I’m going to start looking less towards the past, and more towards the future.  But in the meantime, I’m going to treasure every time my son holds my hand, every time my daughter climbs into my lap for a snuggle, every Disney movie they want to watch (even if it means seeing Frozen for the 1,000,000,000th time), every chance I can get them to still wear matching pj’s, and of course, every early morning wake-up (well, maybe not every time we get called by one of the kids waking up for the day at 4:30am), and every bedtime cuddle, because, as I look to the future, I know that all these lovely little moments will get fewer and further between.

 

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The Return of #The100DayProject

So today marks the start of this year’s #The100DayProject – 100 days of doing something creative – and posting about it on Instagram.  I LOVED this project last year.  And I am pretty excited to start it again this year.

Just like last year, my plan is to take a photo of the sky every day for the next 100 days.  Last year, I found this practice profoundly enlightening; even on the greyest days, I was forced to find beauty in the clouds.  And on the days with the clearest of blue skies, I was forced to find something interesting to capture.  All of which, of course, is oh so applicable to real life . . . that even in the worst of situations, there is a little bit of good (you just have to search for it).  And that things are never truly interesting if they are completely “perfect”.

So . . . without further ado, I’m kicking this year’s project off . . . with a photo of the stormy skies we’ve had all day today.

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“Without rain, nothing grows.”

Even though I was hoping (kind of like last year) for a spectacular sunrise, I am not disappointed to have had grey skies all day today.  100 days from now, these same trees will all be covered in brilliant green leaves.  The flowers will be in bloom.  And the birds will be happily chirping.  Or, to put it differently, within the span of the next 100 days, we will be out of the grey rainy days of April and into the sunny, verdant days of summer.  A metaphor for life if ever there was one . . . out of grey, difficult times, we emerge, a brighter, more interesting version of ourselves.

The Gift Of March Break

Like most of my stories, this one begins a few weeks ago.  It was early on an unseasonably warm Monday morning, the kids, the Husband and I were heading off to our favourite playground in Central Park, the sun was rising over the buildings on the Upper East Side, and my son looked up at me and asked “Can we move to New York?”, before taking off with his sister to beat the adults to the playground.

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Last week, we were fortunate enough to spend a week in the Dominican.  As I waded out into the ocean with my kids to watch the sun rise, I silently wondered “When can we move to the Dominican?” (or anywhere else where I can wander out in bare feet, put my toes in the ocean and watch the sun rise?)

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But as we are now firmly back in Canada, (where there will be no wandering outside in bare feet for at least another few weeks), and preparing to get back into our routines with school starting tomorrow, I’m realizing that my desire to stay in the sunny warmth of the Dominican was rooted in something much deeper than the enjoyment I get out of this particular routine.

Travel, and this trip to the Dominican, in particular, allows each of us to follow our “must” and, for the most part, to forget about our “shoulds” (please check out this amazing article that I just can’t seem to reference enough to understand the idea of must and should).  For me, on this particular trip, I MUST start each day with a wander out to see the sun rise, with camera in one hand, espresso in the other, and preferably in the company of my little ones, and/or the Husband.  (I also MUST end each day with a (large) glass of bubbly, preferably in the company of several amazing new girlfriends, while the husbands chat and the kids play with their new friends).

But more importantly, in the absence of the million and one little “shoulds” that I have in my normal everyday life at home, the endless to-do lists, the pinging of incoming texts and emails, the urgent ring of the phone, there is time to breathe, and respond to the “musts” of others.  Whether that was curling up with a book to read to the little one, or venturing into the cool water of the pool to play catch with the older one.  There was unhurried time to listen, to respond, and to engage with each of the kids (and the Husband).

What made this experience all the more poignant for me, though, was in the moment, right after taking a series of photos of the kids, in their rings, watching the sunrise, when I put my camera down, and went to float with the kids; as we watched, and quietly chatted to each other, it struck me just how grown up my kids were becoming.  And just how little time I have left with them like this.  Normally, in moments like these, I start to reminisce about the past, to romanticize what was, and to do my best to will time to stop marching forward.  But this time, I simply enjoyed the moment for what it was; and after the sun had risen, and we floated back to shore, I allowed myself to look forward to what the future might hold.

I entitled this post “The Gift of March Break”.  In all honesty, this break provided us with several gifts including the gift of new friends, of good times, happy memories . . .But the gift I’m referring to, is the gift of perspective.

While there will always be “shoulds” in my everyday life, how I deal with those “shoulds” will allow me the opportunity to follow my “must” and allow the kids, and the Husband, to follow their “musts” too.  I don’t want to get so caught up in what I should be doing, that I let this precious time I have with the kids fly by unnoticed; unsavored.  When my son innocently asked if we could move to New York, it wasn’t just because he loves the City so much, or because he is the world’s biggest Rangers fan, I think it’s because I think he felt there, what I felt in the Dominican.

And as we start back at school and into routines tomorrow, I will do my best to make sure that we can all feel that way, even though we’re not on vacation.

 

 

 

Practice Makes . . .

Having spent my formative years as a figure skater, the one adage that was drilled into me, and that I have consequently always held tightly to was . . . yup. . .”practice makes perfect”.  But events over the past month have had me questioning whether that’s always the case.

See, back in the middle of January, my son came home from school with a box of multiplication flash cards and a log sheet.  The note from the teacher accompanying these two items explained that each child in the class was to answer as many flash cards as they could in ONE minute (a new card could not be shown until the previous one had been answered correctly), and they were to repeat this exercise five time each day.

At first, we ALL thought this little exercise was awesome.  So awesome in fact, that even my daughter wanted in on the action, so we started a sight word card challenge for her.  Each time the exercise was repeated, the scores went up, and everyone was excited.

But as the days ticked by, and the improvements in the results started to slow, the enthusiasm started to wain.  In its place crept frustration and impatience.

Sound familiar???

How many times as adults have we started some new program, regime, diet, only to get frustrated and impatient as the results slowed, or stopped appearing altogether, at which point, as adults not necessarily held accountable to anyone but ourselves, we abandon our ambitions.

With my kids, it was easy to find ways to keep them excited with their practice – I started calculating daily average scores, which tended to increase daily, even if individual scores didn’t change too much, among numerous other things.

But as an astute girlfriend pointed out – once you hit a certain point, there were diminishing returns to this exercise.

Concurrently, through the month of February, I was engaged in “Practice February” with my One Little Word project – those of us in the course were encouraged to pick one thing and to “practice” it daily throughout the month of February.  And . . . I was also working through my daily, weekly and monthly goals in my PowerSheets.  And . . . I was trying to keep up with working out (in the event that I changed my mind and entered the CrossFit Open).  And . . .I was practicing running as much as I could in preparation for the Tinkerbell 10K.

And . . . at the end of the month, which happened to co-incide with my 40th birthday . . .I realized I wasn’t as happy with things as I thought I should/would be, given how well everything in my life was running.

Cue the concept of diminishing returns, the idea that maybe all this practice was running me into the ground, and a suggestion by the Coach to take a break from my regular workout regime . . .

And so I find myself here, embarking on a new month of practice – the practice of yoga, of stretching, of breathing, and of letting go of what I thought I NEEDED to do to feel the way I wanted to feel.  And you know what – this whole idea of NOT practicing what I have been doing for the last few years is helping me feel more the way I want to feel.  Oh the irony . . .

While I doubt I’ll ever completely abandon the “practice makes perfect” adage, I am realizing that practicing one thing till you’re absolutely perfect may well result in diminishing returns – to how you feel, physically and mentally and emotionally.  And if you find yourself at the point of diminishing returns, then it’s time to take a look at finding a new way, or something entirely new to practice.

 

My Most Ambitious Organization Project Yet (A Love/Hate Story – About Lego). And Also A New Nut-Free Breakfast/Snack the Kids Should Like

My kids love lego.  Well, at least in theory.  They love researching all the different sets, they love watching The Brick Show, they love receiving Lego, and they love to build their new Lego sets.  Once.

After which, completed sets are left forgotten, languishing in bins, or on shelves in their rooms, only to get bumped, jostled, and slowly, broken apart.

Lego, in our house, hasn’t held much lasting play value.  While that is changing a bit for my daughter – who is showing signs of treating her “girl” lego like a little village of dollhouses – for the most part, lego sets have been a one-shot deal in our house.

Which leads me to where I am today.  In the midst of my most daunting organizational challenge yet.

Of course, this is me, I have just one small digression before I get on with my story.

When Lego first came into our house, and a set was built, I immediately put any extra pieces into a plastic bag along with the instructions.  That system worked great.  Until things like birthdays and Christmas happened and my son received multiple Lego sets, that he seemed to build all at the same time.  I gave up trying to keep everything separate, and just put any extra pieces into one big bin and all the instructions into another.  But then the sets started to fall apart, losing a piece here and there.  As that happened, I just threw those pieces into the “spare part” bin too.  Last year, while the kids were home with a virus, I got super ambitious and actually sorted the spare part bin into colours, but that’s as far as my organization of the Lego went.

Until this weekend.

When I started in earnest to fix the mess that our Lego collection had become.

See, as the kids are getting older, and the toys they play with are changing, I am finding that we are ready to switch up the way we organize our basement play room.  But in order to do that, I had to deal with the Lego . . . Also, I made cleaning out the play room and organizing the Lego two of my monthly goals in my PowerSheets this month too, so I do have some motivation to tackle this task.

 

I have now taken out ALL of the instruction books we have, sorted them by genre and am now slowly (VERY slowly) assembling all the pieces for each and every set we have.  As I collect the pieces, they go into a plastic bag, along with the instruction book, ready to be re-built.

Here’s the thing about this project – while my kids can build a set faster than you can say Lego, it takes an inordinate amount of time to dis-assemble what remains of those sets and find any/all of the missing pieces.  I’ve a good 4 days into this, and there is NO end in sight.

The Husband thinks I’ve lost my mind – and maybe he’s right.  But I am determined to to see this project through – if for no other reason than the satisfaction I will derive from completing it.  Although I am also harbouring dreams of the kids, and my son in particular, taking out these sets and building them again with his young cousins as they enter the age of fasciation with all things Lego.

It’s at this point where I should be offering some sort of advice as to how not to get yourself into this mess.  Sadly, I have none.  Kids will be kids, lego isn’t permanent, and I there isn’t an organizational system in the world (that I could come up with anyway) that would have prevented this mess.

But, I can offer some advice as to what you might want to fuel yourself with if you’re staring down a massive organizational project. . . or if you just want something different for breakfast.

I am continually on the hunt for foods the kids can eat for breakfast/snacks, that they LIKE, that are nut-free (so they can take them to school), and that are not filled with sugar.  I made these last week.  While I think they are fantastic, the kids were lukewarm on them.  If I’m being perfectly honest, they are better warmed up a bit . . .but for a recipe that has no sugar, no eggs, no milk, potentially no diary (if you use coconut oil in place of butter), they are GOOD.  In fact, I enjoyed 2 myself this morning with a strong coffee as I sat down to write this post . . .

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Oatmeal Muffins (Gluten, Dairy AND Nut-Free)

  • Servings: 24
  • Time: 45mins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 5 cups rolled oats (gluten free)
  • 2 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 5)
  • 1/2 cup butter or coconut oil
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup Enjoy Life chocolate chips (or any kind of fruit or nut that you want to add – these are totally versatile muffins – just note that if you use frozen berries, the cooking time will be longer!)

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 350 and prepare 2 muffin tins with liners (or grease them well)
  2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, or in just a plain bowl, mix all the ingredients together until they are well combined.  At first it’s going to seem like the recipe calls for too much water – but it gets absorbed relatively quickly.
  4. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin tins and bake for at least 30 minutes.  You may find you need more depending on what fruits/nuts you add in.

The Antithesis of Overwhelmed

How often have you heard your friends tell you, “I’m just so overwhelmed”.  How often have you been the one saying it?

How many mornings a week do you find yourself running around, desperately trying get everyone out the door with everything they need for the day?  (And how often do you end up making 2nd trips home/to schools/to work because something has been forgotten at home?)

How often do you end the day with a drink or a “treat” as your reward for making it through your crazy/hectic/stressful day?

I am guilty of all of the above.  Just not lately.

All because I’ve read, researched and experimented and come up with a few simple routines for me, and my family, that has made all of our lives a whole lot less “overwhelming” and a whole lot more enjoyable.

And I will get into just what those are if you allow me one little digression here . . .

When you’re faced with a crisis in life (in my case it was a brain tumour diagnosis 4 months after my 2nd baby was born), your outlook changes.  For me, the uncertainty around my tumour, the surgery, and the prognosis lead me down a path where I wanted every moment I had with my kids to be magical – so that they would have happy memories of me if the worst came to pass.  I’ve talked about this before – trying to make every minute of everyday life magical is kind of the opposite of fun.

As I hit the 5-year post-treatment milestone almost a year ago, the fear associated with my tumour started to subside.  And I started to look for better ways to live my life.  In the last year I’ve read a LOT of self-help books.  I’ve done a lot of work around my One Little Word each year (last year it was Joy – this year it’s Light).  And I’ve learned that while there is magic in the big exciting things in life (that’s why I’ll always love Disney), there’s just as much magic, if not more, in the small everyday moments in life.

One of the books that really affected me was The Desire Map.  The central thesis to this book/way of life is to start with how you want to FEEL.  And once you have identified how you want to feel as you move through life, you can then set up your life, and how you choose to live it, so that you can always feel that way.

I’ve also found myself dipping in and out of Gretchen Rubin’s world through both her books and her podcasts.  In particular, I’ve become completely enamoured with the concept of the “One Minute Rule” – if you can do it in a minute, get it done.

And then this summer, I discovered the Simplified Planner and PowerSheets.

Together, these resources (which I’ve also talked about here and here) have allowed me, and my family, to fall into the routines that have allowed us to lead our lives in a way that is the antithesis of overwhelmed.  So what are these routines exactly???  Well, here goes:

  1. At the start of each year, I pick my “One Little Word”.  This is a word that I help to guide how I want to feel in a given year, how I want my outlook to be for a given year, and what I want to focus on in a given year.  This year, working with the Desire Map, the One Little Word course, and Powersheets, I chose the word LIGHT; I want to be a light (to my kids, my family), I want to capture the light (hence my Instagram photos of the sky with the accompanying quotes), and most of all, I want to BE light – both physically AND emotionally.
  2. At the start of each year, I also contemplate what didn’t really work over the past year, or what’s really driving me crazy.  This is also an exercise that Powersheets takes you through as part of their goal planning process.  For me, doing this allowed me to see that there were things both inside my home, and things that we were doing outside our house that were driving us all nuts.  Specifically, the clutter, and design of parts of our house were getting to all of us.  And as a family, we were simply trying to fit in too many activities, some of which provided questionable benefit (and more importantly enjoyment), and not doing enough of the things that we really loved to do.

    So . . . I used my “Mom veto power” and simply didn’t sign the kids up for activities that they weren’t absolutely invested in.  Would they like to have a one hour tennis lesson on the weekend . . . sure . . . do they fanatically love the sport or is not taking a weekly lesson going to negatively affect their future in some horrible way?  No.  And thus tennis lessons were scrapped.
    Did my son want to stay after school a few more times a week to do different clubs that would expose him to new and exciting ideas?  Yes.  And the clubs got added.
    As for me – I have dabbled in skating lessons over the past few months.  But skating falls on the same day as my sewing class (which I REALLY want to take and to enjoy), making for a jam-packed day.  Do I enjoy skating?  Yes.  But not enough right now to pack my day so completely.  So skating’s been cut.

    And as for things around the house – the clutter is slowly being dealt with.  And a contractor has been enlisted to help us fix he issues we have with our house.

  3. Once the “skeleton” of our weeks has been laid out (and to be fair, I assess our involvement in extracurricular activities on a term-by-term basis), then I can start planning my goals/hopes/dreams for the coming months.

    This year, I have been thoroughly loving using Powersheets to keep me on track in terms of my monthly/weekly/daily actions supporting my desire to “Be Light”.  Because I can set new goals each month, and because goals can be set for different lengths of time, I can choose how I want to focus on getting the things done that are going to help me feel Light.

    For example, this month, I’ve set monthly goals to sort out the kids’ Lego, to clean out the play room and to clean out our craft storage.  I could have chosen to make that a daily goal – but I know that with each of these tasks, I’m far more likely to achieve them in bigger spurts once or twice a week.  Conversely, I’ve set things like drinking 5 glasses of water a day, ab / pull up work, and working out as daily goals to keep me motivated to work on those aspects of my life on a daily basis.  And then there are the weekly things which are things I tend to do once a week during my Sunday weekly planning session.

    Don’t worry – the Husband doesn’t get left out of this planning either.  A big priority for us both is making sure we get in a daily workout.  This means that we look at how we structure our days/weeks so that he will have the energy to get up at 4:30 to squeeze in a workout before work (the timing that works best for us all, as insane as it may sound).

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So, now you know how I work on the big-picture part of our lives.  Planning, cutting back, only doing those actives (and that applies to all of us in the family) that are either essential (swimming lessons for the kids, working out for the adults) or that we absolutely love (clubs for my son, skating for my daughter, sewing for me, guitar practice for the Husband) help ENORMOUSLY in all of us feeling less overwhelmed.

But what about the nitty-gritty stuff – how, on a daily basis do I keep things light in the family, do we get everything done, and still have fun?

  1. As I talked about here, I plan my week ahead in a few minutes on a Sunday morning.
  2. During the day, I try my best to observe the one minute rule.  If I can deal with something in under a minute, I try to get it done right then and there.  For example, when the credit card and bank statements arrive in the mail, I try to check them over immediately and then file them straight a way.  It takes less than a minute to file a few bills, but let those bills pile up . . . and you can end up spending a good hour sorting and filing it all – which is never the way I want to spend an afternoon.  The same applies to putting things away – from shopping to laundry to just the daily stuff of life – take a minute, put it away, and forget about it.  Far better than to let it all pile up and require huge chunks of time to sort it all out.
  3. We have routines for when we get home from school/activities; school bags are emptied and then re-packed with everything that will be needed for the next day (water bottles, snacks, gym clothes, dry outdoor gear, and shoes all go back into the bags).  If the school bags are fully packed and nothing more needs to be added, the bags are zipped closed.  If, however, something still needs to be added (outdoor gear that needs to dry over night, homework that needs to get done), we leave the zippers on the bags open as a sign that they’re not 100% packed for the next day.  As the kids are getting older, they are getting more involved in this process too – we often discuss what needs to go into the bags for the next day and then assemble it together.

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  4. I aim for the smoothest, best mornings possible.  I can’t even begin to explain how great the feeling is when you drop your kids off at school knowing that you’ve all had a happy stress free morning. For us, this means prepping breakfast items at the same time as dinner is being made (or as we’re doing the clean-up from dinner); fruits and veg are chopped for smoothies and omelettes, the coffee maker is filled and the timer turned on, and anything that needs defrosting can be put out to thaw (like when the kids have muffins for breakfast).
  5. With school bags packed the night before, activity bags prepped on the weekend, and breakfast items ready to go, we’ve found a lot more time in the mornings!  In this time, we’ve been able to “pre-do” homework – things that my son needs to do on a nightly basis (like practice his spelling words) can get done as soon as breakfast is finished.  Our daily 20 minutes of reading for both kids also often gets done before school.  And at that, we still often have time to play (my kids are early risers, though, which gives us an good extra hour in the morning).  If you kids are slow to wake in the morning, there is even more reason to pre-prepare everything – if you only need to focus on feeding and dressing them, and not also assembling everything they need for the day, how much smoother would your mornings be?
  6. While I make my breakfast (I usually eat an omelette of some sort), I also make my lunch (usually a salad of some sort).  If I have a busy day, my salad comes along with me.  But if I’m home for lunch, it’s there, waiting for me.  This not only ensures that I’m eating properly, it also lets me maximize the time I have while the kids are in school.  I also tend to pack a water bottle and a snack for me (a few nuts, a fruit) so that I’m never in a position where I am starving, and find myself looking longingly at treats at Starbucks!
  7. As I have had time to practice these rituals/routines over the past few weeks and months, I am finding I have more and more pockets of time in which to get things done.  This may mean errands or chores, or it may mean chipping away at things I’ve wanted to do for a long time (like organize our photos and get caught up on photo books), or it may involve trying out new recipes or working on this blog.  But more importantly, it also means that I have more and more enjoyable time with the kids; I no longer am constantly obsessing over what needs to get done, what I haven’t gotten done, or what I could be doing.

So that, in a nutshell, is how I’ve found a way to live a life that is the antithesis of overwhelmed!  The fact that we can plan to eat well, sleep an adequate amount of time each night, and make sure to prioritize exercise, we physically feel better living this way.  And by not inhabiting a life that makes me feel constantly overwhelmed, I feel far better emotionally too.

I hope that in some small way this post can help you to make your life just a little bit less overwhelming and maybe, just maybe, a little more magical.

 

 

30 Minutes on Sunday So I Can Have Weekday Sanity & Make Sure We’re All Eating to Nourish Ourselves

“I just don’t have time” is always the response I get when I talk about how easy it is to cook nourishing foods at home without relying on prepared, packaged, or processed foods.  And how it IS possible to find nourishing foods that even the pickiest eater will tuck into.

After my post yesterday, in which I relayed my rather strong feelings on how we should be eating, and the consequences we can expect when we repeatedly subject our body (and that of every member of our family) to inflammation, I thought I should maybe try to tackle this “I don’t have time” issue . . .

Here’s the thing.  YOU DO HAVE TIME.  I promise!

I know.  You’re busy.  I get it.

So . . . . how do you make more time?

Start by blocking off half an hour on Sunday.  Preferably in the morning.  Preferably when the whole family is home (this of course depends on the ages of your kids).

Go through your fridge – toss out anything that needs to go.  And figure out what food you need to get you through the week.  It’s at this time that I menu plan for the week – my kids both have lunch programs at their school, and the Husband and I eat salads each day for lunch – so I plan breakfast and dinners for the week.  From there, I make a grocery list.  Depending on what we’re having in a given week, I may schedule in a mid-week grocery shop as well.  But since we’re in the dead of winter, there isn’t much exciting fresh produce in the stores, and I am happy to have frozen meat in the freezer for dinners (especially now that I have an InstantPot, but that’s a story for another day), I can go from Sunday night through Friday night with one grocery shop on Sunday.  It’s at this point that the Husband usually heads out to the grocery store, but if that isn’t in the plan for the day, I have my list ready to go for Monday morning.

Once I have taken care of the food planning side of things, I tackle the calendar for the week.  I make sure everyone knows if there’s something special going on that week – from field trips to appointments to nights the Husband will be working late.

Then I tackle the school bags.  Since my kids are still young, I make sure that both their bags are emptied of garbage and any other detrius that accumulated during the week.  I also make sure that they have everything in their bags that needs to be in there.  As my son is getting older, I have him check his school schedule and help pack any gym clothes, winter clothes, or homework that he needs for the next day.

Next up is the activity bags.  I get the dance, skating, swim and hockey bags ready for the week.

I also make sure that my purse is cleaned out, that my gym bag is ready to go, and that I have everything in order for my week.

I print out the charts for the week for the kids.  (Sure, this may seem a bit tiger-mom-ish – but, most of the things on the charts are things they have to do anyway, like homework and practice piano.  These charts simply transfer the responsibility to them to ensure that they get the work they need to get done, done.  And if we get extra work done . . . well, then that’s just a bonus!  I also sometimes add in incentives for them in case they want to do more work.)

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And then I sit down to plan out my week, what things I want to get done and when I’m going to do them.  I am absolutely LOVING using both my Powersheets and my Simplified Planner – between these two tools, I have been able to spend the last three weeks chipping away at my to-do’s and my goals, all without feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of my to-do list or my long-term goals.

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Ok . . . I know what you’re going to say . . . but . . . YES, you can do all this in THIRTY minutes!  You can take longer if you want . . . but it really can be done in just half an hour!

So, how does this save my sanity exactly?  Well, first off, come tomorrow morning, when we’re jolted back to the reality of the work/school week, I know that at a minimum, the whole family is on the same page with breakfast, and there will be no last minute running around trying to find/pack what we need for the day!  Repeat that for each day of the work week, and you’ll be amazed how much more relaxed you are!!  When the mornings go well, the rest of your day seems to magically go well too . . .

I also know, come Monday morning, exactly how my week is going to work.  I know that I won’t have to make unnecessary (and time-wasting) trips to the grocery store.  I know that there will be no last-minute panics with the kids needing something.  And I know what I can expect to get done each day.  Of course, I also know where I have pockets of time to fit in anything unexpected that might come up during the course of the week.

And how does this mean we’re all nourished properly?  Well, first off, by menu planning, I can see at a glance what our food intake for the week looks like – making sure we’re not eating too much of one thing, or too little of another.  Secondly, I know what to take out of the freezer in the morning so I’m never caught at 5:00 with nothing to feed the family, and I’m never in a situation where I have to resort to eating out / packaged / processed / prepared food.

Sure, we have nights where we don’t get home until 5:30, and the kids are still young enough to need dinner at around 6.  So on those nights, we have quick-to-prepare dinners – things like pasta sauce on quinoa pasta, or a meat that can be quickly grilled on the barbecue.  And on those nights when we have more time at home, we can have dinners that take longer to cook – things like roast chickens.

Taking it one step further, I can also ensure that there are enough “intentional” leftovers that I have tasty things to throw in my lunchtime salads (I am quite certain that there is nothing better than left over roasted sweet potatoes in a salad . . . but that’s just my opinion).

We’re now so used to this routine, that the kids are taking part in the menu planning, and helping to cook the dinners as time allows.  This is adding yet another layer to my sanity as dinner is taking less time to prepare at night, the kids are FAR more willing to eat what they’ve cooked, and we all have more time to do the things that we need/want to get done.

So . .  . I know it’s now Sunday afternoon .  . . but maybe try even just packing your kids’s or your own bags for tomorrow and making sure that you have everything you need for the week.  See how even just that little change can make your weekdays go so much more smoothly . . .and if you can, add in the menu planning!

I promise, not only will you have some sanity back, you’ll also feel better from feeding yourself better!

(And of course . . . the real bonus . . . check out how your kids’ behaviour changes when they start eating more whole foods . . . yet another sanity saving tip!!)

Happy Sunday!

 

 

 

 

 

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