31. To The Lighthouse

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A girlfriend posted on Facebook earlier today “If you had to explain in a single sentence what is the purpose of your life what would it be?” (thanks @ayamcmillan).  During the course of the day, I managed to eek out enough time to read Shauna Niequest’s book Present Over Perfect.  And late this afternoon, we had a boat trip out to see the lighthouse, whose light we can see far off in the distance from the cottage at night.

The confluence of these three things today came to me as I sat down to write this post.

I have been musing of late as to what exactly my purpose is.  But my time up north this summer as made me acutely aware of what I don’t want my life to look like come next week and the advent of the new school year.  I don’t want to run my life like some sort of frenetic marathoner trying desperately to please everyone.

But you see, therein lies the problem.  I find it all too easy to get swept up in the current (although it feels like a tidal wave at times) of things I should be doing – for the kids, for the Husband, for the family, and superficially, for me.

While I have been able to draw a line in the sand when it comes to the things I and the family eat and drink, I just don’t seem to find it as easy to follow my gut when it comes to other things.  And this friction between what I find myself, and the family doing, and what I feel in my gut we should be doing, well, no one likes to feel ill-at-ease with how they’re living life.

Cue the trip to the lighthouse.  A half hour boat ride through choppy waters and at times significant waves, and we found ourselves in front of the lighthouse.  A lighthouse – built to be a beacon to ships sailing in the dark, or rough, stormy waters; a means of illuminating the right path to take, warning sailors away from dangerous, rocky territory, and hopefully preventing shipwrecks.

As humans, we all have a built-in lighthouse – our guts, or our intuition – if we look out for what our gut or our intuition is telling us, it can be our beacon when we find ourselves fumbling in the dark, or trying to make our way through choppy waters.  But how many of us have created the quiet space we need to hear what our gut is telling us?  As Shauna Niequst says:

“(We are) Too busy, too tired, too frantic and strung out on the drug of efficiency”

As I return home, and to my city life, I will strive to make room for the lighthouse within me.  I will no longer silence what my body, my gut, my intuition is screaming out for simply to please, to prove, or to go along with someone else.  And in pruning my life to allow for this, perhaps my purpose (for the next few years anyway), will come to me.

Oh . . . and today . . . I captured this.  An apt photo for my frame of mind, and the thoughts in my head today – a dark cloud, fully lined in sliver, with the sun emerging from behind the shadows . . .

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30. Starting Fresh on a Monday Morning

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A version of this quote appeared on my Instagram feed this morning.  And I’ve been thinking about it ever since.  The fact is, this quote appeared at precisely the time I’ve been starting to think about routines and schedules, and how the new school year is going to look for all of since, since it all starts next week.

This summer, I spent more time than ever up north.  And I loved every minute of it.  While we were relaxed, we still had a loose routine that we followed every day.  Unfortunately for me, that routine also included at least one drink at night, and more often than not at least one sugary treat a day.  I told myself that I felt good.  And that I was finally learning to relax and to let go.

But the truth is, whether the alcohol, or the sugar, or whatever vice it is that you might fall back on, is organic and non-GMO, that doesn’t mean it’s “healthy” or particularly “good for you”.

The Husband and I had a wedding to go to yesterday.  As I was getting ready, I tried on one of my dresses.  And it was tight.  Unpleasantly so, and it didn’t look good.  And it dawned on me, really and truly dawned on me, that I don’t feel particularly good either.  Sure, I’ve been working out fairly regularly, even if it hasn’t been lifting heavy weights, and sure, I’ve been eating ok . . . but no amount of working out and eating “ok” can undo days on end of a drink or two at night coupled with dessert.

I thought I wanted to let loose a bit, and that it would make me feel better.  But the truth is, in the end, I don’t feel any better at all.  I have less energy, I feel bigger, and I don’t particularly like it.  (Yes, I also feel disappointment in myself for allowing myself to fall down this particular rabbit hole as well).

Perhaps if I had stuck to what i KNOW to be true (I FEEL amazing when I stick to a diet that doesn’t really include sugar or alcohol) I wouldn’t be left feeling the way I do this morning.

Look, over the years as my body had changed shape (yes, I did loose quite a bit of weight along the way), I’ve had lots of questions about how I did it.  The honest truth is, no sugar and little to no alcohol.  No. It doesn’t sound like a lot of fun.  And yes, I do like to have the occasional drink.  But the honest to goodness truth is . . . the way you feel when you’re not regularly drinking or eating sugar is SO MUCH BETTER than the temporary let-down you get from that hit of sugar or the drink of wine.

Ok . . . so how is any of this bringing me any joy right now???  Well . . . it’s Monday.  And while every day is a chance to start again, Mondays seem particularly well-suited to the concept of starting fresh.  And so, starting today, I will revert to the eating plan that I KNOW works for me.  And I consequently KNOW that in a few weeks time, I will be feeling much better – much more like my lighter, more energized self.  I hope this morning brings you some joy in the knowledge that you can choose today to start fresh with something you KNOW to be true so that you will FEEL better.  xoxo.

29. An Early Saturday Morning to Myself

This is the first weekend in a while that we’ve been in the city.  While I certainly miss waking up next to the water, before breakfast swims, and communal breakfasts, there is something to be said for summer Saturday mornings in the city.

As is often the case on Saturdays, the Husband was up relatively early with the kids and they were all dressed and out the door just before 7 to head down to the market – I wish I could say they were only going there for the groceries – but market days for the kids equate to bacon sandwiches (for the older one) and bagels and cream cheese (for the younger one) – the groceries are merely a means to the breakfast they thoroughly enjoy.

So I was left with a decision to make – I could take advantage of having the house to myself and get some chores done, those chores you can’t do when the kids are home like cull the stuffed animal baskets and toys that are no longer played with, or I could sit outside, enjoy the weather, my garden l, and a cup of coffee, and get some of my work done

I chose the later

Although I did spend a few barefoot moments in my garden picking tomatoes, basil and kale to cook into some scrambled eggs to go along with my coffee!!

It’s almost comical – I thought now that I was equipped with my stunning new planner, time without interruptions was going to magically appear in my day.  The thing is, it hasn’t and it won’t.  Making time to do the things that bring me joy has to be a conscious effort each and every day.  It’s far too easy, I find, as a stay at home mom, to get swept up in the minutiae of everyday life.  Not that I don’t love it – I absolutely do!  But the odd load of laundry can wait for half an hour while I take a little time for me.

Hoping you enjoy your Saturday!

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28. Not Every Day Is Going to Have a Big Spark of Joy . . . Sometimes Joy Comes Creeping In

Today didn’t go as planned.  I wanted to do stuff with the kids.  But my attempt at quickly tidying up a few things ended up with me completely cleaning out the garage.

The fact that I spent a good chunk of an absolutely gorgeous day sweeping dirt and grass seed off the floor of the back of our garage (thanks to an animal of some sort who thought they’d find something more exciting than dirt and grass seed on those bags), that I got completely filthy in the process, and that while I was busy cleaning out the garage, I convinced myself that it was only a matter of weeks before the entire place was a mess again, only served to make me . . . . let’s just use the word cranky.

A series of rather unpleasant issues that needed further attention this afternoon didn’t exactly work to improve my feelings of wellbeing.

And then, when it came time for me to sit down and write, I simply could not come up with a single joyous thing to write about today.

But as I sat out on the back deck, with my jasmine plant beside me, perfuming the air with that amazing scent, I started to reflect on the day.  I got the garage cleaned out!  I was able to talk to the Husband and the kids about where things will go from now on in said garage, and I feel like we may just put an end to the pile of clutter that builds up in there.  The kids had a great day – even if it wasn’t what we had set out to do today (I had given them cookbooks, told them to pick out things to make, and we would cook).  The little one had a fantastic time playing with her dolls.  And the older one got to watch Star Wars and play on the Wii.  Neither of them were in the least bit disappointed in how the day had gone.

I guess today was just another friendly reminder that there won’t always be big sparks of joy in each day, even if we’re on the constant lookout for them.  Joy may come creeping in instead, when you sit back and reflect on how the day has gone, and how everyone is feeling at the end of the day.  So while my day didn’t feel so joyous as I was moving through it, turns out the whole day may have been my morsel of joy . . .

(This jasmine plant is pretty joyous in and of itself though . . .)

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27. Planning for Disney Part II

So, we bit the bullet and booked our plane tickets for our next Disney trip.  All of a sudden, all the reservations I had made “just in case” became realities, and over the past few days I started to get to work on the super fun task of planning the nitty-gritty details of our trip – like what we’ll do each day, and what fastpasses I’ll try to book.

Our trip will be in November – my favourite time of year at Disney.  The Christmas decorations are all up, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party has started, and, well, what’s better than having your first gingerbread latte from Starbucks while walking down Main Street?  (As a total aside, a good friend of mine introduced me to the wonders that are gingerbread lattes while we were both pregnant with our 2nd children.  I have loved them ever since . . .because they remind me of that wonderful time in my life . . . and because they taste sooooooooo good).  And the weather tends to still be pretty good in Florida in November.

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The problem with a trip to Disney in November?  Disney usually runs a “free dining plan” offer during November, which means people who wouldn’t necessarily eat at the restaurants on Disney property do, which means getting reservations for any dining at all can be tricky.  Over the past few years, Disney has also filmed the Christmas Parade special in November.  While this has meant we’ve seen amazing performers up close, and even had the chance to be part of the filming process, it can also mean disruptions to normal park activities, like the Festival of Fantasy Parade, which last year, was delayed until 5:00 every day of our trip.

But, whether you go in November, or any other time of the year, the reality is, Disney World is a busy place.  And dining reservations and fastpasses can be hard to get.  So what do you do when you’re trying to be super organized and plan the perfect trip for your family or friends, and can’t seem to get reservations or fastpasses when you want them?  Well, here’s what I do.

As I mentioned in my post a few days ago, it is still best to plan at least 181 days ahead of your trip.  You will at least get some of the dining reservations you want if you book that far in advance.  That being said, you still might not get everything you want – I didn’t get things like Cinderella’s Royal Table even though I was looking 180 days out.

In the period between 180 days and 60 days out from your trip, you can go to the dining site, and see if anything pops up for the restaurants you want on the days that you want them.  In my experience, I haven’t had too much luck with this, but it’s worth a shot.

At the 60-day mark, book your fastpasses.  It’s best to start booking these for the last day of your vacation and work backwards.  Why?  Because you have the best chance of getting what you want on the furthest day out.  I go into the fastpass booking process with an idea of what I’d like to book and when, but adjust on the fly if things don’t work out the way I’d like.  If you’re booking for a large group, try splitting the group into smaller sub-groups (i.e. book fastpasses for groups of 4).  You might be able to get everyone on in roughly the same time window . . . where booking for a group of say, 12, you might not.

Once you’ve booked your fastpasses, check out the dining again.  People often switch their plans around based on the fastpasses they’ve booked, so you might find you get those dining reservations you’ve been looking for!

At the 30-day mark, try again to fill in those things you really want to do, but still don’t have reserved – this is the last date people have to cancel their vacations without penalty, so some reservations and fastpasses do become available again.

But the best time of all to get reservations (dining, not necessarily fastpasses) . . . 24 hours before you want to go.  The new MyDisney Experience app makes doing this super easy, no matter where you are in the parks, your hotel, or even at home.

And . . . if, after all of this, you still don’t have the reservation you’re really hoping for . . . well, there’s no harm in trying for a walk-up.  I’ve actually been able to get my little one into the Bibbity Bobbity Boutique twice this way!  And we’ve had good luck at a few of the restaurants in the parks doing this too . . .

All of this is to say, don’t despair if you don’t get all the reservations and fastpasses you want on the first try . . . try at the 60-day mark, the 30-day mark, and most importantly, the 24-hour mark!

So, with all of this in mind, I’m going to get back to planning out our trip, and what fun things we’re going to do on this trip . . .maybe this will be the trip we finally go on those last few rides we still haven’t been on yet . . . . .

 

26.When Food Is Love

“People who love food have something that will be precious to them all their lives” – Judith Jones

We are a family that collectively loves food.  From a young age, I could get both kids happily into their respective classrooms just by reminding them what they’d be having for lunch and/or dinner; the thought of the food to come somehow allowed them to trot happily away from me when the moment before they had been clinging to my leg.

Now that they’re older, I’m getting questions like “what are we having for dinner” . . . at six in the morning (part of the reason I love menu planning.  meals for the week are visible to all).  Now that they’re older, they’re also more curious about the food that they eat.  Where it comes from, how it gets cooked, and how to improve on the taste of things – which has resulted in multiple trips to our herb pots this summer.

And when you have a family that loves food so much, there’s no better way to show your love for each other than with food; food becomes the outward show of just how deep your love runs.

This week brought the Husband’s birthday . . . and excuse to shower him with all the food he loves best.  That meant pancakes, eggs, and bacon for breakfast.  And gorgeous ribeye steaks for dinner.  Oh . . . and there was also the cake . . . a Bobette and Belle stunner complete with edible gold.

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And then tonight, a continuation of the celebrations, with dinner at Terroni.

Way back when, when the Husband and I first started dating, Terroni was right across from the condo where I lived, and where we later lived together.  We went there regularly on dates, often ducking out onto our balcony to see if the line up was too long (back then, there were no reservations) before heading across the street.

After a completely impromptu afternoon with the kids – a request for ice cream lead me to taking them to Dutch Dreams for the most ridiculous cones – a text from the Husband while we were there asking if we were going to come downtown lead me to taking them downtown . . . and to the CN Tower – which lead to us leaving downtown at 5:00 with nothing ready back at home for dinner.

So we did the obvious – we stopped at Terroni on the way home and had a spectacular dinner.  I honestly don’t think there’s anything better than explaining why you love certain tastes so much – for me, the mere smell of their Margherita pizza takes me right back to the early days of dating the Husband.  And I’m hoping, that as we share our food, and our memories with our kids, they in turn will have wonderful memories of our times together, and the food we ate together as a family.

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As I was writing this post, I was reminded of the Judith Jones quote that I lead off with – I took this quote from a Food52 podcast that I listened to a few weeks ago – if you get a chance, and you even remotely are interested in food, listen to the two podcasts with Judith Jones.  You won’t be disappointed.

And on that note, I’m off to have a sliver more of that delicious cake leftover from last night!

 

 

25. Savouring These Last Few Weeks of Summer with Simple Childhood Fun

I’ve said it before.  And I’m not naive.  I know that our family’s not likely to have summers like this again.  Summers where the older one is still willing to play on a slip n’ slide for hours with the little one.  Or where they set up forts, and play spy, and try to ambush each other with nerf guns.  It’s all going by so terribly fast.

I went into this week thinking I’d take the kids on adventures.  Do something fantastical every day.  But as this week unfolds, I’m realizing, that the fantastical isn’t what we need right now.

And so, I / we’ve embraced the simple fun.  We’ve had morning bike rides.  And afternoon bike rides.  And water gun fights.  And the aforementioned slip n’ slide fun.  We’ve played Uno.  And coloured.  And built lego.  We’ve baked.  And we’ve even managed to work in a few back to school errands and closet clean-outs, which have actually seemed kinda fun, given that they were sandwiched between so many other fun (but relatively calm) activities.

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And why, you might be wondering, have I bothered to write this?  Well, it’s simply to implore you, if you have some time off in what’s left of this glorious summer, with little ones, or loved ones, or anyone, really, to release the desire to do the fantastical, and instead embrace the simple.  No matter where you are in your life’s journey, it’s all going by too fast.

Like everyone else, I watched the Hip concert on Saturday night.  And I was reminded of the summer that stretched from my brain tumour diagnosis to eventual operation.  That summer, I didn’t know what the outcome was going to be for me.  And that summer, and in the summers that have followed, I focused on the fantastical; trying to do the most exciting things with and for my kids.  But today, when the kids looked at me and earnestly told me how much fun they’ve been having just being with me these past few days . . . well, I was reminded of what really matters.  Being there, fully, and completely, for the ones you love.  And to do that, well, you don’t need the fantastical.  You just need your loving self, and the desire to have a little fun.

 

24. A Beautiful Day From Start to Finish

There were beautiful moments sprinkled throughout my day today.  And while most of these moments occurred with the kids (is there anything better than seeing the smiling faces on two little kids when you stop mid-bike ride for chocolate croissants at our favourite bakery?), I did also get to spend some time in the garden, where there were quite a few moments of beauty (the aforementioned bike ride exhausted the kids sufficiently that they needed some rest, affording me some much needed time in the garden).

I started off with the intention of cleaning up the “jungle” that had become my tomato plants.  I find this section of the garden so fascinating, mostly because I purchased these tomato plants for about $0.50 each.  I bought them on a whim, mostly to see if I could revive them, even just a little bit, and because I thought the kids would enjoy picking cherry tomatoes.  Well, turns out, these plants have thrived!!  While I did thin them out a bit, for the most part, these plants are producing, and so, I left them as is.

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I also wanted to clean up the melon plants . . . but again, as I started in on them, I realized that there were far more fruits on these plants than I had originally though.  I’m amazed watching how the skin on the cantaloupes are turning from a smooth green, to the rough, beige skin we know them to have.  And, is there anything cuter than a tiny baby watermelon????  If the raccoons/groundhog get to these, it will be war . . . And of course, the sugar pumpkins are starting to grow now too!

And then there are my roses.  As I weeded around my rose plants, and tied back some of them to the fences to train them, I decided I must really enjoy torturing myself – even the thorns on new rose growth are seriously prickly!  But is there anything more stunningly beautiful than a rose???  And when those roses are tucked in amongst the melons???

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As the summer draws to a  close, I’m starting to make notes on what worked this summer, and what didn’t.  What I want more of next year, what I want less of, and what I don’t want at all.  Over the course of this week, I’ll be taking pictures to remind myself in the spring what the garden grows into, which will help me as I plan what plants to purchase as next year’s gardening season gets underway.  And of course, I’m working out what bulbs to plant this fall!!

23. Home Again

We awoke today to the Bay looking more like the ocean than anything else.  It was absolutely gorgeous.  The rainbow that hung around for quite some time, well, that was the cherry on the top of the proverbial sundae of a wonderful weekend.

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But, despite the gorgeousness that was today, the city was calling – work for the Husband, and a week of fun (and errands and organizing) for me and the kids.  So we piled into the car, but since traffic wasn’t too bad, decided to take our time getting home.  For us, this means making a stop at one of the kids’ favourite playgrounds – the playground made by the Giver (a TVOKids show) in Waubaushene.  If you have kids – let them watch this show. It’s amazing.  And the playgrounds they create are so much fun!

And now, as the day comes to a close, I’m turning to planning for the week.  It’s a big week for us . . . I’m doing my Week in the Life for my little one this week – this will be my 3rd time documenting a week in the life of my little one.  All the photos and stories from each of the days of this week are going into an album for her.  It’s also the Husband’s birthday, and so we have several celebrations planned.  And of course, since I’m home with the kids, there’ll be lots of fun mommy/kids things this week.

I purchased my Simplified Planner to help me plan out things that I want to do – things just for me – it’s turning out to be so much more –  a keeper of my workouts, a place to store short, daily lists of to-do’s, and of course, a way to plan out my creative projects.  As I sit down tonight to plan my week, I’m SO happy I have this planner to help me organize it all.  Yup . . . . I really do LOVE this planner!  (and yes, I am indulging in a nice glass of wine while I plan!)

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Happy Sunday.  And wishing you a happy week ahead!

 

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