On Wonder

won  ∙  der

noun

a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable

verb

desire or be curious to know something;

feel doubt

 

Wonder was the word I chose for my One Little Word this year.  I’ve chose a word for the year every year for the past few years, using words like Joy, and Love, and Magic as guiding lights for how I want to move through the year, and my reasons for choosing  Wonder for this year were not different.  I wanted to focus on wondering what the best case scenarios could be when faced with uncertainty or unpleasant situations instead of defaulting to my usual way of solving problems that involves creating lists of all the possible worst case scenarios and trying to mitigate them all.  I also wanted to use my word as motivation to try new things, create new things … think new things.

Wonder bubbled along in the background of my life for the first few months of the year.  I wondered about lots of things, big and small, like how on earth I was going to find a way to enjoy all the driving to and from school and activities (the answer was podcasts and audiobooks), and if I could start training in January and still be ready for the Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend (I did train, and I was ready).

And then … COVID.

All of a sudden my wondering stopped being so trivial as we all were forced to navigate through life in lock down with the kids in homeschool and the Husband all of a sudden working from home.  Like everyone else I wondered if we had enough toilet paper, enough food in the pantry, enough bandwidth in our wifi to support all of us at home.  I wondered if we would all stay healthy, and what things I could do to ensure that we could stay as healthy as possible.  And most of all, I wondered when things would go back to “normal”.

But as these past few months have ticked by, and lockdown has lifted, and things are returning to a new kind of normal, Wonder has taken on a much different tone for me.

Wonder has become less of a question of survival, and more of a soft invitation to try. I am finding that by “wondering” if I can do something, or try something, or experiment with something new, the pressure to succeed at whatever it is I am attempting is somehow lifted; while I can still have doubts about whatever it is I’m attempting, I can still make room to be curious and try.

And best of all, I am finding, that the more I open myself up to wondering, the more Wonder I find in my life.

And as if just to prove a point, as I embarked on a new workout regime yesterday that I had been wondering about for a while now, I was struck with Wonder at the beautiful sunrise that graced the skies above me.

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Back to the Basics (Or How I’m Planning Our Best Summer Yet)

Exactly how it is that the school year is just about over is baffling to me.  Maybe its because spring never really happened here this year and the transition to summer is coming rather abruptly.  Or maybe it’s simply due to the fact that I’m getting older and time is moving faster.  Regardless, the imminent end to my kids’ school year has forced me to start thinking about our plans for the summer.

As much as I want to plan the most magical wondrous summer filled with excitement at every turn, I also realize, that after a year filled with busy-ness, albeit the best kind of busy-ness, we are all ready to slow down and really take a break from it all.

Rather than get wrapped up in planning each day of the break, I stripped my summer planning back to the very basics; what do I most want to do with my kids in the summers that I have left with them as “kids” AND what do the kids most want to do in their precious summer?

So what is it that I most want to do with my kids in the summers that I have left with them as “kids”?  I want to teach them – teach them how amazing it is to have a love of reading, teach them how to take on more and more responsibility, teach them how to cook on their own, teach them how to grow things in the garden, teach them how to work towards their goals in sports, and of course teach them that hard work will, in the end, always pay off.

I also want to show them that life can be magical – that magic can be found in the routines of everyday life, AND that life can have magical surprises waiting for you when you least expect them.

What do the kids most want to do this summer?  Well, that was a question only the kids could answer.  So we sat down and compiled a list of everything they wanted to do this summer.  This is actually an activity we do before every major school break.  All of our lists are in one notebook, and it’s fun to see how the lists change as the seasons change, and as the kids change and grow up.

Some highlights from the list this for this summer:

  • Create a family band and make a song together
  • See the new Toy Story movie
  • Go on a road trip

Because I am a planner at heart, and feel ever so much better when I have a plan in place, I’ve come up with a way that I think will help us get everything we all want out of this summer.

So here’s how we’re going to get it all in.  Each week will follow the same format.

Movie Monday

Kids Make Dinner Tuesday

Field Trip Wednesday

Adventure Thursday

Fun Friday

Movie Mondays can happen either at a movie theatre, or in our house.  Since movies also aren’t a huge time commitment, the kids will plan and make shopping lists, and likely even shop, for the items they need for the dinner they will be making on Tuesday.

Kids Make Dinner Tuesdays is fun for everyone; the kids get to choose foods they really want to eat and/or make, they learn to work together and they learn to cook.  These days also often include the making of menus, and of course, setting the table and helping with the dishes.  And of course, I get to teach them what I know about cooking and baking.

Field Trip Wednesdays, Adventure Thursdays, and Fun Fridays are how I am able to work in the “magic” part of the summer.  Field trips can be educational (to the museum, the art gallery, or other cultural institutions) or they can be fun (amusement or water parks, or other fun destinations around the city).  Adventures can be to explore new parts of the city (like Underpass Park, or the Harry Potter Store).  And Fun Friday . . .well that can involve anything from a trip to a new ice cream store, to sleepovers to an amusement park visit, to creating that family band and writing a song together . . .

What I most love about this kind of schedule is that it can be changed on the fly (the kids don’t find out about what we are going to do on Wednesdays, Thursdays or Fridays until that morning), so I can plan according to how we’re feeling, the weather, or spur of the moment plans with friends.  Some weeks can be busier.  And others can be more relaxed.

I started this all by talking about how much I want to teach the kids this summer – and so far all I’ve talked about is having fun – not that teaching can’t be fun . . . but . . .

As the kids get older, I want them to take on more responsibility and to be held accountable for the things they do.  Which means, that before we have screen time, or other forms of play time in a day, the kids are expected to compete a certain number of “must-dos” each morning.  These include getting dressed and ready for the day, making their bed, and reading a novel for 30 minutes (I’ll talk more about our summer reading plans in a later post).   I have found it is far easier to get all the chores done before screens make an appearance than to try and take the screens away when it’s time to get ready for the day.

And now that my plans are in place, I can relax and start enjoying what I’m certain is going to be our best summer yet! (Which is fortuitous as one kid is already done school for the year, and the other one is done tomorrow!!).

 

 

10 Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Ran My First runDisney Event

It’s no secret – I LOVE runDisney races!  There are a million reasons why the Disney runs are so magical – the amazing community of runners in the races, the on-course entertainment, and all the fun and excitement surrounding the races just to name a few.  And there are a million other runDisney fanatics that share my view – there’s SO much you can read and SO many communities you can join online focused on Disney runs.

But that being said, before I hit the starting line for my first runDisney event, even after all the reading and researching and community-joining that I had done, I still had loads of questions running through my mind.  And so, as the runDisney race season starts up again for the new year, I thought I’d make a little list of things I wish I had known before my first race to maybe help any other newbies to the runDisney community at large before their first race!

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1. You DON’T have to wear a costume

When you look up runDisney events, you’re going to see photo after photo of absolutely amazing costumes people put together for their runDisney events.  There are whole communities dedicated to costuming for runs (yes, I’ve joined a few of them).  And it can seem like you absolutely need to have a costume if you’re going to do a run at Disney.

I’ll never forget getting to my corral for my first ever run and seeing all the amazing costumes and feeling totally and completely underdressed!  (I mean one woman was fully decked out in a crocodile costume – and she still ran faster than me!)

BUT, what I’ve learned along the way, is that, while loads of people love to dress up for their run, loads of people like to just wear their favourite running clothes.

I’ve also learned that there’s a happy medium too . . . a fun tank from vendors at the the run expo, like Raw Threads, or a cute skirt from Sparkle Skirts or Sparkle Athletic make for a fantastic and comfortable running outfit.  Add in a big bow or cute headband – like the ones at Sparkly Soul to complete your “costume” (I still don’t know how people run in Mickey/Minnie ears – so I’m partial to a big bow I can clip in on top of my ponytail that I know will stay put for the whole race).

2. Stop to Take Photos Along the Way – and Have YOUR Photo Taken (and don’t be alarmed if some of the photos aren’t the most flattering) – and Splurge and get PhotoPass

One of the fun parts about Disney races is that you get to see “behind the scenes” as it were of some of the parks.  AND you get to see loads of characters that aren’t always out and about in the parks.  So stop and take photos – these are often the photos my family (the kids) like best.

And while we’re on the topic of photos, don’t forget to stop and have photos taken of yourself too.  While there are often long lines for the character photo-ops along the course, it can still be fun to stop and pose with your favourite Disney friend – the wait can be a nice way to take a break from all the running.  However, there are also tons of photographers along the course who snap away at all the runners that pass them by.  Don’t forget to smile or wave as you pass by them.  But don’t be alarmed if these aren’t the most glamorous shots you’ll ever see of yourself.

I know it’s not exactly cheap – but if you can swing it – splurge and get the PhotoPass.  It will allow you to download ALL your photos from the race(s) you do for free, not to mention any other photos you take while you’re on Disney property.  Trust me, you’re going to end up wanting to buy ALL your photos anyway. – and when you see the cost of a single photo download, you’ll be SUPER happy you bought the PhotoPass.

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One of my favourite character photo-ops in the Tinkerbell 10K 2 years ago!
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These are the photos that you wish you didn’t get . . . even though they prove just how hard you were working to get through the run!

3. Don’t Worry about Personal Bests at a Disney Run

Those who know me know that I can be just a tad bit competitive.  So the idea of running a race for “fun” and not to try and earn a personal best just doesn’t see right to me.  BUT, Disney is NOT the place to try for personal bests.  Why???  Well, there’s so much to take in while you’re running, it’s nice to actually take it all in, instead of focusing on running as fast as you can.  And as I mentioned above (see 2. Stop to Take Photos Along the Way – and Have YOUR Photo Taken) – it’s hard to run your best race if you’re slowing down to take photos or to have your photo taken!

But, it’s also important to keep in mind that since the races go THROUGH the parks, at times the race course gets quite narrow.  Which means everyone has to slow down to make it through the tight spots – case in point – during the Princess Half, everyone gets to run trough the castle . . .not exactly the widest thoroughfare!  So, even if you have the best of intentions, you may find yourself running into some unexpected magical obstacles that prevent you from getting that personal best.

4. Get to the Race Early – and Be Prepared to Walk a LONG Way to Get to Your Corral

I know – the runDinsey events start an an ungodly hour of the morning.  And when you factor in travel time, and the time it takes to get to your corral, chances are, you’re going to be waking up somewhere close to 3:30 or 4 in the morning on race day.

I’ll be honest, I was prepared to wake up early, to leave my hotel early, and to get to the race early.  And I did.

But what I hadn’t factored into my plan was the (seemingly) never-ending walk to get to the corrals and the sheer amount of time it took to get there.

On reflection, the walk to the corral was a nice warm-up, and since the walk there took so long, I didn’t end up waiting for ages in my corral.  But, it also meant that I wasn’t at the front of the corral either (which is super important for some runners).  So take that into consideration when you’re setting up your wake-up and departure times for race morning!

5. The Washroom Situation (See Also #4 – Get to the Race Early)

runDisney events are REALLY popular.  Which means there are a LOT of runners in each race.  Which means that there are REALLY long lines for the portable washrooms at the start of the race.  Which means, factor in an extra 15-20 minutes to get in that last minute before-race bathroom break!

While there are ample portable washrooms around the courses, the BEST advice my friend and veteran runDisney runner gave me was . . . . use the restrooms in the park!  During last year’s Princess Half, we ran into the bathrooms at the entrance to the Magic Kingdom.  Let’s just say it was a MUCH more pleasant experience than having to use the portable washrooms . . .

6. The VIP Race Retreat is Worth Every Penny

I signed up for the Race Retreat before last year’s Princess Half.  I had previously signed up for it at the Disneyland Tinkerbell Half Marathon weekend – and the ability to access the merchandise area there early was a godsend.  For the Princess Half, though, I was motivated to sign up for it because I had signed the Husband and my kids up for the Platinum ChEAR Squad package (so they could be entertained and comfortable while waiting for me to finish the race) and I wanted to be able to join them in the tent after.

BUT . . . the SINGLE BEST PART about the Race Retreat is . . . the “Private Restrooms”.  As a Race Retreat ticket holder you have access to the hospitality tent before the race (a great place to pick up a quick snack before the run) and just outside the hospitality tent . . . a series of portable restrooms reserved only for Race Retreat-ers.  Meaning the wait to use a washroom was negligible, versus significant lines at the portable washrooms everywhere else before the start line.

I will say though, it was very nice after the race to be able to grab a drink and a snack, and have a place to sit down and re-group before getting on with the rest of the day.

And . . . the characters onsite were pretty neat too!

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Meeting Cruella de Vil after the run with my two best cheerleaders!

7. Take Your Own Music

I know, I know.  RunDisney says not to use earphones while running in their races so you can hear course announcements as you’re running.  Which totally makes sense.  Except for the fact that large parts of the longer runs take place on the highway – yup – long stretches of pretty boring scenery – with little to keep you entertained other than then character sightings and checking out other runners’ costumes.

So, my runDisney buddy and I decided to run with just one earbud in – that way we could listen to the music we wanted to hear / needed to hear to keep us motivated – but we were also able to hear any course announcements – and of course to chat with each other!

8. Track Your Distance on Your Phone / Watch

While there are mile markers along the way for most of the races, during the Disneyland Tinkerbell 10k, there was only one 5k marker along the way.  I had neglected to set any sort of distance tracker on my phone/watch for that race, so I had NO idea, once I was past the half way mark, how much further I had to run.

That being said, even with all the mile markers along the runs, it is nice, between miles, to know just how far you need have let to go to get to the next one – especially in the later part of the race!

9. Be Prepared for the Weather

Running in Florida can mean running through all different kids of weather – and it’s best to be prepared for any eventuality!

Obviously that means planning for high temperatures as well as the cooler temperatures that can hit, especially for the races in January and February.  (Layers are your friend – and all the layers you discard along the way get donated to local charities.)

But it also means planning for the temperature changes WHILE you’re running the race.  Even though the races start off in the dark, by the time you’re done running, hopefully the sun will be shining, and you may wish you had a hat or sunglasses to shade your eyes from the sun!

And of course, it means planning for chafing and blistering.  I honestly never thought chafing would be a concern of mine . . . but heed the warnings you’ll see from veteran racers – use the anti-chafing product that you like best.  You’ll be glad you did.  And as for blisters – I found that double layer socks worked wonders in my shoes!  I can run for miles without a single foot issue!

That being said, if you do happen to have a chafing or blistering issue along the run, there are lots of first aid stations along the way to help!

10. Spend Some Time Post-Race in the Parks WITH Your New Medal(s)

It’s true – the best way to recover after a long run is to walk – and what better way to get in a slow, leisurely recovery walk, than to walk around the park wearing your new hardware.  Don’t forget to get lots of pictures of you wearing your medals (to make the MOST of your PhotoPass+ purchase) and lots of pics of your medals in front of your favourite Disney landmarks (like the Castle).

Oh, and eat ALL the food while you’re walking the parks too . . . post-race calories don’t count, so have that churro, get that popcorn, savour that Mickey ice cream.  You deserve it!

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Post-race celebration with Minnie (and my medal!)

Well, that’s all the tips I have for now.  I hope to see you out on a runDisney race course soon – and I hope you love all your runDisney events just as much as I do!

 

 

 

Welcome 2019 (& Hello to my new One Little Word)

I know the new year is officially here – and by extension I should be tackling all those amazing goals and resolutions I so carefully laid out for myself – but with the kids still off school, we are still very much in a holiday sort of mood.  And by that I mean, we’re in no rush to change out of our pj’s in the morning, there’s far too much screen time being enjoyed by all, Christmas toys are still strewn throughout the house, and the last dregs of the Christmas chocolates and candies are still being surreptitiously enjoyed throughout the day by both kids (and I’m pretending not to notice), and bedtimes have been pushed back far later than ever before.

But all of this holiday indulgence will come to a sputtering end this weekend as activities start back up, and the kids gradually start back into school and regular routines.

Which means, by Tuesday of next week, I’ll be forced to confront all those goals and resolutions I set out for 2019. And I’ll be forced to confront my abject terror of tackling said goals and resolutions.

Yup. That’s right. I said it. Abject terror of tackling my best laid plans.

It came to me this morning as I was writing my morning intentions. I talked about writing intentions way back in 2016 and it’s a practice that I keep coming back to – taking just 5 minutes to jot down an intention I have for the day – and it can be anything from the mundane to the esoteric – seems to set my day off on the right note. But I digress. As I was writing this morning’s intention, this idea of fear of working towards my goals came out of nowhere. But the more I think about it, the more it makes sense.

For the past two years I have used “Power Sheets” as a way to establish and track my goals. I usually spend a morning or two between Christmas and New Year’s to go through the process of setting up my goals for the year and thinking about how to go about achieving them – which is all laid out in the opening section of the Power Sheets Planner. And then each month you can set monthly, weekly and daily goals to help you work towards your big yearly goals.

This year was no different – I set up my goals for the year – and I was quite pleased with them.  And then on the 31st of December, I set up my monthly, weekly and daily goals for January.  And I was quite excited.  And then BAM.  The fear hit.  

You see – to achieve some of these goals I’ve set out for myself, I’m going to have to try new things.  And there’s a chance that they’re not going to turn out quite the way I want them to.  And that fear of failure is preventing me from even getting started.

Which is where my word of the year comes in.

But first . . . one more small digression.  A few months ago, while I was still working my way through my year of “magic”, I came across this graphic on Instagram, and instantly, I knew what I wanted my One Little Word to be.

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Yup . . . for 2019, my One Little Word is. . . .Love.

So while I’m still scared to try all the new things I have set out as goals for myself, I am going to do my best to treat myself with love, and maybe, if I can be compassionate towards myself, it will all start to seem a little bit less scary.

And on that note, I wish you all a very Happy New Year – and I hope it is a year filled with love and magic and joy!  

xoxo

 

 

 

Patience, My Friend, Patience.

“Patience is the ability to count down BEFORE you blast off.”

There’s a scene that is repeated over and over again in my life.  It happens at the gym – I have a barbell in front of me, it is loaded with a significant amount of weight, it is near the end of my workout, I am tired, mentally and physically, and all I want to do is go home and have a shower.  But I have to lift the barbell up.  One.  More.  Time.

“Patience” says The Coach, in a way that is as much a gentle reminder as it is a threat (of what, I’m not sure, although there’s always the possibility of death by burpees, I suppose).

You see, in weightlifting, if you are patient in lifting the bar off the ground, when you hold out for that perfect moment to really initiate the lift, it will feel almost as though the barbell is lifting itself.  Not to get sappy, but the feeling you get when the timing of a lift is just right . . . well, it’s almost magical.

I’ve been working with The Coach for almost 5 years now, and he’s still reminding me to be patient . . . what that says about me as a student, I’m not going to delve into . . . but I do like his little reminder, because it’s as meaningful outside the gym as it is in the gym.

As I sit now at my kitchen table, I have my list of goals for the month of January beside me.  I’ve been reviewing what worked well over the past month, what didn’t work so well, and thinking about what I’d like to try and tackle this month, which is how I got to thinking about patience.  (I’ve also just returned from the gym so the words of The Coach are still fresh in my mind).

Some of the goals I’ve set for myself this year are going to take the whole year to achieve them.  It’s going to take time, and effort, and the process is going to seem mind-numbingly slow at times.  Let’s face it, it can be really, really hard to wait patiently to achieve your goals.

We all want to be able to achieve our goals, to live our best life, to look our best . . . and we all want it NOW!

But then, if we didn’t slog through the hard stuff, the work of of achieving our goals, would meeting our goals have the same exhilarating feeling?

And that’s when I realized all the slow, steady work I’ve been doing over the last five years to heal, to get back to being “me” (the version of “me” that didn’t worry about doctor’s appointments and test results and tumours growing), to improve my physical fitness, has got me to a point where my goals can be “fun” (even if they are going to take a while to achieve).  Or, put differently, the past five years have been my own personal countdown, so that now I can blast off into my best life.

As you embark on your February, I hope you are able to set some good goals for yourself this month, and that you can find it in yourself to be patient while you go about achieving them.  Because amazing things really do happen when you have patience, my friend, patience.

 

 

 

 

 

What if it was Easy?

 

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I heard this quote a few weeks ago while listing to the Rich Roll Podcast.  It’s a long interview, with a LOT of interesting trains of thought, but by far, the concept that stuck with me the most was this idea of making things easy.

With the start of a new year, and ten new goals that I’d like to achieve over the course of the year (all lovingly developed and explored in my favourite PowerSheets), I’ve been employing this technique with great success.

One of my goals for the year is to have improved time with the kids, and together as a family.  In the past, I would have gone about this goal by trying to create “special” things to do with each kid, and to do with both kids together.  I’d get caught up in planning something for each month, start off with a bang, then end with a whimper.  And in the process, completely loose sight of the intention behind the goal.

But not this year – because, as I wrote the goal, I also worked on how I could achieve this goal in the easiest way possible, and in what is turning out to be more meaningful for both me and the kids.

Step 1 in achieving this goal was simply to create more time to have with the kids – it’s easier to have improved time when there is simply more of it.  Put differently, I tend to have a better time when I have more than 5 hurried minutes at the beginning or tail end of a day with the kids.  So, in planning our activities for the winter term, anything that wasn’t deemed a “must-do” by me or the kids was cut.  There are things the kids would have liked to have done, classes they could have enrolled in, but that would simply have added things to do on the calendar with little added benefits for anyone.

Step 2 involved looking at the “pain points” in our day and figuring out how to improve or eliminate them entirely.  Since it’s winter and overall, it’s been pretty freezing cold so far, the kids need to be in full winter gear to go to school each morning.  The logistics of squeezing my daughter’s uniform tunic into a pair of snow pants each day was taking significantly longer than it should have and resulting in whining and/or tears, which was grating on all of us.  The purchase of a smaller tunic and a new pair of snow pants, has added ten minutes to the time we have in the morning, and eliminated the whining and/or tears.

And while unnecessary activities were eliminated, the kids still do have their fair share of activities, in and out of school.  Which means bags for school and after-school activities need to be packed.  While we have been in the habit of doing this the night before, assembling gym uniforms and dance uniforms right before bed had a habit of drawing out the bedtime routine and often times winding the kids up after we had just spent time winding them down.  So . . . the easy solution . . . as soon as the kids get home, backpacks are emptied of that day’s items, and refilled with whatever is needed for the following day.

And lastly, Step 3 . . . removing screen time.  My kids wake up early.  Really, really early.  Like 4:50 early.  And it was really, really easy for me to let them watch tv to help fill in the time in the morning.  But, because I have 2 kids of opposite genders, and I do like to be fair, tv time in the morning has evolved over the years from 1 episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse to my son watching a half hour of sports highlights and my daughter watching a half hour show of her choosing.  I was going nuts listening to my daughter whine when my son was watching sports, and listening to my son whine when my daughter chose to watch Barbie.  In other words, what I thought was the “easy” way, was turning out to be problematic for all of us.

So I instituted a new “easy” solution – no screen time in the morning.  The kids can read when they get up.  They can help me pack lunches and make breakfast.  And they can get all the little things they need to do in a day done, like practicing piano.  Everyone is happier, calmer, and, as an added bonus, we’re all ready to go about 45 minutes before we need to leave for school.  And in those 45 minutes, we play games, we read, we investigate things the kids want to learn about . . . . we spend time together.  And when it’s time to go to school, we can be dressed and out the door in under 5 minutes – there’s no last minute scrambling for items they need for the day – they’re all packed – and the kids can easily get themselves into their winter gear.

I’ve also eliminated screen time in the evenings during the week.  While they weren’t watching much, the shows they were watching, and the squabbles over who got to choose the show to watch, were driving me nuts.  In it’s place, we chat (often while all making dinner together), they play, or read.  And after dinner, they can help clean up, or play or read.  But whatever it is they choose to do, we’re together and we’re all happier.  And I’m achieving my goal.

This concept of “easy” is helping me with my other goals too . . . instead of setting specific goals for the gym this year, I created one overarching health goal “personal vitality”.  In the past, I’ve focused on learning pull-ups, or setting new personal bests when I lift weights . . . but the complex methods I developed to meet these goals were inevitably thrown off by a sick kid, or, you know, life in general, and my goals were abandoned, un-met, leaving me, deep down, with a sense of failure about it all.  This year, by working out consistently, and continuing to commit to eating well, it’s easy to meet my goal, and I feel a whole lot better about myself because of it.

As you go about your day today, think about what aspects of your day might be improved if you made it “easy” . . . you just might be surprised at what you find.

 

 

 

2018: A Year of Magic

Magic

The power to make impossible things happen;
Something with special or mysterious qualities that makes one happy;
A significant or desirable quality;
Wonderful, marvellous, exciting;
Unaccountably enchanting;
Effective in producing results, especially desired ones.

Each year, for the past few years, I’ve chosen a word to accompany me through the year. Two years ago, it was Joy – because I was still figuring my way out of recovering from the tumour and I felt I needed to focus again on finding the joy in the big and little things in life.  Last year, I chose light – because I wanted to see the light, be the light, and honestly and quite simply, be light.  Along with choosing my word, I’ve dabbled in the One Little Word workshop (meaning I’ve followed along, done some of the prompts, but never actually followed through with all the prompts each month), and used my word to help me form my goals, plans, aspirations for the year.

Last year, despite my best intentions last year, the rhythm and feel of life didn’t line up at all with my word.  In fact, it almost felt like life was the opposite of what I had intended.  I tried to find the light, but it was a difficult year to see the light.  I tried to be light, but it’s hard to be light in spirit when you can’t make sense of the world around you.  And I certainly didn’t get any lighter (which, in the grand scheme of things, isn’t a big deal, but I won’t lie, frustrated me).  But as much as my word last year didn’t resonate with me (or maybe it did in ways I haven’t yet realized),  and at times even seemed to taunt me, I wasn’t ready to give up on this concept.

As the days in December ticked by, and my social media feeds become increasingly filled with posts on choosing a word and goal setting and New Years resolutions,  the word “Magic” kept appearing; both literally in things I was reading, and figuratively as flashes through my consciousness.  The more I thought about the word, the more I grew attached to it.  And eventually, I sat down to look up the definition.  Taken from a few different sources, I cobbled together the definition I started this post with . . . and with a definition like that, who wouldn’t want to spend a year working with this word.

And so, on January 1st, I declared (to myself, and now to you) my word for the year to be Magic.  (I also declared that I would faithfully follow through with the One Little Word class and actually complete all 12 prompts)

We may only be 12 days into this new year, but already this word is having an impact on my life.  I know, it sounds ridiculous.  But hear me out.  I’ve done lots of work in the past with gratitude.  How many times have we been told to “focus on the positive”, “make a list of things you’re grateful for”, “don’t forget to be grateful”.  But I’ve turned this process around and started to look for the magic instead of just things for which I’m grateful.  And it’s amazing how my perspective has changed.  Try it!

Never mind that it’s way more fun to look for sprinkles of magic in your life than to simply trudge through endless gratitude lists . . . .

I’m not kidding when I say one of the best parts of my day is when I sit down to journal about just one piece of magic I have found during my day.

So on that note, I wish you all a magical start to this new year, and I’m off to make a note about some magic that happened today.

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The little one and I finding a little magic recently at the most magical place on earth.

 

 

 

 

 

My Wish For This School Year: An Abundance of Kindess

Both my kids happily walked into the first day of school this morning.  I know I’m supposed to be just bursting with excitement that I finally (!) have both my kids in full day school.  But if I’m being really honest, the idea of having both kids at school all day is kind of sad; I’m no longer a mom to little kids.  They’re bigger kids now, who know how to read and write and amuse themselves (for the most part).  So when I thought about this year, and what I’d like to try and teach my bigger kids, it wasn’t specific skills, but instead I wanted to explore a theme with them, a theme that pervades all aspects of our lives: Kindness.

Obviously, I expect my kids to be kind to each other, and to their friends.  But what I want this year to be about is so much more than that.  As I was piecing this all together in my mind, I came across this article in the New York Times last weekend, about memorizing poems, so I set about finding a poem about kindness that might be appropriate for the kids to memorize, and I found the most amazingly fitting poem:

A Memory System by Priscilla Leonard

Forget each kindness that you do
As soon as you have done it;
Forget the praise that falls to you
The moment you have won it;
Forget the slander that you hear
Before you can repeat it;
Forget each slight, each spite, each sneer,
Whenever you may meet it.

Remember every kindness done
To you, whatever its measure;
Remember praise by others won
And pass it on with pleasure;
Remember every promise made
And keep it to the letter
Remember those who lend you aid
And be a grateful debtor.

Remember all the happiness
That comes your way in living;
Forget each worry and distress,
Be hopeful and forgiving;
Remember good, remember truth,
Remember heaven’s above you.
And you will find, through age and youth
True joys and hearts to love you.

I couldn’t have come up with a better manifesto for living a good life, than is articulated in this poem.  Not only does it outline just how to be kind, to yourself and to others, it reinforces the idea that being kind leads to a lovely life.  The kids read it last night, and I’m looking forward to working with them on this poem over the coming weeks.

But, as much as I LOVE this poem, I wanted to figure out at least one other way to incorporate this idea of kindness into our lives.  And it came to me yesterday.  On a recent trip to Target, I made an impulse buy of a little chalkboard for the kitchen.  My intention for it was for the kids to use it to write up menus for big family dinners and the like.  But last night, I found a new use for it . . . a weekly kindness quote.  I hope that we can use these quotes as a jumping off point to explore lots of different topics, and to help us remember to be kind.  For this week, I had to choose one of my favourite quotes of all time – from Cinderella – one that I thought was particularly appropriate for the first week back to school – and the first week at a brand new school for my littlest one.

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(I know, awesome penmanship on my part – but in the spirit of being kind, I’m going to be kind to myself, and give myself a pass on this one, and accept that my chalkboard writing will improve over the course of the year.)  

On that note, I’m off to show myself a little kindness and pick up some new workout clothes to celebrate this milestone in my kids’ lives (and mine!) – and also because I’ve got a few personal goals to work on this year in the gym . . . and it’s always more fun to work on new goals in new clothes, right?

Welcoming the New School Year with Open Arms, a (solid) Plan and (good) Intentions . . . And My (new) Favourite Peach Crisp

I love September; it’s a month filled with promise and excitement, hopes and dreams for the school year to come, a month that gives you a chance at a fresh start, a clean slate, a new beginning.

As I started to plan out our weekly schedule for the fall, I realized just how quickly and easily it would be to fall into the trap of over-scheduling, a trap that is as shiny and exciting on paper as it is excruciating in its consequences.

From sports, to arts, and everything in between, our kids today have a veritable buffet of activities to choose from – and of course, there are competitive streams for just about every activity too, just in case you want to take your training to the “next level”.

After a summer that has been nothing sort of spectacular – a summer in which, aside from short stints in camp at the very beginning and end of the summer, we have had no set schedule – I am in no hurry to bring to an end how we are all feeling right now.

So this year, as I started to plan out our year, I did something different – I spent some time alone with each kid this week and discussed what goals they had for the year, and what it was that they really wanted to do with the time they weren’t in school.  Their responses fascinated me.  And gave me some pretty clear insights into their personalities.

After we talked about goals, we talked about how they could go about achieving their goals, and what activities they really wanted to be involved in this year.

Next up, I spent some time reviewing my goals for the school year and what I would like to accomplish.  I asked the Husband to think of what he might like to do/accomplish this year.  And most importantly, what we, together as parents, hope for/want for our kids and our family this year.

And then I got down to work reconciling everything we’d all like to do with how much time we have, how much driving in circles we’re all willing to put up with, how many disrupted meal times are acceptable to us, and how much family time we’re willing to give up in order to feel a sense of accomplishment come June.

With both kids in full day school, I’m extremely lucky this year in that I’ll be able to finally tackle some of those goals that I’ve talked about for ages, but never really turned my attention to (hello pull-ups and six-pack abs . . . . oh, and training for that half marathon I signed up for . . . looks like the Coach is going to have fun training me this year).  But, there are lots of other things outside the gym that I want to try.  Have I mentioned I took a knitting class this summer – it’s somewhat addicting – and I’d like to master a 3rd stitch, maybe. . .  And there are about a million recipes I’d like to try.  And then there are all my photo book projects that need attention . . . the list goes on.  But these are all things that can be scheduled in around my gym training and dropping off and picking up the kids.

Where things get tricky is the after-school time slots.

So here’s what I did.  I made an excel spreadsheet that listed each of the days of the week and had half hour time blocks from 7:30 am through to 8:30 at night (when the kids should ideally be in bed and asleep – given that they’re still waking up at 5am).

Then I put in all the “must-do’s” into the schedule.  For now, piano lessons are a must-do – which isn’t exactly a hardship since both the kids love piano.  The lessons that have already been co-ordinated with skating coaches also went into this calendar.  And from there, we could figure out if the other things the kids wanted to do were do-able and/or reasonable.

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My criteria for do-able was simple – given the pick up and drop-off schedules for each of their schools, traffic patterns, and must-do already-scheduled activities, could I reasonably be able to get the child to the activity they were requesting.  My criteria for reasonable was slightly more complicated – but not much – a) would the child suffer enormously by not participating in the activity; b) would the rest of the child’s life be affected if they didn’t participate in the activity; and c) did the timing of the activity reasonably work with our evening/weekend schedules.

The working schedule that we’re left with is one that makes us all happy.  The kids are going to be doing some great after-school things.  The amount of time I’ll be driving in circles has been kept to a bare minimum.  While dinner will be shifting from our norm of 6:00 last year to 6:30 this year, we will still be able to eat as a family in the evenings (a priority for the Husband an me).  And of course, there will still be sufficient time, in the evening and on the weekends to get homework done, and do everything else that we like to do.

While the kids aren’t going to be doing everything they want to (it looks like my daughter will be giving up her tap dancing career, and I’m not sure just how much golf practice my son will squeeze in), I also know, as their mother, that they will be better rested, and consequently happier little humans than if I had gone along with all of their extracurricular requests.

And I’ve never heard of a kid who’s complained about being too happy or well rested.

Now on to the bit about peach crisp.  I’ve mentioned in previous years that I have a mild obsession with peaches at this time of the year.  It’s like I see a basket of peaches at a farmers’ market and I loose any sense of reason (and completely forget that my kids don’t enjoy fresh peaches) and buy the largest basket I can.  This year has been no different.  After our last trip to a farmers’ market, I immediately made a massive peach crisp.  But STILL had a dozen peaches left over, which I had put into the fridge for storage.  This particular batch of peaches was perfect in that none of them were overly ripe.  Which lead to my latest great discovery: Slightly unripe peaches make the best peach crisp.  And by best I mean slightly underripe peaches lead to a thicker, less watery crisp.

Summer Peach Crisp

  • Servings: 6-10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

For the Fruit:

  • 12 just under-ripe peaches
  • scant 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups blueberries or raspberries (totally optional)

For the Topping

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 stick COLD unsalted butter cut into small cubes

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and generously butter a 6×9″ pan.
  2. Slice the peaches into eights and peel each slice (I find it easier to peel them once they’re sliced than to peel the peaches first.  If your peaches are riper, you can certainly submerge each peach in a pot of boiling water for about 1 minute, and then immediate immerse them into a bowl of ice water – this will make the skins very easy to peel off.)
  3. Combine the peaches and any berries you might be using with the sugar and flour.  I usually use a flexible spatula to do this so I don’t bruise the fruit too much.
  4. Pour the fruit into the prepared pan.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine the topping ingredients.  I use my fingers to mash the butter up a bit and really combine it with the flour and sugar.
  6. Spread the topping evenly over the fruit.
  7. Bake for 35-60 minutes – the length of cooking time will depend on just how ripe the peaches you used were – cooking time will be shorter the riper the peaches are.  Just take a look at around the half hour mark and judge accordingly.
  8. This is a dessert best served warm with vanilla ice cream!

Emerging From the Proverbial Cocoon & The End of the 100 Day Project

For the last TEN weeks, our house has been under renovation.  What was supposed to be a quick and painless project turned into a long and tedious one that culminated last week in most of the contents of the house residing somewhere other than where they’re meant to be.

I had been prepared for a 6-week adventure of living and cooking out of our basement.  Six weeks, I figured, was nothing.  We could totally get by using 2 bar fridges, a chest freezer, a barbecue and an instant pot.  Six weeks, with the end of school, the start of summer, and all the activities that happen during that period, would fly by.

But as six weeks turned into ten, the project started to take a toll – at least on me, anyway.  My entire way of living was thrown for a loop.  Meals were consumed at odd times, composed of things that didn’t need to be cooked (no eggs), that took up little room in our compressed refrigerator space, or that could be prepared in about 5 minutes flat.  Daily visits to the gym were more often that not cancelled as I found myself running out to Lowes or Home Depot for emergency supplies, or simply waiting in my house for tradespeople to show up.  For someone who has such an entrenched routine (one that has been devised over the past few years to produce optimal vitality), and who craves consistency, predictability, and order, this past month has been nothing short of torture.

With that being said, the final aspects of the project should be completed on Friday, marking the end of this long cocooning period, with my new kitchen emerging out of the dust and debris like a beautiful butterfly.

Which means . . . I can go back to life as usual.  I can cook and eat the way I want to.  I can exercise when I want to.  And of course, I can putter around my house and my garden without having to look out for where the tradesmen might be working.

Sadly, over these last ten weeks, #the100dayproject has also been running.  And while I have been taking photos of the sky every day, for the last few weeks, I simply haven’t had the energy to post my photos and quotes.  As day after day went by without posting, the guilt grew over my inability to complete this project the way I had intended to 100 days ago.

Taking a page from Emily Ley’s Book, Grace Not Perfection, I decided to cut myself some slack, relax, and and be content that I at least managed to take a sky photo every day, even if they weren’t all posted.

And as I was contemplating all this, while I stepped out tonight to take my 100th photo, I found a very fitting sky . . .

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An absolutely stunning show of a sunset . . . with . . . a few dark clouds rolling through for good measure.  Proving once again, that nothing’s perfect.  And that perhaps the sunset was made even more beautiful by the start contrast with the dark storm clouds.

So, with that wonderfully, metaphorical photo, I will once again be bringing my 100 Day Project to an end.

However, with my new kitchen, renewed time now that I’m not dealing with the multitude of issues that arise from any sort of renovation project, and the bevy of wonderful things that summer brings, I will once again get back to sharing stories and adventures, and workouts and recipes, and other assorted good things with you.

xoxo

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