If Not Now, Then When?

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I spent the day yesterday at a Crossfit competition.  In the weeks/days leading up to these competitions, I always question my sanity for signing up; with the workouts not being revealed until the day before/day of of the competition, there is the anxiety of wondering if you’ll be given a movement you can’t do; you hope that you are injury-free and in good physical condition come the day of the competition; and there is the general performance anxiety and hope that you don’t let your teammates down.

You will find some of the MOST competitive people you have ever encountered at a Crossfit competition.  But the funny thing is, as competitive as they may be, it’s also the place you are MOST likely to find complete strangers cheering you on, giving you a high five, and complementing you on your performance.  And if that’s what coming from your fellow competitors, you should see the encouragement that you get from your teammates.  It’s an experience like no other.  And it’s that experience that keeps us/me signing up for these competitions.

Anyway, I spent the day yesterday at one of these competitions with 5 amazing teammates, another team of 6 amazing friends, and even the Coach came by to cheer us on/give some sage advice.  We were tested physically, but overall had a remarkable day filled with personal and team achievements.

The quote, “If not now, then when”, was painted across an entire wall of the gym we were at yesterday.  I was drawn to it; not only because it represented the sentiment for the day; but because it’s such a good motto for life in general.

Several friends have been raving about the book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  I bought a copy and started reading it this morning.  It is an interesting book.  And echoes a lot of the sentiments I’ve been feeling about my house in general over these past few months.  I especially liked the concept of examining each item in your house in terms of what it adds to your life today.

I’ve been trying to tidy up my house for months.  I’ve had no trouble getting rid of things like my high school band folder (complete with sheet music for the Lion King and Mario Brothers . . . in fact, how that survived this long in my possession is inexplicable).  I’ve also been quite happy to get rid of my “fat” clothes, bulky, “big plastic” baby accessories things, and broken/incomplete toys.  What I can’t seem to bring myself to do is tidy up the really loved baby/little kid stuff.  I have a huge bin filled with the “important” clothes that I’ve kept from my kids wardrobes through the years.  I have another huge bin filled with the “important” baby toys.  And I’m well on my way to filling another huge bin with my most favourite books – the only reason it isn’t full yet is because I just can’t bring myself to take all the baby books OUT of the kids’ rooms yet.  Yup, that’s right, the Son has baby books shelved alongside chapter books in his room right now.

I understand that I’m going through, what one of the heads of my daughter’s school called a “big transition”.  The kids are no longer babies, they don’t need me to take care of everything for them, and I find myself really missing those days of having a toddler running around the house.  I’m holding on to all of those memories by holding on to all of the stuff of those years.

Logically, I know that I will have the courage to dispose of all this stuff eventually.  And so, I’m going to try my very best to live this quote this week; with each item I look at as I tidy my house, I will think of what joy it brings to me, but I’m also going to ask myself . . . if it’s eventually going to be discarded, if not now, then when???

Ps.  I found the image at the top of this post on this blog.  In fairness – I did an image search, liked this one the best . . . and here it is . . . I’m sure it’s an interesting blog!

Occupation: __________________

This September really felt like a new year for me.  For the first time since the surgery, feeling no longer like I was in recovery mode (physically or mentally), and with the kids both in school a bit longer, I faced every stay-at-home mom’s dilemma . . .without really littles ones to take care of each moment of the day, what is my job now?

This week, I’ve been working on filling out all the application forms for schools for my son for next year.  And on each one, I’m asked to state my occupation.  Hmmmmmmmmm.  What do you call what I do each day?

And then, early this morning (5am to be exact), my son came into our room.  Finding the Husband still asleep in bed, he asked, “Why isn’t daddy at the gym”.  A valid question as the Husband is usually up and out the door long before 5.  When I explained to him that daddy skipped the gym this morning so that he could go into work extra early, he asked “Is daddy’s work fun”.  In the time it took me to formulate an answer he looked at me and said:

“Mommy, I think you should work at Costco.  Or Walmart.  Or Starbucks.  Because you really like those stores”.

Ok.  So on one hand, I am really pleased that at the tender age of 6, my son is abstractly aware that you should, at a minimum, enjoy what you do for work.  On the other hand, I’m disappointed in myself in that my son/kids have NO clear understanding that mommy used to have a job just like daddy’s before he/they came along; a job that I loved.  (I think I’ll leave the fact that my weekly shopping trips were more likely to be to Holts than Costco or Walmart out though . . .).

And why exactly do I care so much about this???  I think it’s because I want them to know that in life, we always have choices.  The Husband and I made choices before the kids came along to ensure that me staying home was a viable choice for our family.  I made a choice to find new things that I LOVE to do and that keep me feeling whole as a human without going back into the corporate world.  And I especially want them to know that there are no right or wrong choices; in life, all we can do is make the best choice for ourselves given where we are at that moment in our lives.

Which still leaves me unclear as to what I should state as my current occupation . . . oh the choices . . . .

And now for the segue into the recipe . . . the one area in which my children have NO choice is over what they eat for dinner.  I do take into consideration their likes and dislikes when I do my menu planning . . . but when one kid could subsist on pasta and veggies alone, and the other on steak and pork products . . . menu planning can get a bit tricky.

So . . . this week, I made a quick and easy meal that satisfied BOTH kids.  Meatballs.  Because I use ketchup in these meatballs, they are a bit sweet.  Yes, they still taste great in a pasta sauce, but they are also great on their own.  Which means that I can serve them plain with a side of veggies, and this week, I even made up some pasta (just tossed with olive oil) to go on the side too.  My son ate about 7 meatballs . . . my daughter 2.  These freeze fantastically – hence the reason I make such a large batch.  You can easily halve this to make dinner for the family for just one night.  This recipe is based on the meatball recipe from Elana’s Pantry . . .

Easy Baked Meatballs

  • Servings: 4-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

2lbs ground beef

2 eggs

4tbs ketchup

4tbs dijon mustard

2tbs coconut flour

salt & pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 350.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, ketchup and mustard.
  3. Add in the coconut flour and salt & pepper and again whisk well.  The mixture will become fluffier the more you mix.
  4. Add in the ground beef.  This is where things get messy – use your hands and combine the meat with the egg mixture until everything is really well mixed together.
  5. I use an ice cream scoop (equal to about 1/8 cup) to portion out the meatballs on the tray.  You could also hand roll the meatballs.  And feel free to make them as big or as little as you’d like.
  6. Bake the meatballs for about 25minutes or until they are cooked through (break one open to check).

*you can get creative with this recipe too – add in garlic or some diced onion/shallot to make it a more traditional meatball recipe . . . and for that matter, you could use tomato paste instead of ketchup.

Cinderella Ate my Daughter. And I’m Ok With That.

My daughter loves the Disney Princesses.  She loves the movies.  She loves reading stories about them.  She loves playing with toys themed around the Princesses.  And she loves to dress up in Princess dresses.

And I’ve always found it pretty adorable.  And I’ve clearly encouraged it – after all, I do buy most of the toys/books/games that come into our house.

But with every Princess-themed item that comes into our house, I will admit, I have a momentary twinge of guilt, that voice in the back of my mind – likely honed in my 13 years of all-girls education – asking me why I’m perpetuating the gender divide by buying into all things pink and sparkly for my daughter.  I will even admit that the first princess-themed items that my daughter received were themed to Belle – precisely because of that voice – I rationalized that a book-loving princess couldn’t be all bad.

But as the kids and I looked at Cinderella this week, I couldn’t help but wonder, why there is so much angst about our daughters playing princesses.

As we read all 3 versions of Cinderella (Perrault, Hewet & Brothers Grimm), it became abundantly clear that it was not the Prince that saved her from her life as a servant to her step-mother and step-sisters, it was her kindness.  And it is in fact the moral of the first two versions of the story that kindness and strength of character are worth far more than beauty ever can be.

Isn’t this exactly the sort of life lesson I want to impart to my daughter?  Don’t I want her to grow up thinking that good things come to those who are good and work hard.  And if going to a ball and wearing a gorgeous dress and fantastic shoes happen to be the reward for a job well done, then so be it.

And with this revelation, I hope that voice in my head has been silenced; that voice that says I should feel guilty for so willingly embracing all things Princess.

But it’s also got me wondering.  If I can simultaneously buy into the Princess mystique for my daughter while exposing her to toys that bend gender barriers (toys like Goldieblox that introduce girls to the joys of engineering) and books that promote non-traditional roles for girls (books like Rosie Revere, Engineer), why can’t I do the same for my son?  Where are the toys and books that glorify housekeeping and cooking and child-rearing as exciting roles for males?

But I digress.  This unit on Disney is quickly become more fascinating, both for me and the kids, than I ever thought possible.  I can’t wait for this week to start as we move away from Cinderella to learn more about Peter Pan and maybe even touch on Alice in Wonderland; my two favourite children’s stories of all time.

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Normal Day

“Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are.  Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart.  Let me now pass you by in a quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so.  One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return.”

-Mary Jean Irion

I read this quote a few years ago.  A few years ago when I was in the throes of trying to recover from my brain surgery.  When I had a baby and a toddler at home with me.  When I wondered how on earth my life was ever going to feel “normal” again.

And then the quote showed up again this week in my Pinterest feed.  And I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

I started my day today with the usual household stuff; getting ready for the day, feeding the kids and myself, making sure we all have everything we need for the day.  There were drop offs for both kids.  And then there was a workout at the new unbelievably amazing All In One gym with THE trainer that was responsible for getting me into crossfit in the first place.  When I was done, I came home, chatted with friends on the phone, talked to the Husband, ate my lunch…

And then it hit me.

I was HAVING A NORMAL DAY.

(sorry it took so long to outline my totally normal (boring) day for you all).

It’s taken a few years, a lot of tears, some trial and error, and there have been lots of bumps along the road, but life is back to NORMAL.

I have nothing but IMMENSE gratitude for all those that I encountered along this journey, for the experiences I have had, and for the lessons I have learned.

And for the first time in a long time I’m going to say this without worrying that I’m somehow jinxing it . . . I can’t WAIT for lots more of these normal days.

(yes, there were a lot of caps used in this post, but today kind of feels like a BIG DEAL kinda day that required the liberal use of the caps lock button)

(since today was so normal, I was also sorting through my photos for this week – more on my photo of the day project at a later date – and found this one from the weekend, that just seems to go so well with this post)

Started from the bottom . . .

Mommy School

I’ll start with the backstory:

My kids wake up early in the mornings.  Like 5:30 early.  Consistently.  It’s been this way since they were born, it never changes, no matter when they go to sleep, and I don’t foresee this habit changing anytime soon.  I will freely admit that this used to really bother me.  Mostly because I find it hard to find 10 consecutive minutes to myself to get anything meaningful done.    The Husband and I are both early risers, so the fact that the kids both are really shouldn’t be much of a surprise.  But I digress.

In the past, I have tried to fill in the 3 hours we have in the morning together in a meaningful way – but somehow it usually ended up with the kids watching more tv than they probably should have, and nothing much meaningful happening.

This past summer, I wanted to find a way to get my son really interested in reading (he’s an excellent reader, he just doesn’t tend to pick up a book unprompted) and to get my daughter actually reading (she thinks telling me what’s happening in the pictures is “real” reading)!  So, we spent 10 minutes in the morning, once breakfast was done, working on phonics.  Because I wanted the kids to take what we were doing seriously (as in I wanted them to stay sitting at the table until we were done with our work), I told them that they were in “Mommy School”.  They seemed to buy it and it worked out quite well.  Ok . . . I did also put a reward system in place, so that for every 3 pages of work they did, they got a sticker on their chart; if they completed the chart (16 stickers), they got to choose one item from a list of rewards that included picking what we were having for dinner, walking to the store to buy a new book, or 20 minutes of iPad time.

As September rolled around, I wanted to find a way to teach them more than just phonics.  After the road trip we took in the summer, I saw how captivated they could get by certain topics, and I wanted to carry that over into our “Mommy School”.  So . . . I set about dividing the upcoming year into units, and focusing on a different theme in each unit.

I started with cooking and food in September; figuring that we were back to routines, back to cooking more with the oven than the barbecue, and so we could all get into learning more about our food, famous chefs, and even about cookbooks.  But . . . that didn’t go so well.  Turns out my kids do like to cook (if it’s muffins, kale chips, or a dessert), and the only foods they’re really interested in right now are pasta, steak, and chocolate.  Pretty much an epic fail on my part.

So we’ve moved on.  We have a trip planned to DisneyWorld in November, so our new unit is Disney.  We’ve spent the last 2 mornings learning about Walt Disney the man and the history of the Disney company.  Both kids are fascinated.  We’ll move on to learning about how cartoon movies are made, reading some of the original (non-disney) stories that the movies are based on, and we’ll even touch on how DisneyWorld, the theme park, is constructed.

Together, we’re all learning, we’re all engaged, and we now have some structure to our mornings; no more mindless tv watching.  Of course, this ties into my post yesterday; by being organized, by getting things done the night before/the weekend before, and by approaching the day with a calmer outlook, I have the time to devote to this little project, and to the kids.  And I couldn’t be happier.

The Gift of a Quiet Sunday

We are fortunate enough to live in an area where there is a veritable plethora of activities for the kids to participate in.  We also live in an area where there is not an insignificant amount of pressure for kids to find a sport or activity in which they excel, and to pursue it competitively from a young age.  I freely admit that I have had difficulty in the past saying “No” to signing my kids up for class.  The list of activities my son, who is just 7, has participated in to date is staggering.

But this year, I somehow managed to find the strength to stop the insanity.  And for the first time in years, we have Sundays completely free of activities (along with a much more manageable week-day schedule).

And so, today, we had our first Sunday under our new family schedule, or lack thereof.  And how wonderful it has been.  We have been able to take our time, let the kids putter around the house; let the adults putter around the house, and of course, settle down at 4:30 to watch our beloved Broncos play.  And best of all, the Husband and I were able to quietly get everything organized for the week ahead.  Menu plans are done, groceries have been purchased, after-school activity backpacks have been prepped, and the to-do list for the week has been compiled.

Which brings me to the main point of my post today . . .planning ahead, especially when it comes to meals, is the single best habit I’ve adopted over the last year.  I currently use the Martha Stewart menu planner that I got at Staples last year.  From what I can gather, this product isn’t available anymore.  But, I LOVE it.  It sticks to the fridge and has a section for breakfast, lunch and dinner for each of the days of the week (I did cut off the portion of the planner that had a notepad and a space for notes so it takes up a little less space on my fridge).  I use either dry erase crayons or just regular dry erase markers to fill it in.  If you can find one . . . GET IT!!!!  If not, there are lots of similar products available too . . . including free printables that you can just print off each week and stick to the fridge.

As we are cleaning up from breakfast/getting ready for the day on Sunday, I take about half an hour to look at the calendar for what we have going on in the week ahead, look at what we have in the fridge/freezer (and clean out what needs to be tossed), and plan what we’re going to eat accordingly – from this, I can then make up my grocery list too (we usually do a big grocery shop at some point on Sunday).

So, why do I love this so much????  Well, for starters, my kids are really into food and cooking, especially my son.  So he LOVES knowing what we’ll be making and eating in the days to come.  The Husband is often the one who gets breakfast ready for the kids in the morning – by planning out what they have for breakfast, I know the kid won’t be eating too much of one kind of food (like eggs).  And most importantly, it gives me peace of mind during the week.  I know exactly what I need to pull out of the freezer/prep for dinner on a given day . . . there’s no 5:00 mad dash to the grocery store to pick up something quick for dinner.  Ok . . . wait.  Most important is the fact that I know over the course of the week, the kids (and the Husband and I) are eating a variety of foods that are in-keeping with our thoughts and values when it comes to our preferred way of eating.

I know it seems like a lot . . . we’re all so busy, and carving out 30 minutes can seem like an impossible task at times!  But I promise . . . the end result is SOOOOOOOOO worth it!!!

Goodbye Summer

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Today is the last day of summer vacation for our little ones.  The past few weeks have been a whirlwind here – we ventured out on an absolutely amazing road trip, came back for a week of ballet camp, frantic last minute back-to-school errands, and lots of play dates, and then spent a glorious long weekend at the cottage.

During that frantic week, I was able to catch up with 2 amazing ladies over dinner.  As usual, I came back from dinner inspired, uplifted, and ready to take on some new challenges (thank you Agnes & Rozanne).  Over the weekend, I was able to read an amazing book “The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion”.  And this weekend, a group of people who helped to inspire me and change my life completely (yeah, that would be a few of my crossfit coaches), are making their dreams come true and opening their own gym – All In One Strength and Conditioning.

As I ruminated about the amazing things that my friends have been up to this summer and how so many of them are starting to see their dreams, their life’s work culminate in something tangible and fantastic, I found I kept coming back to this quote from Elle Luna’s book:

Elle Luna Rumi

And so, as the kids head back to school tomorrow, I will head back to the places I love most – back to the gym, back to the kitchen, and back to my creative space.  And I will continue to document my adventures in the gym, in the kitchen, and in my creative space here.  And I can’t wait to see where it all leads.

Hello Monday. Hello Routine. Sort of . . .

We’re back.  Back from our week-long road trip.  Back to our summer routine.  And most importantly, back to our eating routines.

Let me preface this post by saying, we had an absolutely amazing time away.  We got to see and do things that we will take with us for a long time to come.  The kids were absolutely amazing and for the first time ever, we didn’t use a stroller!!!  The little one did a LOT of walking, but she did it without complaint!

But, there is a certain comfort in getting back home, and getting back into routine.

One thing I do like to do is to menu plan for the week ahead.  It’s a habit that forces me, on a Sunday morning before we go the market/grocery store/specialty stores to think about what we have going on in the week ahead and to make sure that we achieve some sort of balance in what we eat.

I also really like to ensure that we always have a nice chicken to roast for dinner on Monday night.  Really, who doesn’t love a roast chicken?  Whatever we don’t eat for dinner on Monday nights gets chopped up, portioned out, and frozen to be used in lunches for the Husband and myself during the week.  And after dinner is cleaned up, and the kids are getting ready for bed, I get out the crcok pot and start a batch of bone broth with all the bones from the chicken.

After all the pizza and other questionably food we’ve all consumed over the last week, I can assuredly say I am absolutely CRAVING a nice roast chicken tonight!!!

A Water Park, Abject Terror, and Learning to Go With the Flow (Literally)

So we stopped at the Kalahari Water Park for one day this week as part of our family road trip  The Husband had looked into it, booked it, and was super excited to see the kids go nuts in the largest waterpark in the US.  I have to admit, I was pretty excited too; I thought I really liked waterslides.

Thought being the operative word.

As we entered the park, I did a quick scan of all the slides, and settled on one we could all do as a family.  The Rippling Rhino.  I envisioned a gentle ride; not too fast, gentle curves, lots of smiles and giggles from the kids.  We climbed the stairs up to the start of the slide, hopped into the specialty raft, and were launched into a pitch black tunnel.  The sharp turns had us rocking from side to side, the current of the water was spinning the raft around, and there were bumps and drops that literally had my heart leaping out of my chest.

In the back of my mind, I knew that quite literally, there had to be light at the end of the tunnel.  That the ride would come to an end, there would be lots of giggles, and my heart rate would return to normal.  But that did NOTHING to quell the panic I was feeling.

And just when I thought I couldn’t take another second of the ride, I caught a glimmer of light, and before I knew it, we were back into daylight, the ride was over, there were lots of giggles from everyone, and the kids raced off to try a different slide.  But my panic didn’t really subside.

The same scenario repeated itself over and over again for the next two hours.  And again the next morning when we got up and did it all over again.

I could not just “go with the flow”, enjoy the twists, turns and bumps in the slides, especially when I had no idea what was coming up next, and I certainly did not find any sweetness in the moment when the darkness gave way to light.

And so, the slides at the Kalahari Water Park have become a metaphor for my life.  I don’t like going with the flow, I really don’t like NOT knowing what’s coming up next, and rather than enjoy the sweetness that comes from making it through a difficult time, I prefer to re-group and strategize on how to be best prepared for whatever might come my way next.

Evidently, I have some work to do . . .

In the meantime, the kids are already asking when we can go back.

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