55. Anything’s Possible

Last night as I was putting my son to bed, I told him, as is part of our bedtime routine “I love you”.  He looked at me and said “I love you more”.

My response was unconscious and automatic.  “Not possible”.

“But mom,” he said, “Anything’s possible”.

At which point, I’m fairly certain my heart burst with love.

But as I’ve moved through my day today, my thoughts have returned over and over again to what he said.  And given the week we’ve just had, it’s not overly surprising he said what he did.

You see, a week ago, the Husband and I surprised the kids with a trip to Disney.  As in they woke up, came down the stairs and saw the suitcases packed and ready to go.  What followed was a truly magical week away.

My daughter showed her love for several characters, and was rewarded with them showing her some love right back.

 

 

My son got to meet all SEVEN of the 7 Dwarfs (something he has wanted to do for years), and he got to stay up late enough with me to watch the Christmas Wishes fireworks display at the Magic Kingdom (something I have wanted to do for years).

Both kids got to not only have all their favourite Star Wars characters walk right past them. . .

But they both completed Jedi Training, and got to have a light sabre fight with some pretty scary characters from the Dark Side . . .

And then there was the taping of the Descendants Christmas Special that both kids got to watch from a front row vantage point, even getting to interact with one of the Descendants and some of the dancers!

And of course, there were a host of other amazing moments over the course of the week . . . the little on and I had our annual meeting with the Fairy Godmother, the little one had several other encounters with Goofy, including one with Santa Goofy, the older one overcame his immense fear of Space Mountain, and we were all able to go on that ride together as a family . . .

The trick, now that we’re back to our regular lives and our regular schedules, is to remember that anything’s possible.  But not only that, it’s also to remember to show our love even if we’re not sure our affection will be returned; to do things that will bring us closer to or see us fulfill our dreams; to fight against the darkness that we all have in our lives; to fully enjoy the moment when something wonderfully unexpected happens; and to always look for the magic, because, even in the midst of our everyday lives, there is magic to be found.

And on that note, I wish you the most magical of days.

54. Memories to Last a Lifetime

We’ve just returned from a magical family trip to Disney World.  As is to be expected, the kids loved every minute of it.  And the Husband and I  . . . well . . .we had a pretty good time too.  It’s hard not to have a good time when you’re in the happiest place on earth.

But, this trip didn’t go by without some introspection, and some lessons (re)learned.  You see, Disney holds a special place in my heart – it’s where we had our first family vacation – but it’s also where I first came to terms with the symptoms of my tumour and the fact that there was something wrong.  But in the five years that have followed that fist trip, Disney has been a place to celebrate birthdays (mine, my son’s, and even my daughter’s).  It’s been a place to celebrate being together, and to celebrate making it through the tumour situation more or less intact.  And so, with ever trip we take there, I tend to take a bit of time to reflect on the past, where we’ve been, how far we’ve come, and where we might be going in the future.

This trip was no different.

But, just as our trip was coming to an end, and I was starting to plan out how the next few weeks would go once we got back, my path crossed that of another vacationing family, and through that chance encounter, I found a much clearer picture of how I want things to be now that we’re home.

Let me explain.  After a long morning at Hollywood Studios, the little one and I decided to go back to the hotel to spend the afternoon by the pool, while the Husband and the older one opted to travel to EPCOT.  As the little one and I took our place in line to wait for the bus to take us back to the hotel, another mom with two children about the same age as my little one got into line behind us.  As the kids started to interact with each other, I started to chat with the mom.  Before long, I learned why they were at Disney; her sister, a mom to a 4 year old and a toddler, who was waiting further behind us in line, in a wheelchair, has terminal cancer.  They were there, to create lasting, big, happy memories for her kids with their mom, while they still could.

I was instantly reminded of the time, between my diagnosis and my surgery, when I would say to the Husband, “I just want them to remember me”.  This sentiment affected a lot of my behaviour towards my family before and long after the surgery.  When the kids were little, I tried my best to make every day just a little bit magical.  That often resulted in frequent little “treats” and overdoing it when it came to Christmas and birthdays.  As the kids have gotten older, I have turned more towards spending quiet time with them, and relied less on purchases to create happiness.  This has meant we’ve spent more time cooking, going on runs together, making crafts and the like.

And of course it’s meant I have put a priority on things like our trips to Disney, where we can take a complete break from our everyday lives and focus on being together and having fun.  The kids relish these trips, because they know they will have undivided attention from both the Husband and I, and that together, we are making truly magical memories.

The stark reality of our world today is that more and more of us are having experiences with disease and tumours.  Regardless of the cause of the rising rates of disease (although my focus on clean eating and exercise is how I work to mitigate my chances of ever experiencing a tumour again), none of us know if or when we might be faced with a similar situation.  And not to be overly melodramatic, if something were to happen, how would you like your family to remember you?

So, as we’re now home and already back into our daily routines, and looking ahead to the holiday season, I am going to put a renewed focus on my family.  Years from now, the kids won’t remember the gifts I might have bought them, how many activities they participated in, or how rushed we were running from one thing to the next.  What they will remember is how loved they felt, how we took time as a family to honour our little traditions, and how we slowed down so that we could truly enjoy each other’s company.  And those, regardless of whether they happen at Disney or at home, well, those are the memories that will last a lifetime.

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52. Drawing a Line in the Sand . . . Over Beanbag Chairs

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So, I’ve always loved the idea of the Pottery Barn Anywhere chairs for kids – but I could never quite wrap my head around them . . . when the kids were little, we read books with them on my lap.  And by the time they were old enough to read books on their own, they preferred to sprawl out on the couch, or in the big chairs in their rooms.  Which is to say, I could never quite justify purchasing the chairs.

The kids each have a beanbag chair at the cottage – I bought them at the Walmart up north a few years ago – and this summer, they really took them.  And Pottery Barn also makes super cute beanbag chairs (the ones on offer at Walmart currently aren’t exactly the sorts of things I’d like to have on display in my family room). . . And I got really excited . . . Until I saw how much the beanbag chairs cost at Pottery Barn.

And I drew a line in the sand.

There were several free patterns for beanbag chairs on the web, I do know how to sew, and who doesn’t like making a trip to pick out fabric?  It was a win-win-win.

In the end, I chose the pattern featured on Thread Riding Hood’s site.  I picked up some cute, heavy-duty fabric.  And I got to sewing.  In total, each chair took me about 90 minutes to cut out, serge and sew – which is about how long it took me to make the rounds trip to the closest Walmart in the city to pick up the little styrofoam beans that I filled the chairs with!  That being said, I did NOT make a lining for my chairs, nor did I use any batting.  I simply made the outer shell.  Why?  Because I figured that we will outgrow these chairs before they are in need of a serious wash (the upside to making these for older kids).

Which brings me to my next point – you can totally fill these with the little styrofoam beans that you can get at Walmart for about $15 a bag instead of stuffed animals as the pattern suggests.  If I ever undertake this project again, I think I will choose to use stuffed animals to fill them – for the simple reason that our house seems to be overflowing with stuffed animals and my son is getting too old to have a bucket of them in his room.  But for now, the little “beans” work perfectly.

The kids love them, I love them, I loved making them, and I can use all the money I “saved” from not buying these at Pottery Barn to buy something nice for myself . . .

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48. Running & What I Learned From Running with My Son

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Yesterday I ran the Scotiabank Marathon Jr with my son – a 5k race that was part of the larger Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon.  The opportunity to do this came through my son’s school – all fall, as part of their cross country program, the boys have been recording the distances they have run, with the idea being that by the time they had finished they would have run a total distance equal to that of a full marathon.

Let me preface this by saying that I am not a natural runner.  My running technique is suspect at best (I’ve been compared to a kangaroo when I run . . . and that’s not a good thing), and running long distances have never been my forte.

But something about this challenge captivated my son, and he was extremely keen to get out and “practice” his running.  So as we’ve been out running over the past few weeks, racking up kilometres for school and for our Hogwarts Running Club medal, we’ve both had a chance to improve on our running.

I mentioned in my last post about running with my son, how I loved that he talked to me throughout our runs, and the kinds of things he would share with me as we ran.

But yesterday, as we ran what was the first official running race for both of us, I found a lot more to love, and I learned a few lessons along the way too.

I loved the excitement and enthusiasm that my son went into this race with – there were no nerves, no pre-race jitters, just a sense that we were about to do something fun, despite the fact that what we were about to do was run a 5k race, a distance which he had never run in one shot before.

I loved that he was comfortable enough to tell me when he needed to slow down and have a bit of a break.  He didn’t push himself to the breaking point . . . he knew when he needed to slow down, and when he was ready to pick the pace back up again.

I loved the gentleness in my voice as I encouraged us both along the course.  Phrases like “you’re doing great” and “look how well we’ve done so far” were offered often, and were truly heartfelt.

Reflecting on all of this made me think – what if I faced my challenges in life with excitement and enthusiasm?  What if worked better on pacing myself, not in the gym, but in life – slowing down when I need to, but also picking up the pace when I can?  What if I was gentler with myself, and truly accepted the encouragement that’s given to me?  Wouldn’t life feel so much better if we lived a little more like that???

I’d be remiss, though, if I didn’t mention what might be my MOST favourite part of the race yesterday – seeing my son’s face light up when he saw that he could have Gatorade at the water station (“Really mom, I can have Gatorade???”).  And his excitement when he got to just toss the empty cup on the street – apparently he threw it just like Bautista . . .

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And now I can’t wait until we can do our next race together . . . and maybe even get the little one involved too!

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46. When Dreams Come True

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One of the things I’ve (stubbornly) held onto since the tumour diagnosis/surgery/recovery is that I spent the bulk of my daughter’s first few years of life distracted by what was going on in my own life, and because of that, I never got to spend the same kind of quality time with her in her infancy and toddler-hood that I had wanted to.  While the Husband and the million and one photos from that time paint a slightly different picture than the one I have in my head of that period of our lives, it’s sometimes hard to shake how we feel about things.

Since my older one has started at his new school, he’s thrown himself eagerly into the extracurricular activities offered to him – soccer, cross country and choir.  As a result, he needs to be at school early – 7:15am early – three times a week, and three times a week, if not more, he’s picked up from school at some point between 4 and 5:00.  With my daughter’s school only running from 9am to 2pm, and my decision not to over-program her with activities . . . well, it turns out that we have a LOT of free time together.

In the past two weeks, the two of us have relished or “girl mornings”, “girl afternoons”, and the occasional “girl night” (thanks to all the professional sports going on right now).

Today, as the two of us spent a quiet hour and a half together before she needed to be dropped off at her school, it hit me.  The two of us were finally getting our quality time.  My dream of getting this time with her was coming true!  With the distractions of the tumour decidedly behind me, my mind is quiet, and I have nothing else to focus on but her, and what we can do together that’s fun for both of us.  We’ve read, we’ve done crafts, we’ve coloured, we’ve watched some shows, and we’ve even just cuddled.

While the gift of this amazing time I’m getting to spend with my little one isn’t coming exactly when I thought it should have, the fact is, it did come . . .and,  well, after all we’ve been through, our time together now is even more special, and we’re both treasuring it more (or at least I am).  Which is basically my very long-winded way of saying . . . never give up on your dreams – even if they don’t come true when you really hope or want them to, just keep dreaming . . . you never know how or when they might come true!

45. Partner Workouts Part II

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My older one is involved with his school’s cross country team this fall.  All summer he’d been curious about running, and would often ask if I could take him to practice his running so that he could get faster.  So his interest in cross country this fall isn’t exactly surprising.

What is surprising (in the best possible way), is that the boys on his cross country team get to participate in the 5km run as part of the Toronto Marathon next month, AND as part of their training, each boy has a goal of aggregating 37km of running during course of their training so that when they’re done the 5km at the marathon, they will have run a full marathon over the course of their season.

And the BEST part about all of this . . . well, clearly it’s that I’ve gained a running partner.  This morning was our first run together.  We did a solid 2km at a decent pace (I let him set the pace, and worked on technique as I had a bit – not much – of a slower pace than normal).  And while he could use this run towards his total kms for school, I’ve looked up a few virtual runs that would be fun for us to do together, and came across this,  The Hogwarts Running Club.  This month has been shaping to be a Harry Potter kind of month . . . we’re reading the first book together, we’re going to have a movie night and watch the first movie as a family when we’re done reading the book . . . and now we can do a run together and earn a Harry Potter medal!

But on a serious note, this morning’s run was one of my favourite moments as a parent yet.  Running may not be your thing, but try going for even just a walk with your kids.  It’s amazing what they will share with you, when you’re one on one with no other distractions, and how connected you may end up feeling by the time you walk through your front door.

44. (Really) Late Summer Gardening

Today is one of those absolutely perfect late summer/early fall days.  The sun is out, there isn’t a cloud in the sky, and the cold temperatures of this morning have given way to warm, almost hot conditions this afternoon.  In other words, it is an absolutely perfect day to get out and garden.

Fall may have technically started earlier this week, but my garden didn’t seem to get the memo.  While I would normally start pulling plants at this time of year, everything seems not only to be in full bloom, but also sprouting new buds!  So rather than pull plants, I did some weeding and pruning that will make the process of putting the garden to bed a little easier a few weeks from now.

And because I had so much fun in and amongst the gorgeousness of some of my plants this afternoon, I had to share a few photos . . . As much as I curse my roses every single time I need to deadhead or prune, when they are in full bloom, I just can’t get enough of them . . . which I suppose is why I keep planting more and more of them in my garden.

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And the dahlias are absolutely gorgeous right now.  For some reason this year they weren’t ravaged by slugs despite not using any sort of slug bait or slug deterrent.

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By far, though, I spent the most time amongst my tomato plants.  Right now, they look a lot like a metaphor for my life . . . branching out in every and all direction, some stalks bearing copious amounts of fruit, other none at all.  Must like I’m pruning back parts of my life that haven’t/aren’t bearing much fruit, the tomato plants needed a good prune too.  And they got one!  And no, I didn’t use tomato cages.  Which in retrospect I now have a great appreciation for.  Why didn’t I use them??? Simple.  A year or two ago, during one of my great garage clean-outs, I tossed all the cages we had inherited from the family that owed our house before us (they were great gardeners that maintained a large vegetable garden).  I’ve put other things in the place where I once stored them, and wasn’t sure where I’d put them after this year.  So I thought I’d let the plants go and see what happened.  I didn’t think they’d end up in this much of a tangle!!

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As for the melons . . . well, I think they’re just about ready to pick.  If only the local squirrels/raccoons/ground hog would stop eating the baby melons (and pumpkins for that matter), we would have had a bumper crop!  But as it stands, we only have 2 left on the vine, a few more little ones that likely won’t have enough time to mature before the cold weather hits, and quite a few tiny ones that have been knocked off the vines.

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It’s days like this that have to be absolutely savoured . . . they’re the ones we’ll miss most when the weather turns cold and damp and the sunlight isn’t quite so bright.  Hope you’re out and enjoying every last drop of today!!

43. Partner Workouts, A Morning of Baking, And there are only 100 Days Left in 2016!

Those that know me know that there aren’t many workouts that I don’t like.  I love group classes, but am equally happy to workout on my own, or just go for a run.  But most of all, I love partner workouts.  When you get to work through a program with someone that can equally challenge you and push you, but still have fun . . . well, that’s where there’s magic.  Today, I had the privilege to do a partner workout – something I haven’t done in a while, and I got to do it with some that I haven’t been able to work out with in a while either.  And it was awesome for so many reasons.  If you’ve never done a partner workout before, grab a friend, and at the very least, go for a short run together.  You’ll have fun and I’ll bet you get more exercise in than you thought you could!

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But, before I made it into the gym this morning, I had a little baking session.  With both kids back in school, the issue of snacks has reared it’s ugly head again.  Since both kids’ schools have a no-nut policy, any snack they bring must be nut-free.  Before you all start screaming at me to pack them fruits and vegetables, don’t worry, they get a LOT of fruits and veggies.  That being said, for my son, snacks must be eaten outside the school (and don’t forget, we do get cold winters here in Toronto), and in his case, they need to be able to be eaten quickly (in an ideal world, he’d have his snack eaten in the 30 or so steps it takes for him to get from the door to the soccer field).  Sure, both kids will happily eat my chocolate chip cookies any day of the week.  But if that’s the ONLY snack I pack for them, they will eventually tire of those . . . so I need some new snacks.

I’ve spent the past few days searching the web for nut-free kids snacks.  Not surprisingly, most of the suggestions involve fruit.  But when we’re dealing with the time and weather constraints, there are only a few fruits that make the cut as acceptable – like pre-sliced apples in a ziplock bag that can be stuffed into a pocket when they’re done – anything else requires too much packaging, is too fiddly, or wouldn’t be great to eat in the cold (most likely while wearing gloves).  Same thing goes for veggies – cucumbers are a go-to for us, especially the little pickling ones (we even grew those in our garden this year) along with peppers.  But other veggies, like cherry tomatoes are more likely to get squished than actually eaten!

So, where are all recipes and advice for “healthy”, low- or no-sugar, nut-free baked-good snacks to make for kids to take in their lunches??????  Oh right.  They don’t exist.  Ok.  I’m exaggerating.  There are about 4.  Which is why, I suppose, I keep going back to my chocolate chip cookie recipe.  When you take out regular flour from baked goods, the way to achieve a decent facsimile of a traditional baked good is through the use of various nut flours.  Removing traditional forms of white and/or brown sugar also changes the texture of baked goods (altho brown sugar can be quite successfully replaced with coconut sugar in most cases).

I did, however, find a carrot cookie recipe that fit all my criteria, so I decided to give it a go, but only after I had made a full batch of my chocolate chip cookies!  They were super easy to make, they smell delicious (in fact my whole house smells so good thanks to these little gems), and they can easily be frozen and brought out as needed.  The kids just got home and did a taste test for me, and to be honest, they thought they were a lot tastier than I did.  I’ll be honest my biggest complaint about the recipe was that the cookies ended up being a little dry for my taste.  Since the kids seemed to like them, they were cheap and easy to make, I’ll have another go at them next week using a bit more butter.  Once they are truly edible, I’ll post the recipe!

Ok . . . and now for my last point.  I read in a post on Instagram that as of today, there are only 100 days left in this calendar year, and I can’t quit believe it.  If you’ve never done a 100 Day project, this would be the perfect time to start one . . . And if that is just way out of your comfort zone, maybe you can use to today to reflect on what’s gone on in your life so far this year and what you might like to focus on before this year is though.

42. Getting Back to Basics & Finding Real Joy

Have you ever had a period in your life where you were truly content?  Not just for an hour or a day, but for a stretch of a few weeks or more?  I got a text from the Husband this morning – he wanted to tell me how good he’d been feeling lately – I immediately wrote bak “Me too”.  And then it hit me – I haven’t felt this deeply contented in a long time.  Like it’s been a year and a half since I’ve felt this good.  Cue the thought train (yes, my little one has been watching Inside Out on repeat since I bought the DVD for her on a rainy day at the cottage in August).

You see, for the past little while, I’ve read a LOT of books in the “self-help” genre, I’ve tried saying “YES!” to things for the sake of trying new things and to add excitement to my life, I’ve changed my eating plan. I’ve changed my workout plan, and I’ve done different things with the kids.  And sure. I did have some fun.  But as a whole, none of it was really coming together to put me in the deep down happy place.

Over the summer, an idea popped up several times in things I read; “What would your 19-year old self do”.    Then yesterday, the Coach and I mused over why people can get into an eating pattern that helps them physically (they lose weight, get stronger, feel better) and mentally, but then just as easily fall out of it and back into their old physical and mental habits.  And finally, I read this post in Instagram from Emily Ley who was talking about how she is trying to care for herself the way she would care for a loved one.

As I look back on the past few weeks of this new school year, I realize that I’ve subconsciously gone back to basics, and back to many of the habits I had not just back when I was so deeply content, but back to when I was a teenager.  And not surprisingly, I find myself in that state of deep contentment and in possession of real joy again.

So . . . what exactly is it that I’m doing differently now??  Well, for starters, I’ve gone back to the workout and diet plan that works best for me.  I’ve experimented with lots of different things, and I know what works best for me and my body.  So that’s what I’m doing.  I’m cooking (with the kids), and having fun finding recipes to make – something I’ve always enjoyed doing – and finding ways to make sure that they fit into the way of eating that works best for me (higher in fat, lower in carbs, lacking in sugar and all processed foods).  I’m reading.  Novels.  Not “self-help” books.  And I’m drinking less caffeine – the by-product of having more energy!  And combined with a low- to no-sugar diet and very little alcohol, I’m sleeping better . . . which means much happier mornings.  Oh . . . and I got back into finding a way to have some “me” time again and a way to express some of my creativity – I’m taking my favourite sewing classes again (more on that later).

If you could go back to doing things the way you did at a time when you were truly happy, what would you have to change in your life to make that happen?

Of course the fact that the weather here has been absolutely stunning lately, that today, on the last day of summer, I could sit out in my backyard (with my curried sweet potato soup), and look out on a garden still fully in bloom while I write this . . . well . . . that does help with the happiness quotient in one’s life . . .

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