Saturday, November 17, 2012

Keep On Keepin' On...

Already it is November 17th! It is now almost 7:30 AM; Noah woke me at six again this morning, by screaming "MUMMY! MUMMY! MUMMY! MUMMMMMMMY!" repeatedly and at full volume from the other end of our hallway. Sigh. As our friend Sam likes to say, "You sleep enough when you're dead." Right.

Still lots happening all the time. Griffin is progressing with Kindergarten, working so hard to do a better job of listening and staying on task as he's had some issues with, well, not doing those things. He had his first playdate here the other day with a classmate and they had loads of fun ransacking his toy collection and sharing stories about cats and horses. Noah just trucks along happily most of the time at his morning preschool, though he has shown a stubborn side as well when it comes to taking instruction. What can I say...these apples don't fall far from their trees. According to my mom, when I was little, if it wasn't my idea I didn't want to do it...and their Dad certainly marches to his own drum. You can talk to Griffin until you're blue in the face. His hearing is fine but he has a true talent for simply tuning out. I swear he's wandering around in a whole other world in his head, building entire towns and putting out fires and probably hanging out with Super Mario while eating peanut butter toast. The trick with Noah, who is three, is finding the consequence he will respond to. Much of the time you can tell him "I have asked you not to throw your toys/jump on the couch/chase the kitten twice already. If you do it again I will take away your drawing board/you won't get chocolate milk after lunch (etc)." He just literally laughs in my face, while committing the crime again.


Raising two boys is exhausting. Perhaps I am too soft at times but I make up for it by yelling. I am horrified to find I am that hollering mom when they drive me over the edge. When I am not sleeping well, which seems to be usually these days, that is often. At the end of the day, when I am drifting off to sleep, my inner self invariably pipes up with something like "HEY! Did you HEAR the way you screeched at those children today? You are a HORRIBLE, TERRIBLE PERSON!" Yes, really. Then I remember I forgot to switch over the laundry or turn on the dishwasher and it's all over. I end up getting up to fold towels and tiny pairs of socks and contemplate the things I should be doing differently.

At least I can say that even from this place of constant fatigue and anxiety (which is the place I end up when I am not doing regular, intense cardio and eating properly - more on that in a bit), I have been making some really good changes and have seen almost immediate results. When Griffin and I get tense and annoyed with one another I remind myself that I am the one who sets the tone. We were having a time of it in the tub the other night with neither of them listening and the volume of my instruction becoming increasingly loud and frustrated. As I pulled him out of the tub to help him dry off, I said "Griff, I think we need to take the mad-at-eachother, pick it up and smash it on the floor. Do you see it here right between us? Let's pick it up." He didn't even ask me what I meant. His hands came up to hold a kind of invisible ball. I said "You've got the bottom? I'll take the top. Got it? Okay, let's smash it on the floor. One, two three..." And together we picked it up and hurled it into smithereens. Then we smiled. Then Noah came out of the tub and started complaining about something. So I joined. Not mocking, but coming up with my own list of complaints in a really ridiculous, lispy voice. Then I told him not to laugh at me. He laughed. I laughed. Griffin laughed. We all felt so much better!

It can be a huge challenge from inside the full-time mom bubble to step outside of it to take stock; to manage to remind myself between the demands and cries and the general constant, spinning energy little boys are made of and putting out, that it is up to me to determine what happens next. I can change the course of events for all of us if I can just remember that my little boys are counting on me to do so. Even when they are annoying the living hell out of me and I haven't had time to shower or pee. I love my kids, so much. the early years weren't easy for me - I seriously had no reference point at all when it came to producing and caring for baby boys as one of three girls. I have regrets about how I handled things with my Griffin when Noah was a baby...I wasn't always patient and his feelings were hurt more than once. But the amazing thing is, they still love me. They forgive me and they trust me. And I am determined not to let them down. I am actually excited about our next phase together. Life is kind of fun, most of the time. And these kids are healthy, strong, inquisitive and creative guys. As a creative soul myself I know the adventures will just become more formidable from here.

On the topic of taking care of myself, I want to address this as a note to all moms. I have really been all over the spectrum in terms of self-care. I have been in a manic, work-out all the time and eat nothing but yogurt and salad kind of place, and I have been in a no work-outs, too-much-wine-too-much-of-the-time and just not eating well kind of place. I have been everywhere between the two, and the truth is very very simple: There is no magic pill, there is no crash diet, and no one is going to do it for me. When I don't take time to work out, eat properly and in proper amounts and get the sleep I need, I am a depressed, anxious mess. The sleep issue has a variety of contributing factors, obviously, but when I am getting my cardio it is so much less of an issue. Having slimmed down recently and put a few pounds back on, I know it's worth the work to feel better. It's not just about how I feel in my clothing, though that is certainly part of it. It's about a feeling of balance; about renewal and putting a little back into myself to counter all I put out.

Last week I went back to Jazzercise after almost four months away. I have missed Vicki and the community she's created so much (Seriously. Almost cried when I got there). After an awesome, fun workout, I stayed to chat. This is a woman with a huge following of people who admire her and request her guidance and support on a regular basis. And still, when I told her I had been having a rough time her eyes welled up and she commiserated with me a little and told me she's there if I need her. What a lift she always gives me. What a mentor. Always ready to extend herself and her amazing, positive energy. I guess Jazzercise is kind of like my church. If I can only get to it once a week (I am going to try to go on Saturdays as it's the only time that works right now), it will be enough for now. Big love to Vicki Waters and the Jazzercise community!

In addition to this I have decided to hit her program again (the one that worked for me in the spring)on my own, beginning on Monday. I am not spending the weekend eating cheesecake or anything but will have a glass of wine or two this evening and just not worry about much beyond planning for the week ahead. It won't be an easy week as the first of the seven week program is the most restrictive, but it will give me fast results and get me back on track. The trick will be making more of the guidelines permanent/long term changes so I can maintain my happy. My weight too, but mostly I just want my happy back. If you have questions about Vicki's program, she will be running more of them in the new year and you can contact her at or find her Vicki Waters Jazzercise page on Facebook. If nothing else you should check out one of her classes here in Victoria. Killer fun!

Before I sign off I must share our newest family member with you. We have adopted the most beautiful, sweet little kitten! His name is Bruce, after our late, great friend and the designer of our home, Bruce Wilson. We have been calling him Brucey, and he is a love! Welcome, little furball! And apologies to our Sadie, who is disappointingly, utterly pissed off about the whole affair...


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Balance Schmalance...

It's Saturday, October 27th. It's almost 7:30 and is still dark outside. The kids woke me at 6.

There are so many cozy, lovely things about the fall season. Drives through the country to admire the changing colours in our landscape. The harvest of late tomatoes, squash and pumpkins, apples and root vegetables. Cool weather giving cause for us to layer up in comfy sweaters and jeans and boots, scarves, mitts and hats at the ready for mornings kissed by Jack Frost. We had a wonderful field trip to a local park with Griffin's kindergarten class, where the theme was squirrels. There was a fantastic puppet show and a trek through the forest with different learning activities centred around how the animals gather food, build their nests and so on. Amazing. And another field trip with Noah's school to Oldfield Orchard, where there was a tractor wagon ride and fresh pressed appe cider and a giant pumpkin patch. Halloween is fast approaching with the need for this mom to pull together costumes for a three year-old lollipop and a five year-old zombie. We will make finger cookies and ghost candle holders and decorate pumpkins, and hit our neighbourhood community hall for their annual bonfire and haunted house party. Oh, and our cat Sadie recently brought me home a little friend: a golden-crowned Kinglet. He was stunned and hung around for long enough that I got a lovely picture of him, but he was fine and flew away shortly thereafter. I am such a bird nerd and will totally be getting a super-zoom lens for my camera, specifically so I can capture these little dinosaurs for my viewing enjoyment. We have been landscaping too! SO MUCH going on for us. It's really a good time, if a little busy.

But this fall I am feeling something else as well.

In the spring I did a health and fitness program and lost about 15 lbs. By June, I was feeling great and on my way to being in the best shape I've been in since I was a kid. I was proud of myself - it took serious commitment and lifestyle change to pull it off. A big part of my fitness program were regular Jazzercise classes with the lady who developed the program. She's been teaching them for over 30 years and I love the dancing. The stuff it does for my body is great, but moving to music is a rediscovery for me since I found her classes again about 18 months back.

Fast forward to our new home, in our new 'hood across town, with the kids both in school over here and suddenly my routine doesn't give me a chance to get to her classes. I have tried a few run by someone else closer to home, and they're alright, but they take place during the only time I have to really get things done around the house. Combine that with the physiological response I seem to be having to the fall weather - meaning I just want to take hot baths and eat comfort food and sleep, the last of which never actually happens - and I am a groggy, unmotivated, NOT adrenaline-charged shell of my former self.

In addition to all of this, my summer was chaos! Houseguests almost every weekend and a summer pattern of food, drinks, swimming, food, drinks, swimming. Rinse and repeat. It was loads of fun being with my family and friends - really, some of the best times I've had in ages. But I am back up almost ten pounds and after repeated attempts to get back on track I keep letting myself down. Not fitting in the workouts. Snacking in the evening. Not getting enough water. Craving carbs and sugar. Just not managing to find it within to pull out of this rut.

I have had enough! I am not going to let this Christmas season take me down! I need motivation, positivity. Consistency. I miss the joy I feel when I am working out regularly and intensely. As someone prone to bouts of minor depression I have found nothing rivals this as my ideal solution. Time to readdict myself to a good routine. Let's get real, here. I don't want to spend my life being overweight - neither a little nor a lot. But far beyond that is just how much HAPPIER I feel when I am fit and active. You know what they say: If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

So I don't exactly have a plan yet. But I can tell you I will be running again and getting to a Jazzercise class once in a while. I may have to clean my house at night when I am tired and just want to get in a hot tub with a book, but somehow running with a stroller gets old after five years. I am going to have to use that time when the kids are in school for my workouts. Yeah, might have a double jogger for sale if you're interested...And since I love to cook, it's really just an issue of making a meal plan and sticking to it each week where nutrition is concerned. My staples for evening snack cravings while I was on-track were kale chips or fat-free Greek yogurt. I ate a lot of roasted vegetables; bean and greens soups. Carrots and hummous. I can do all that again.

What do you think? How do you stay motivated to keep moving in the autumn, when often it's dark upon waking and dark when you eat your dinner? How do you fit it in if you're a busy Mom with kids? What do you do when the urge to fill your crock pot with potatoes, bacon and wine hits? And don't tell me to get up at 5 AM to fit in a workout before the kids wake up. I'm an insomniac and rarely get to sleep before midnight. So that ain't gonna happen. I'm serious.

I challenge you to respond creatively to my query. The response that makes me laugh the hardest will earn its author a fancy postcard, which I will personally inscribe and mail immediately upon receiving an address to mail it to. Seriously, I am good at postcards, and I have some excellent ones. I want more discussion on my blog. So tell me what you think I need to do to get my energy back and my hibernating stores off and you could be the lucky winner! 


Monday, October 8, 2012

Giving Thanks

It's Thanksgiving Monday and I am sitting in my favourite chair in our library, enjoying a pumpkin spice smoothie, thinking about the day ahead and all I have to be grateful for.

Usually my husband is gone for most of Thanksgiving, riding the Terra Nova up in Cowichan. It's a cross-country dirt bike race that finishes with a turkey dinner put on my some of the riders' families. The riders actually call it the "Aqua Nova" because torrential rains notoriously take over the event.

Usually, my birthday falls on Thanksgiving weekend as well, as I was born on a Thanksgiving Sunday. As you can imagine, between turkey dinners with our family, the race Tim participates in, the typically horrid weather and my birthday, this weekend each year is often a little too busy. My birthday always feels like an afterthought and I end up cooking a meal everyone expects, not because I want to but because I feel I should. Sometimes I feel myself a little too immersed in the chaos of it to think much about what I am thankful for. I do try to remain focused on gratitude regardless of the day or month...but ironically, Thanksgiving has been a challenge for me in recent years.

This October is different. The Terra Nova was postponed, due to dry weather. Translation - the longest Indian Summer in recent history. My birthday somehow edged its way to next weekend, and so here we are, home for a glorious, clear family weekend with a low-pressure turkey dinner already done and a new lawn to play on. We had only two guests this year, my Dad and Step-Mum, and the meal was simple and delicious. Yesterday, we took the kids out to our favourite section of The Galloping Goose in Methcosin with their bikes. While I did a 45 minute run, the boys rode with Tim. We had a lovely country drive there and back, ate leftovers for lunch, and played in our newly sodded yard in the afternoon sunshine.

Next weekend I will head to the big city to see my Mum and sister and celebrate my birthday. This weekend I feel grateful for so much, because I have had time to think about it without the household mania we are typically dealing with. My boys are growing up in leaps and bounds. It hasn't been a seamless transition for them into their new headstrong Griffin in particular is on a steep learning curve in regard to listening and following routines consistently. Noah has his first cold of the season. But they are happy and full of stories and they're learning so much, so fast. The most remarkable thing I've witnessed with them lately is a huge increase in their expression of gratitude. They are taking the time to really genuinely thank me for the things I do. It fills me up with happy.

Six o'clock in the morning: mist on the lake

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Onward & Upward

September already! It's an exciting time for us with our oldest, Griffin, starting kindergarten and our little guy Noah attending his new preschool. So far so good; a bit of minor anxiety here and there but we are all adjusting. I got this idea on Pinterest to do an annual first day of school photo and they turned out pretty darn well, I think!

 I am starting to get excited about the things I will be able to finish once our routines are sorted out (this week schedules are wonky as the boys are "phased in" gradually). I want to finish their bedroom, for which I have been collecting stuff for a while. I have beds to paint, a reading nook to buy chairs for, and a play table with some awesome stools going in. I also scored an old school map from the 1960's or thereabouts to put up, a small collection of globes started which I plan to hang in a cluster from the ceiling, and a huge banner from a show of  my late grandfather's journals and drawings of his time as a POW. We also have some great duvet covers with a vintage airplane blueprint pattern, which ties in nicely with the banner. It's going to have a pretty "old school" feel. I am excited to get it completed, and my husband is nervous, to say the least, because my love of thrift store finds frightens his "nicey-nice" taste (that's what I call it. When I'm being nicey-nice). Anyway, it will be fun.

That's just one thing I have to do, but I will post process on all of my projects. Tonight I made a fantastic salad from the "Whitewater Cooks With Friends" book; a gift from my sister in-law. It's the quinoa and chickpea salad with roasted yams. I added a bit of diced tofu for extra protein and omitted the cheese, because my pants are a little snug after a summer of company, noshing and sipping. I also reduced the oil in the dressing by half and it still tasted great. I LOVE this cookbook, and there are two others in the series I will have to get my hands on as well. Also made some curried fig & onion compote from a lovely gift of a flat of figs from one of my husband's clients. And then, blackberry syrup with nutmeg and vanilla from our crop right here at home. Can't wait to give them away with other goodies as hostess and Christmas gifts.


That's it for tonight. Early mornings now with packing snacks and lunches for school and trying to get my boys out the door on time, which is exhausting enough that on their first full days in this coming week (Noah only goes for two and a half hours in the morning, but that's a nice chunk of time), I may have to succumb and take a bloody nap for once!

I still have to sort out my complete techno-challenged self and figure out how to get this blog to show up on a Google search. Once I know that's working I will be posting more frequently. Promise.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Welcome to Sparrow Hill

Here I begin the chronicle of our homestead, which we have just built from the ground up. With our two boys onside and the help of our spectacular natural setting, we endeavour to create a retreat like no other.
As my husband focuses on his work as a contractor, I will take on the development of a bed and breakfast. I am also the at-home parent for our boys and responsible for keeping them smiling - fed, exercised and ready to learn. We also have a large, hilarious, loving extended family (both blood-relatives and adopted), which makes our new space an additional blessing as we have room to accommodate many of them at once. Next Christmas will be a veritable gong show!
Five years ago I had our first son, Griffin. Two years later, Noah arrived. A lot had to go on the back burner for me, creatively speaking. This fall they will both attend school programs and suddenly, I will have bits of time to myself. I will get things done.
Sparrow Hill is in a lush woodland overlooking a lake. There will be a treehouse for the kids. Birdhouses and binoculars. Whimsical signs everywhere. Meandering paths, hiking trails, stargazing hammocks and firepits and sparkling lights strung from the trees. Gardens with things to eat, smell and feast your eyes upon. Guest suites where you can exhale; where it's all been wonderfully left behind. Quiet places to read, nap, paint, write or think. Local foods and those grown onsite - for breakfast, of course! Access to the best wine tastings, mushroom foraging expeditions, art studio tours, cuisine, regional sights and entertainment. To your left is a great horned owl, out for an early evening waddle on our yet-unhardscaped driveway. The wildlife here is awe-inspiring.
Home decor, painting, sewing, crafting, cooking, preserving, bird-watching and writing are all on my list. I am so looking forward to sharing my projects and our lovely place with you. Thanks for reading. If you like what you see, you will have to come and stay with us one day at our bed and breakfast. We hope to be open by summer 2013. Be happy, be kind and remember to pay it forward.