A Notebook of Happy // Vol 4

It’s been a whirlwind of life over here, we’ve started our homeschool year and we opened a business. We’ve switched from summer mode and paternity leave to full on routines and Jared going to work, for himself. It’s been a crazy time of transitions and  adjustments for all of us.

But on this first day of Autumn, I think we’re going to make it! I hope that your corner of the world finds you well, soaking up the rich sunshine of September as you anticipate the cooler (or warmer!) days just around the corner.

Life has felt a little bonkers in the last month but as I pause and take stock, there’s so much goodness in the crazy.

  • I’ve been taking a late afternoon cuppa out on our front porch most days, I let my little bear cub sit and I sip my hot tea. It’s a pause before the busy dinner prep, tidying and bedtime routines are upon us. Sometimes I spread a quilt in the backyard and sit while the girls flit in and out of the forest and Kieran laughs at their antics. It’s incredibly restful and I know these early Autumn days won’t last forever.notebook of happy//vol 4 :: this vintage moment
  • School routines have been saving my life lately and I’m so surprised. Back in August, I mentioned to a few friends just how overwhelmed I was at the thought of homeschooling two girls plus a wildcard of a baby. But now, two and half weeks into our school routine, I can’t imagine life without it. We have time to linger together at the table over read alouds and memory work, the girls are eager to learn their reading and math lessons and their afternoon play time is all the sweeter because of their structured day.notebook of happy//vol 4 :: this vintage moment

 

  • One of Jared’s big projects during his paternity leave was to make a playroom in our previously unfinished basement. It’s a bit of a dark, dingy place with low ceilings and cement floor, used for storage during the year we’ve lived here. But he made a room in one corner and now it’s a blank space to become a delightful bright, warm playroom for the kidlets and a welcoming guest room. Over the next few months, I’ll furnish it with shelves and art tables and hang pictures on the walls. We’re all absolutely delighted with the space and I’m in awe of Jared’s ability to make a room where there was nothing before.

notebook of happy//vol 4 :: this vintage moment

I will always have a few different books on the go- a well-written novel, a non-fiction read, perhaps a parenting or homeschooling book and whatever grabs my attention from the quick reads shelf. Lately I’ve been reading cookbooks like novels and marking recipes that I want to try. Thick stews and pots of soup, spiced baking and warm breakfasts. I’m so ready to get back in my kitchen and good thing because in our current busyness, a good menu plan is needed.notebook of happy//vol 4 :: this vintage moment

 

I’d love to hear what is on your short list for making you happy in these September days!

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The Great Canadian Road Trip

The fog has settled in low to the ground and the humidity is high, true autumn is just around the corner and I’m ready for it. Our mail holds parcels of school books for the next homeschool year, we’re re-organizing rooms and talking about fall routines. I’m a reflective (overthinker, maybe) person by nature so I like to think over the past season and dwell on the highlights, remember the lowlights and think about how we will remember summer of 2016.

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The biggest memory, the one that was possibly the climax of our year, is our Great Canadian Road trip when we traveled as a family of five for five weeks across this great country of ours and back again.

I don’t remember exactly when it started being fun and worth it. I do know that when we passed the border into Quebec, Jared and I gave each other a high five and the trip felt like it really started. We love to travel, we love to talk about travel and we love to think about all the wonderful places we haven’t been yet, all over the world.

The great canadian road trip || this vintage moment

We got the idea for this trip one winter’s night, our new baby boy  was just weeks old and we were missing our family across the country. We looked at airline tickets and then quickly talked about other options. What if we drove? Would that be crazy? Yes, it would. Would it be worth it? Absolutely.

Our five weeks were filled with far too many adventures and experiences to summarize in one blog post. On any given day, I’ll tell you a different highlight, a different story that is my favourite.

The great canadian road trip || this vintage moment

But for now, here’s what I know about our trip- travel is always, always worth it. Spending time in close quarters, learning how to talk nicely when you’re exhausted or hungry or just can’t stand being in the van for one more minute. Seeing awe-inspiring scenery day after day with my nearest and dearest tops my list of why we travel.

We rehearsed Canada’s topography in little chants and I loved seeing our girls’ faces when we  would reach a new landform. Trees, prairies, mountains… 

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The learning opportunities were out our windows, daily. I wrote about how we did road schooling, here.  The giant goose in WaWa, Ontario that is an historic marker for the  Trans Canada Highway. The monuments to historic moments in Canada’s history – the route Terry Fox ran to raise awareness for cancer, the train station where a little bear cub named Winnie was bought by a man named Harry and became one of the most beloved bears in history. Tunnels and bridges named after Shakespeare’s characters making me wonder about the man who named them. The difference between the Pacific and the Atlantic ocean, both so captivating and beautiful.

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The time spent with friends and family was absolutely priceless, we stayed up late night after night, cramming as much conversation in before we hit the road again. Kissing babies that we’ve seen grow up over social media, making new memories with cousins and grandparents and great grandparents. Watching our girls run and play and experience places that we experienced as children ourselves. Kilmeny had her first sleepover with the daughter of my friend, whom I had my first sleepover with decades ago. My sister and I went shopping together and out for coffee, pretending that we didn’t live on the opposite sides of the country then each other and could  share a little more then just a few days together. Seven of my eight siblings gathered at my parents’ farm, we stood around the kitchen talking and laughing over a movie, just like no time had passed. We visited Jared’s grandpa’s farm with seven of his fourteen siblings, great grand children playing with the same toys and exploring the same farmland that their parents had played with years ago. I was able to spend a morning with my adored Nana and see her love on my children with the same endearing love she gives to everyone she comes in contact with.

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The days of travel sorted themselves into rituals and traditions – coffee as soon as possible and quiet play for the girls while Kieran took his first long nap of the day. Colouring and books and dolls and audio books occupied the girls for hours along with plenty of snacks. We stopped for bathroom breaks and stretches and then kept on going. We kept the iPad for the last couple hours of the day when we were all tired of traveling but still had miles to go before our home for that night. We learned to be flexible and hold plans loosely like when it poured rain when we planned to camp- we drove until midnight and then crashed in a hotel. Or when our air-conditioning unit combusted requiring a day in the shop and an unexpected rest day for us- pool time and pizza and hotel beds. Or when our weekend of camping in the mountains became an afternoon at Lake Louise due to the vehicle issues.

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Was it worth it? Absolutely? Will we do it again? Maybe, in ten years. For now, we’re happy to be home and settling into our next season of adventures in Nova Scotia. It all seems like a bit of a blur, like maybe we rushed our first cross-country trip with the kiddos. But both girls can still recite all ten provinces and facts about them, sometimes geographically correct and sometimes a memory from that province. Like collecting eggs in Alberta with Nana or camping with Grandpa and Grandma or playing with friends at Montreal’s jazz festival.

We came across an inukshuk , months after we got home and my daughter and I recited all the different structures we had learned about on our trip and identified this particular one as a window, marking a good view. It’s these layers upon layers of learning and memory that make travel worth it, from learning about inukshuk in Manitoba to seeing one in the wild in our Nova Scotian home.

Thanks for reading and sharing this wonderful adventure with us! I’d love to hear about some of your favourite travel memories!

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Date Night In: our one habit of 2016

The kitchen is a mess from the busyness of the day, coffee mugs and plates piled along with mixing bowls and way too many glasses. There’s still a pile on the entry bench from where I gathered all the loose items from around the house but didn’t get a chance to put them away. Jared comes down quietly from upstairs where he has just tucked the girls in, whispering because Kieran is almost asleep.

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I’ve cleared a spot on the counter for our cutting boards and I start prepping while he mixes up an evening cocktail. It’s Thursday and it’s date night in.

It’s a simple practice that has become a weekly anchor and highlight for us. It’s not been easy or magical and there’s been a lot of interruptions in the form of little people but it has been so worth it. We’ve tried new foods, learned new techniques and had a lot of fun together.

A serendipitous late Christmas gift of the cookbook Date Night In , and the adjustment of a new baby born in January making going out more challenging has helped make this habit become a weekly priority.

We stick pretty closely to the cookbook, Ashley has done all the work of putting together menus, grocery list and prep timelines. She’s a busy mother of three and the cookbook came out of a desire to connect with her husband in these busy, exhausting years of raising littles. I read the book while feeding my very hungry newborn son and cried while reading almost every essay. This is a hard season, running on little sleep, parenting challenging children, making decisions about careers and balancing all the different relationships in our lives. Making big plans and dreams for house and property while also trying to love these little people and finding time to connect with each other.

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We unwind by chopping vegetables, stirring and tasting. We light a candle and clink our glasses, quietly, to us and our marriage. Good conversation happens, we laugh together and we do a little big dreaming or just quietly eat while our food is hot and the wine is cold.

We alternate planning the date nights, one of us picks the menu and I just add the items to our grocery list. I’ll often glance through the recipe the day before and see if there is any marinating or prepping of sauces to make date night easier. We tag team on bedtime and date night prep. I’m often doing some prep while feeding the girls a very simple supper of toast or popcorn and smoothies. While I put the baby to bed, Jared is heating up the oven or mixing a cocktail. Sometimes we end the evening by cleaning the kitchen together, other nights we stack the dishes in the sink and call it a night.

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Lately we’ve added a little more simplicity (and more budget-friendly) to the mix; we’ll pop a big bowl of popcorn, pour some wine and watch a movie or several episodes of a show. Some weeks we order takeout and sit on the couch, eating out of the containers while we talk over the week to come and relive good moments from the previous week.

Our favourite at-home snack is a tapas platter- we take whatever assortment of pickles and olives we have in the fridge, boil some eggs and slice up whatever cheese is in the fridge, adding some dried fruit, nuts and crackers. Sometimes we get fancy and stuff dates with goat cheese, wrap them in bacon and broil them for a few minutes.

We love cooking together; good food and drink is one of our favourite experiences to share. But the weekly connection is more then just good food, it’s time to talk and reconnect, to let the candles burn down low and to remember the person we married.

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Now that Kieran is a little older and can be left with our awesome babysitter, we have gone out a few times especially if there’s a movie we want to catch on the big screen (I’m looking at you, Jason Bourne) or a patio we want to experience on a Halifax summer night. But we still come back to our weekly anchor of sitting together at the kitchen table, sharing good food and good conversation.

I’d love to know what your favourite date night in ideas are!

 

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Road Schooling Across Canada

I took some books, catalogs and big legal pad along with us to the beach last week to start sketching out our next homeschool year. I love casting vision and writing down all the things I want to accomplish and then pare it down by fifty percent.

But before I plan out a big picture for next year, I reflect on the past year- what worked and what didn’t? We finished our school year on the road, with a big epic adventure of driving across Canada for 5 weeks.

It was fantastic and memorable and exhausting.

Road Schooling Across Canada www.thisvintagemoment.com

I knew that I wanted to incorporate a study of Canada into our trip and so as I typically do, I went to the library. For the month before we left, the girls looked at books of provincial emblems like the flags, plants and birds of each province. We read about some of the historic figures that make up Canada’s story. We read books like M is for Maple ,A Day in Canada and The Kids Book of Canada. I put together activity binders for the girls that would incorporate the geography study as well as keep them occupied for the many hours in the car. Thanks to Pinterest and free printables, I had a page for each province that had a picture of the flag, map outline of the province, flower and bird. We made a big deal when we crossed each provincal border, stopping to get a picture and then we were on the look out for the provincial flag as we drove. Kilmeny, a new reader practiced reading the names of everything and Khaira practiced her letters by copying out the names and capitals of each province.

Road Schooling Across Canada www.thisvintagemoment.com

Road Schooling Across Canada www.thisvintagemoment.com

We chose just a few attractions to go to along the way that would enhance learning and hopefully provide a tangible experience of the things we’ve studied in the past year. One highlight was the Upper Canada Village  near Morrisburg,Ontario, this was one of the best historic villages I have ever been too. The characters were very knowledgable, there was plenty to see and experience and it brought stories like the Ingalls family to life by giving my daughters a visual of a farm house with a butter churn and a man plowing a field. We talked with a broom maker and a spinner and I fed my baby in the upstairs room of the local hotel. As we left the village, all sweating buckets, my six year old thanked me for reading the Little House books because now it all made sense to her.

Road Schooling Across Canada www.thisvintagemoment.com

Thanks to an instagram video of the zoo, we had the Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg high on our radar for months. We knew we wanted to make this an all day excursion partly because we were driving for two straight days from Ontario and a rest day would be quite welcome. We were all completely smitten with the zoo and in particular the Journey to Churchill exhibit. Churchill, Manitoba is home to polar bears, arctic foxes, seals and other Arctic animals. The zoo has done a great job re-creating that special area of the world with displays and information both interactive and visual. We all loved watching the polar bears swim and play in their habitat and thrilled at the seals turning circles as we walked through a tunnel of water. The girls followed along the zoo’s map, figuring out where we should go next. I’m excited to further this study by learning about arctic animals this winter and will bring out pictures from our visit to the zoo.

Road Schooling Across Canada www.thisvintagemoment.com

There were many learning moments along the way like the time we pulled into the tiny town of White River, Ontario to see the train station where Harry Colebourn bought a bear cub named Winnie and brought him to England along with his Army regiment where a small boy named Christopher Robin met Winnie at the London Zoo. Before our trip we had read multiple books about Winnie the Pooh both the stories by A.A. Milne and a sweet picture book narrating the true story of the loveable Bear. It was an absolutely delightful experience. We followed the train tracks all the way to Winnipeg and despite the long day of travel, the girls got excited at any glimpse of the train track because they knew we were traveling the same route as Harry did, decades earlier.

Road Schooling Across Canada www.thisvintagemoment.com

Another route we followed was that of Terry Fox’s marathon of hope. I wasn’t sure how much of his story to share with my daughters, and in the end shared enough that my older daughter understood who Terry was and why he died. We had a few sobering conversations about cancer and big dreams and death so that when we stopped at the memorial overlooking Thunder Bay, Ontario it wasn’t just another bathroom stop. We had read about Terry Fox in The Kids book of Great Canadians, another fantastic learning resource.

Road Schooling Across Canada www.thisvintagemoment.com

 

I traded my book copy of Story of the World Vol. 1 for my friend’s audio version of this fantastic history resource and we all loved listening to Jim Weiss tell tales of the earliest civilizations. The girls also listened to favourite audiobooks like the Ramona collection, Pippi Longstocking and Betsy-Tacy. It wasn’t all free drawing and audio books, the girls had iPad time almost every day we were in the van for the last couple hours of the day. This was a complete sanity saver for all of us and since we try to be fairly screen free except for movies at home, playing games on the iPad was a novel and exciting experience.

Road Schooling Across Canada www.thisvintagemoment.com

 

We drove through the heavy forests of Ontario often beside water of some kind into the flat prairies of Manitoba with its checkered board landscape of crops which blended into Saskatchewan with bright yellow canola fields and brilliant blue sky. Alberta was much of the same with the never-ending fields reminding us of the vast Atlantic ocean waves of our home.  Crossing into British Colombia with the mountains on every side and the ocean ahead of us was such a momentous feeling. The day we put our toes into the Pacific ocean was a hot one, we were all tired and a little grumpy but knowing that we had literally driven coast to coast as family with three young children was deeply fulfilling. The girls hunted for treasures and played in the wet sand as Jared and gave each other high fives at this huge adventure.

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Reading Around the World: Australia

 

13641234_10209865754549706_2876752510244736224_o (1)Reading is one of my favourites go-tos for learning, both for myself and for my girls. A story captivates us and draws us in, making that information stick. I was so excited to join the Reading Together: A Family Exploration Book Club and I knew I wanted to co-host for the country of Australia. It’s a special country to me since we spent a couple weeks there in our first year of marriage and now we have a few friends who live there. I’m looking forward to reading these books with my girls and learning more about Australian culture. The books we’ll be reading for July and August are a picture book, middle grade and a non-fiction book.

 

 Grandma Poss uses her best bush magic to make Hush invisible. But when Hush longs to be able to see herself again, the two possums must make their way across Australia to find the magic food that will make Hush visible once more.

 

 

 

 

 

“After all, if you don’t ask the world questions, then you won’t ever work out where the rainbow begins.” And, boy, does Cedar B. Hartley have questions! Like, why won’t her Mum tell her about her father, who died when Cedar was a baby? And what happened to her older brother Barnaby, who ran away from boarding school and keeps in touch sporadically through cryptic postcards? The only thing that helps Cedar forget these troubling questions is her new hobby; acrobatics. When she goes tumbling with her new friend Kite, who can fly just like the bird he was named for, she comes close to finding the start of that elusive rainbow. Missing brothers, mysterious fathers, and the funny, more-than-friends feeling she has for Kite aren’t going to keep Cedar B. Hartley from finding the answers she’s looking for to fulfill her plan for an “unusual life!”

Debut Australian author Martine Murray is a writer to watch. Equal parts Pippi Longstocking and Anastasia Krupnik, her audacious Aussie tomboy Cedar will quickly charm the Capri pants off the female pre-teen set with her pithy sayings and sweet naiveté. A thoughtfully placed glossary of Cedar’s slang is included at the end of the novel for those young readers unfamiliar with the jargon “down-under.

This extraordinary story of courage and faith is based on the actual experiences of three girls who fled from the repressive life of Moore River Native Settlement, following along the rabbit-proof fence back to their homelands. Assimilationist policy dictated that these girls be taken from their kin and their homes in order to be made white. Settlement life was unbearable with its chains and padlocks, barred windows, hard cold beds, and horrible food. Solitary confinement was doled out as regular punishment. The girls were not even allowed to speak their language. Of all the journeys made since white people set foot on Australian soil, the journey made by these girls born of Aboriginal mothers and white fathers speaks something to everyone.
 

We’ll be having all the discussion on our Facebook page, I hope you’ll join us!

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A Notebook of Happy // Vol 3

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It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? I had every intention of blogging along the way as we drove across this great country of ours, I was going to tell stories from the road and share pictures. I brought the laptop along and didn’t open it once, except for a family movie night one night while we were camping. I learned that I’m not a very good instant writer, I need to let things process a little before writing about them.

So for now, here’s what making me happy on a hot, hot afternoon in July:

Iced coffee. This feels like such an obvious but I’ve never been into the drink before and now I can’t get enough.

Having our own house with a yard! This is our first summer in our house and it feels so luxurious to send the girls outside to play or set up a little pool on the back porch. Watering the hanging baskets each day has become my new favourite morning routine. I loved being on the road but I’m so glad to be home now and getting acquainted with our home all over again.

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Traveling. I have so much to share from our big trip, the pictures and stories. It was long, it was hard but it was so worth and also really fun. This was our last big trip for awhile and I’m so glad we did it.

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Friendships. One of my highlights from our trip was being able to see so many friends and family. There were many late night conversations, and snippets of talks while the kidlets played. I don’t think I’ve talked or shared that much in a 5 week period for a long time. We’ve moved a lot in our 7 years of marriage and it’s been hard to settle into community but this trip showed me just how rich we are in friendship, across the country.

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Podcasts are always part of my mama care strategy, I get to learn from smart people, laugh and be inspired. I also got to be a guest on Anne’s podcast, What Should I Read Next, which was so fun! I loved chatting books with her. I shared about it everywhere but not here on the blog. You can listen to that episode here. 

Book clubs! I’m part of three different book clubs right now, all very different from each other and it’s been one of those surprising delights of life. I’ll share more about one of them soon.

I’d love to hear what’s making your list of happy right now, what are you drinking, listening to, and reading this summer?

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What I’ve Been Reading Lately

Sharing what I’ve been reading lately, fiction and non-fiction as well as our current read aloud which has been a favourite.  I’d love to hear what you’re reading lately in the comments and then head over to Modern Mrs. Darcy for many more titles!
Every year or so I like to read a book on childhood and parenting to remind myself of the direction we are choosing to go with our family and because I find the study of people so fascinating. This book I picked up on a whim when we were in Lunenburg , I’ve read Honore’s first book In Praise of Slow, years ago and it inspired some big changes for us. I don’t think our children are under pressure, we’re pretty big fans of slow and simple living but this book was a good read nonetheless. I appreciated his current take on kids and screen time, the reality of balancing activities with free play and reading stories of forest schools around the world.

  I love a good twist on a classic or fairy tale and this book did not disappoint. Samantha is the last of the Bronte family and is heir to  a legacy by her father, if she can figure out the treasure hunt he laid out for her with clues in the Bronte novels. There is much speculation as to what this legacy is and Samantha is constantly finding herself the centre of attention as she tries to find out just what her father actually left her. It’s a great read of a girl who grieves the loss of her father and life as she knows it and comes to embrace her family’s history. It’s littered with references to all the Bronte novels (obviously) and quite a few other classic works as well. And I would be lying if I didn’t say that the cover art moved it to the top of my to-read pile.

 It is rare for me that I take nearly a month to read a fiction book but Hannah Coulter had me re-reading passages, copying poignant paragraphs, wishing I could travel to Kentucky and renewing my library copy a few times. It is at its heart, a simple story of one woman’s life but it is also the story of an era in American history using Hannah Coulter and her family as the main players. This was my first Wendell Berry but it’s definitely not my last.

 I read this book in two stages- the first time I read as much as I could in the seven days I had it from the library in a quick read loan. I finished it after a friend handed me her library copy and offered up her thoughts on it. It’s a book that is for everyone because I believe firmly that everyone is a creative of sorts, everyone has something that fires them up. But just as everyone has something that they are passionate, they also have fear or negative emotions about that thing. This book speaks right to that fear and it is hugely inspiring.

I think every book lover at sometime or another has a daydream to open a bookstore, I’m no different and so I loved reading this memoir of one couple who did just that. It’s an honest read telling of the uphill climb to make a bookstore work in an unlikely sort of place. But it’s also the memoir of people who really like books and the community that came from opening a bookstore.

 

 This is the book I’m currently reading aloud with the girls, I grabbed it on a whim based on the cover (sense a theme yet?) thinking it was by A.A. Milne. It’s not but it’s a delightful collection of stories of the characters of the 100 Acre Wood with some new friends for Piglet, Pooh and Rabbit. It started us on a treasure hunt of the true story of Winnie the Pooh and anytime a book sparks a whole new world of exploration, it’s a winner. Plus the illustrations are beautiful and plentiful.

I’d love to hear what you’re reading lately and what books you’re reading with your little ones!

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10 Ways to Take Care of Yourself in 10 Minutes

Taking care of myself so that I can better take care of those around me has been a habit I’ve worked at cultivating over the last few years. It’s harder with small children but it is more necessary then ever because of those lovely  little ones.

Since Kieran was born time alone has been at a premium, this is a wonderfully exhausting season and I wouldn’t have it any either way. But after having postpartum depression after my second daughter, I have been more mindful then ever during this postpartum time.

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I came up with this list of super simple, do-able self-care practices one morning after feeling touched out and burnt out from keeping my tiny humans alive. I know some of you can relate even if your days aren’t filled with diaper changes, home schooling and meal making. Some of these are ten minutes, some are longer but all are life-giving to me.

  • Drinking a cup of coffee or tea while it’s still piping hot.
  • Daily ten minute pilates workout (I dress in leggings most days to make this goal happen).
  • Candle lit shower with an essential oil scrub. One of my favourite shower gifts was a homemade sugar scrub, it makes my showers feel more like spa time and the candle hides the toothpaste clumps on the sink.IMG_0825 (1)
  • Reading before bed-just a few chapters each night makes a huge difference for me even if the day was a doozy.
  • Intentional multi-tasking. If I’m driving solo, I always listen to a podcast. If we’re at the library, I flip through current issues of my  favourite magazines.IMG_1768
  • Fresh flowers on my kitchen table. I add them to our grocery cart all winter long and the girls keep me supplied in bouquets now that the dandelions are out.
  • Weekly conversation with a friend. Homeschooling means I am home a lot with my little ones. I love it but I need adult interaction as well. I try to make this happen weekly whether it’s meeting a friend and her kidlets at a library, staying up later to chat on the phone or a book club gathering.
  • Saying no. I can be such a people pleaser and an opportunity seizer but this is a slow, quiet season of my life and saying no is almost always the best idea for me.IMG_1675
  • An afternoon out. Almost every week I go out for a few hours, by myself, to a coffee shop. I write, people-watch, read blogs and sit in the quiet. It’s one of my favourite times and I’m super grateful for this season where Jared is home more to make this happen.
  • Getting outside, this is such an obvious one but days can go by without me being outside for a good length of time. I’m working on changing that with simple garden projects and nature walks with friends.

That’s my list of simple, do-able self care practices. I’d love to hear what makes your list of refreshing practices when life is busy.

 

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Play to Your Strengths

Last month I went to a playdate at a friend’s house, it was one of the first times I’d gone out by myself with all three kids and I knew that even if all of us ended up having tears, her house was a safe place to do that. She poured me a cup of coffee, held my baby and my girls ran off with her girls and I didn’t see them for the next hour. Another mom and her three showed up, I had never met her before but we quickly found plenty to talk about. Mostly about books and finding the many books we had in common.

I left that gathering feeling completely filled up and with this phrase stuck in my head- play to your strengths. 

And I’ve been thinking about it every since, reminding myself of it when I see new projects I want to take on or sweet ideas to incorporate into our homeschool life.

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Play to Your Strengths 

My friend opened her house, poured coffee and served a no-fuss lunch to eight (nine, if we’re counting the newborn) children and their mamas. It was loud at times, there was much peacemaking and slight chaos. That kind of thing stresses me out. I want to be better at opening my home to lots of little children and just let the mess go but it’s hard for me. The other friend is a fantastic conversationalist. I love meeting new people but I feel awkward coming up with small talk to lead to deeper conversations. There were no awkward pauses and the three of us could have talked all day together, despite two of us having just met.

I brought a fruit rainbow, complete with marshmallow clouds and gold coins, it was Saint Patrick’s Day after all. If I had more time, I would have made the marshmallows from scratch. It’s who I am. I love to feed people and I love to make it beautiful. It’s one of my strengths.

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This week I had a few friends over a tea party. A tea party I’ve been wanting to have for months. There were scones and berries and cream. There was lemon curd, marmalade and creme fraiche. There was plenty of English breakfast tea and plenty of sugar spilled by little hands. My girls and their friends went wild with their dress up trunk after filling up on chocolate oat birds nest cookies. It was exactly what I love to do. Feed people and make it beautiful. We picked the only two blooming daffodils along with a few pansies and dandelions to decorate the table. It was pretty and the food was tasty but my biggest takeaway was what I learned from my friend weeks ago.

Play to your strengths but also don’t stop learning new things. My house was a bit of a mess afterwards (obviously), we all retreated for an hour of quiet time and supper was almost more scones but I was completely filled up. I fed people, I made it pretty and I opened my house.

I’d love to hear what your strengths are and how you keep learning new things!

 

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Finding Online Inspiration {5 New-to-Me Blogs}

It seems like blogging is both a dying art and yet complete alive in many areas. Most people (myself included) will just write a longer instagram post and call it a mini-blog. I can easily scroll through my instagram feed while feeding Kieran and it is by far my favourite form of social media but I do love words and reading a little more then just a paragraph. For me, it’s also about surrounding myself with wise woman in my village, we may not all live next door to each other but we can share life online. It’s certainly not perfect and is only ever a small picture of the everyday reality.

This year some of our big changes were starting to homeschool and having a third baby, both of which are huge and important  yet they can also be lonely. I reached out to my real life tribe, exchanging many texts with my sister (who lives across the country) and we spent hours talking through our crazy homeschool while pregnant and then newborn life. I went on weekly nature walks with a local friend partly so that our five kidlets could run wild and free in the woods, observing the changes of the seasons, but also so that she and I could have adult conversation in the middle of our school week.

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And I added several new accounts to my Instagram feed and clicked over to their blogs whenever I had a few more quiet minutes to read.

Here are the five new-to-me blogs that I’ve been reading lately when I have a need of some inspiration in our homeschool life and some solidarity in the adjustment to three children.

Erstwhile Dear by Rachel 

Rachel lives in Boston with her three daughters, her baby is just a few weeks older then Kieran, and she shares snippets of their life through words and pictures. I love Boston so much and have always wondered what it would be like to live there, with young children. Rachel makes it seem magical and do-able. I also feel a sense of companionship as she shares what life with three little kidlets is like.

Investing Love by Alicia 

Back in January when I was healing from Kieran’s birth and wondered how on earth I was going to homeschool with a newborn, I read copious amounts of Alicia’s blog. She is the mother of four children, homeschooling and making a home in Minnesota. Her instagram feed is realistic yet visionary and her blog is just an expanded version of that. Her children are older then mine and I feel comfort in reading someone else’s story, just further down the path.

Learning Well Community – Inspiration for Homeschooling Parents 

This is a community started by Alicia, it is just the sort of site that makes me happy as we finish out our homeschool year and plan for next year. Homeschooling can be hard and yet the absolute best choice, that’s what I’ve found this past year and I’m grateful to soak up good words from those who’ve been doing it a little longer then I have.

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Lindsey Kubly – A Stylish and Simple Life 

Lindsey’s third child was born just a few weeks before Kieran and I have loved reading along as she’s shared snippets of their adjustment to three kidlets, the books she’s reading (herself and to her children) and simple self care. She’s just ahead of me in the postpartum stage and though our personal style is different, I love reading how she’s finding her style again after pregnancy. Her blog is simple and always inspiring.

Cloistered Away by Bethany 

Bethany is a homeschooler, photographer and mother to four children. I want to live in basically all of her photos and always come away feeling filled up and ready to love my family with food, simplicity and good books. She doesn’t candy coat life and speaks to the hard places as well. Whether you’re a homeschooler or not, her blog breathes refreshment.

 

I’d love to hear what blogs you’re reading these days!

 

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