Friday, November 27, 2015

Five Events That Changed My Life

Welcome to #FiveOnFriday!  Last week I talked about Five Reasons Why My Husband Is Awesome and this week I'm sharing about...

Five events that changed my life and what I learned from them:

1.  Living in Kenya. After my third year of teaching, Gary and I broke up (gasp!) and I took a year off to go teach in a remote village in Kenya.  When I say remote, I mean it; my new friend and I were the only mazungus (white people) in the village and to get to the internet we would have to take a bus for two hours.  It was incredibly beautiful and eye-opening.  Kids often take an education for granted here in Canada and this was not the case there; families worked so hard to send their kids to school. I gave all my girls a lined piece of white paper to write a quiz on and they asked if they could please keep the paper and not write on it because it was so nice.  A piece of lined white paper. In church, there was very little money to donate so people would bring food and sell it there to make money to donate.  We loved when someone brought eggs or potatoes that we could buy because otherwise we were mostly eating ugali (maize paste) and sukuma wiki (kale).

{PS The girls all had shaved heads, no jewelry, and uniforms so that there were no distractions from their studies}

2. Death of my mom. I learned that I only have so much control over things in my life.  You can read more about that here.  Oh, how I wish I could've talked with my mom as a mom myself.

{Last photo of us together}

3. Graves' Disease.  In 2009, when Koen was just 9 months old, I got very sick.  I lost about 20 lbs, my heart rate was elevated, I had no energy, I couldn't stop eating, I had wasn't fun.  Fortunately I was quickly diagnosed with Graves' Disease.  I learned that although it was likely brought on by hormonal changes postpartum, stress was a huge contributing factor.  I used to thrive off of stress; I would try to attack a "to do" list as quickly as possible and it felt so good.  I had to decrease the stress in my life which led to leaving my teaching job.  I now substitute teach once a week but I know my body couldn't handle working full-time along with a family.  I've been really working on being healthy and not trying to do it all.

4. Year 8 of marriage.  Early on in our marriage I thought that it was just so easy. We didn't invest a lot of time into it because it didn't seem to need it.  Before we knew it, we had three young kids and were not investing anything into each other.  I didn't like where we were and something HAD to change.  We talked about it and started working on it.  I love where we are now; we still put in so much work each day to make the other person a priority but it is worth it!  You can find some of my marriage posts here.

5. Having kids. Does anyone else ask themselves "Why did we have kids?!" It is a wild thing to give almost all your time, energy, and money to raise these little people that are just so messy and loud and...awesome.  I love them and my life is forever changed; in my mind I think of all they have to do, what I need to work on, and how to keep them safe.  There is only so much I can do and I have to trust God with the rest.  It is a wild ride of self-realization, exhaustion, and love.  Now, add in a foster child and, well, all those feelings are amplified!

So, there you have it. I would love to hear one thing that changed your life.  If you read this, you have to comment, it's a rule. Okay, it's not, but I'd love to hear it!

Don't forget to check out these other Canadian bloggers and their FiveOnFriday posts:
  • If you're interested in making life simpler, and also honesty from a nerdy mom of three, check out Shawna from Simple on Purpose.
  • For five funny things that will make you feel better about your own parenting skills, check out Jac and Juli at TwoFunMoms!
  • Local to Edmonton, this mom is blogging about a little bit of everything. Things to do with the family, a simple DIY, or life as a family of 5 here
  • Check out the blog that is basically all things in life at Eclectic Soapbox, because variety keeps it eclectic.
  • For Everything and the kitchen sink that happens in life, Check out Canadian Basics for your 5 on Friday for laughs and fun!
  • For tips on green living on a sensible budget with a smattering of parenting, ranting and raving, check out Juicy Green Mom!
  • Paula at Product Junkie

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thankful Thursday

This week I am thankful for:

1. Love.  So cheesy, I know.   Our house is loud and bursting with energy but it's also full of laughter and love. And happy screams.

2. A run with my Kai Bear.  Although we didn't run together, it's fun to have your kids participate in activities that you enjoy!

3. A husband who enjoys Christmas decor.  My dad was a bit of a...scrooge in the decorating department so I'm glad that Gary enjoys all the lights and decor.  Our tree is likely only going to have lights on it this year due to a Little One with busy hands.

4.  Kids reminiscing. I love when they pull out their Disney World photobooks and go through page by page.  I never thought they would be into the character meet and greet but boy, did they love it!

5. Mr. Hug-It-Out.  We got these T-shirts from Netflix and I thought there was a zero percent chance that Gary would ever wear it but it's what he always says (I do NOT like to hug it out!) and he wants to wear it.  He did get a hug in it.

6.  My family being agreeable :)  On Sundays, we all look decent and I asked if I could get a family photo and they did!  I probably should have gotten out of my slippers. 

7. Donuts.  So naughty but so yummy.  I love walking to Tim Hortons with our family to get donuts–we save it for special occasions...or sometimes we just drive there after ballet :)

8.  Simple things.  Nya got the purple square at ballet so all was right with the world.

9. Crafts.  Well, basically Nya crafting on her own. Thanks for all the advice, Facebook friends!

10.  Dates with all my kids this week!  I was able to review two events; The Good Dinosaur with the boys and then Disney on Ice: Frozen with Nya Bear for Moments in Mommyland!  Oh, and Nya got a sweet Maplelea doll which you can see here.  And now I'm tired.

As always, I'd love to hear your thankful item(s) for the week.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Family-Focused Advent Activities

Every December we go through our Family Advent Calendar.  Inside each box is a family-related activity that the kids look forward to leading up to Christmas.  It's a time for intentional togetherness which is a family value and usually quite fun.  We try to make the activities a mix between giving, sharing, learning, and experiencing.

What are some advent activities that we include?

1. Play a board game as a family.

2.  Make a card for someone.

3. Decorate cookies.  

4.  Make crepes for dinner.

5. Go on a family outing!  Locally we have Timberline Country Christmas, Capilano Canyon Lights,  FlyOver Canada, Heritage Christmas,  and Vancouver Christmas Market to name a few.

6. Decorate the house.  The kids love the nativity sets–we have a few.

7.  Visit grandma and grandpa. It's always fun to visit loved ones during the holidays!

8.  Go see Santa.  Last year we went to the one at Port Kells Nurseries and will go back there–just bring something for the food bank!

9.  Choose an item in the Compassion Gift Guide to donate to someone in need. 

{Last year Kai raised about $45 going door-to-door selling  Chocolate Bark to raise money to provide a bike to someone in India!  You can check out the online guide here.}

10. Play hide-and-go-seek in the dark.  This is their absolute favourite activity every year; I usually just hide in the closet and enjoy some alone time.

11.  Go look at Christmas lights.   Our neighbourhood is fantastic for decorations so the kids love running around and choosing their favourites.  There is usually hot chocolate afterwards, too.

12.  Walk to Tim Hortons and get a donut.  They have their Christmas ones out; who doesn't love sprinkles?

13.  Go bowling with the whole extended family.  We go bowling once a year and it's a wildly chaotic and fun event with 20+ of us! I believe this tradition has been going for 8 years now.

14.  Build a gingerbread house. Well, let's be honest; buy a pre-built house and decorate it.

15. Go snowshoeing! 

While doing these activities, we often have Christmas music playing (oh, how I love it!) and we will talk about the true meaning of Christmas: celebrating Jesus' birth. There's Christmas church services and the kids have their performances at school and preschool–I enjoy this time of year.  

I hope you are looking forward to December because I sure am.

If you'd like to pin it for later, you can find it here.


Monday, November 23, 2015

Are You Covered?

When Gary and I were first married, we had only been working a few years and didn't own anything substantial other than our cars.  We were renting a basement suite and life was relatively simple.

Six months in, we got pregnant with our first son and bought our very own home!  It was so exciting to be part of the whole building process and we were happy to be homeowners.   It felt a bit overwhelming to hand over all of our savings into a down payment and then lock into a mortgage but we were both working full-time so paying our house down felt financially comfortable for us. At that time, we felt that if anything were to happen to either of us, we could sell our home so that the remaining spouse wasn't stuck with a large mortgage.

Somehow life flew by and it wasn't until we had three kids that I realized we really needed a plan in place; you know, "the plan", in case something happened to Gary and I or even just one of us.  Up until that point, family life was pretty manageable and the idea of having to work full-time if something happened to Gary seemed realistic.

Upon the arrival of our Miss Nya, I realized that it would be too difficult (impossible really) for me to work, pay for daycare and school, and take care of these wildly energetic kids if Gary passed away.  Having three kids is a HUGE responsibility.  Now, in case you're thinking "What are the chances of something actually happening?", let me tell you that both of my parents have had cancer and my mom passed away from it at the age of 53.  My dad has also had a major heart attack–so basically, I have some less-than-desirable genes and plans need to be made.

The first step was to have a will in place.  We went through a lawyer and decided who was our executor and who the guardian of our children would be; it was a huge relief to have this in place and I would highly recommend getting a will done properly.

The next step is what we are in right now.  If Gary passed away, there are some benefits through his work (like many jobs, one to two years salary) but what would I do after those two years? How could I possibly pay the remaining years on our mortgage on my own?  We would have to move, and at this point, ten years in, it's not just a house–it's our home full of valuable memories.  And what if something happened to me?  How would Gary pay for childcare while having a smaller household income? We've been considering life insurance but have put it off due to an assumption that it would take a lot of time, money, and paperwork.

Recently I came across Manulife's Cover Me Application and tried it out. The application takes you through some key questions and asks that you indicate the amount of coverage you would like.  I timed the online questionnaire and I moved through it in just one minute–there's nothing to download, you just click the link and choose your answers!  Then, they sent me a quote via email which arrived 30 minutes later.

I would encourage you to check out how much life insurance would cost you– it takes one minute of your time but could give you a life-time of piece of mind in regards to the "What if..." question. You can find it here.

If you'd like to learn more, there will be a twitter party on November 25th at 9 pm EST (6 pm PST).  If you've never been to a twitter party, they are wild–you'll see what I mean. Forget Sudoku and crossword puzzles to keep your mind sharp, these chats go quickly!

Until then, I'd love to hear your thoughts on life insurance. I know often people don't like to talk about money but I think it's important for us to be open about these things with our kids so they learn early on how to make a financial plan.

So, life insurance: Do you plan on getting it?


{This post was sponsored by 360ACCESS on behalf of Manulife. The opinions are my own.}