Monday, June 29, 2015

At the Risk Of Happiness

What is that sweet spot between being safe and responsible and allowing, or even embracing, risk and change? What helps us out of our comfort zone?  If what we are currently doing doesn't make us feel happy or fulfilled then maybe we need to alter our mindset or our situation. It sounds simple but what holds us back?

I grew up making (mostly) safe decisions. For example, I probably spent more time on the green runs while skiing than I needed to. These "safe decisions" included finding a job and sticking with it. My parents taught me that working hard was important. My mom dropped me off at the mall with 50 resumes when I was in grade 10 and I wasn't allowed back in the van until I had distributed them all.   I got a job. We were taught to work hard and make wise choices. Don't get me wrong – our lives were full of adventure.  We hiked, fished, and camped. We drove all the way across Canada (to the tip of Newfoundland) in a camper with our family of 7. Work hard. Play hard.

I knew that my parents did not want us to risk our job security. They each had the same job for over 30 years. Crazy, right?  I remember hearing that most people change careers seven times in their life and I thought that was wild.  Don't you just pick something and stick with it? I’m learning that maybe, you don’t. Maybe, if something becomes too stressful or boring or all-consuming then it might be time to re-evaluate what you are doing.

There are several times that I have taken a risk in regards to work. When I first started teaching, I was very happy with my job.  I was single and had the energy to invest into my science classes. I had a long-term goal of going to Africa one day but realized that this was quite unlikely; why would I ever go?  How could I leave my job? Well, fast-forward three years and I had an awkward break up with a fellow teacher from the same school. I decided to take a huge risk: I resigned from my job at the end of the school year and volunteered to teach in a remote village in Kenya. Do you realize what a life-changing experience it is to travel internationally and fully engage in another culture? Among the multitude of lessons, I learned the value of education, how much I had been taking  granted, and the beauty of relationships. I also learned that I love chapatis and mandazis.

I was in Kenya for 6 months. When I returned home, I started teaching at a different school. I married that "fellow teacher"' who had broken up with me just a year before (hey – that counts as a risk, too, right?)  We got married and after having our oldest son, I continued working part-time. Gary always loved photography and really wanted to start a photography business. I knew very little about photography or business. He convinced me that by taking this risk, the worst-case scenario was that we would have nice photos of our kids. We took a small financial risk, as well as one to our pride (what if we failed?) and opened GC Photography. Little did I know how important this would be down the road.

After the arrival of our second son, I was set to return to work part time. I got very sick with an autoimmune disease called Graves'. There were nights that I fell asleep with such great chest pains that I wondered if I would die in my sleep. I wore sunglasses inside the house because my eyes were so sensitive to light. I lost a lot of weight and had a resting heart rate over 100 beats per minute. I struggled with insomnia. I knew that there was no way I could return to teaching; the stress and fatigue would be too great. Instead, I could invest more time into our photography business that we had started just 2 years prior. Could I make the equivalent of teaching part-time by doing photography? Could I say good-bye to a safe and stable income? The choice was made and the flexibility of this new job was key.

The decision to volunteer in another country and to later start a photography business was not what I had ever expected for myself. I think sometimes things happen in our lives to help guide us in a new direction. Whether you just keep plowing through in the same direction, or take that turn, is up to you. Changing course can be scary but it can be so good – fueling us mentally, physically and emotionally. What I have learned from Kenyan culture, becoming a photographer, and even running a business, has changed who I am. This would not have happened if I allowed my fear to guide my decisions.

 Now that I’ve seen the value of taking risks in my career, I try to apply risk-taking to other areas of my life while keeping balance between safety and change in mind.

 Last summer I had the opportunity to fly with Redline Aerobatics and I had to decide whether I would embrace this opportunity despite my great fear of heights.  I asked myself over and over "Will I regret not doing this? Will I ever have this chance again?"  I did it and it was the highlight of my year.

Another risk we took was to take our young family to the Philippines and Thailand, which was not the easiest summer vacation we could have planned. Usually we do family trips within our own province so this was definitely outside of our comfort zone. Were we exhausted? Yes. Did we get sick? Yes. Did the kids learn about the world and try new food/words/activities? Yes. Did we spend ample time together as a family? Yes. Was it worth it? Yes.

As a person who is apprehensive of change, I am excited about the future. What will happen next? I don't know. What I do know is that I have learned so much by veering in new directions and I look forward to seeing what is ahead.

 Do you love what you are doing?  Is there something you've always wanted to do?  I'd love to hear your thoughts and I'd encourage you to embrace the possibility of change.

"It's good to do uncomfortable things. It's weight training for life." –Anne Lamott

Louise (the high-flying photographer who can speak a little Swahili)

What helps us out of comfort zone? Anne Lamott says "It's good to do uncomfortable things. It's weight training for life."

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Berry Fun Family Time

One of the things we do as a family each summer is go berry picking.  It brings back happy childhood memories for me and our kids love it, too.  Besides, you get to save money on your berries and the kids can be reminded of where their food comes from; win-win.  Like many people in our area, we go to Krause Farms.  It opens at 8:30 am which works well for our early-rising family.  Gary had the morning off yesterday so it was the perfect day to go!

Right now they have U-pick raspberries for $2.00/lb and we picked 14 lbs in just under half an hour.

The kids were all focused on picking and there was no complaining. I was confused.  When we got home, I realized why Koen had worked so hard and did not bug his siblings--he thought his entire container was just for him and he wouldn't have to share.

Next time we will bring a tripod (our gorillapod to be exact--nice and compact.)  In this case, the camera was precariously perched on top of a raspberry container and Gary is getting as low as possible to ensure he's in the photo.  Must work on our family photos.

Nya's favourite part was at the end; the playground.  I liked that there were lounge chairs in shade around it.  All playgrounds should have that--I would stay there much longer!

Kai's a bit "too cool" for a lot of playgrounds now but he's not too old to sit with his dad for a cuddle!

I just wanted to document how tall Kai is at the start of the summer and we'll see what the height difference is in September!  I told him he didn't have to smile smile.  Isn't it strange that our knees are pretty much at the same height?

Although the goodies at their bakery are so delicious looking (oh my, the new berry custard pie in a jar for $6.99 was so tempting!) we decided to make our own treats at home with the berries we picked.  

We froze most of the berries; we'll see how long they last!

Kai Bear made us waffles for dinner and it was so good with whipped cream (has to be the real stuff) and freshly picked raspberries.

Have you picked berries yet this season?  If you go, do not put your children in light coloured clothes; Kai's shorts will never be the same.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Thankful Thursday

This week I am thankful for:

1.  A nice family dinner out to celebrate the end of school.  We probably go out to a sit down restaurant with the kids twice a  year.  We love going to Red Robin for their family-friendly atmosphere and this year we had a gift card!  Nya was a big fan on giving the thumbs-up with the mascot.

2. A reader.  Kai took his time finishing the 4th Harry Potter book.  He was enjoying it too much that he wanted to savor it.

3.  Gary and the boys cheering me on.  I appreciate it!

4.  These two having each other.  I love seeing their brotherly relationship continue to grow.  I think they learn a lot about working as a team when they are together.  One is a little more team orientated than the other.

5.  A girl who keeps up with her brothers.  There's always some American Ninja Warrior training going on.

6.  A good book to read.  Cutting For Stone was really good.  Book club is great, too!

7.  An upcoming vacation.  We are having a very simple summer holiday this year because we went to Disney World and Las Vegas just a few months ago.  We will be camping in Tofino at the lovely Bella Pacifica and then going to the beautiful Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort!

8. A fan on our bedroom ceiling.

9. Another book to read.  So far it's an easy, quirky read.

10. An awesome night out at Disney's The Lion King. I had won 4 tickets through Moments in Mommyland. I wasn't sure how I would feel about it as I don't attend a lot of musicals but this was so enjoyable--I loved it!  Gary did too.  I loved the costumes.  I loved the use of light and silhouettes.  I would definitely pay to see it.

I hope that you are having a good week!  Please let me know something that you are thankful for today!  Attitude of gratitude, folks!


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

MEC Race Series in Langley

I know I've said this before but I really love the MEC Race Series.  Why? It's local (Langley parks), affordable ($15), and a relaxed atmosphere.  Everyone is there for a good time and the number of runners is limited. 

This weekend's race was in Fort Langley.  Five friends also joined in the run doing everything from the 5 km race to the half marathon.  I stick with the 5 km race as that's what feels best for my body right now and what I have the energy to train for. 

Thankfully we started at 8:30 am because it was HOT out.  This was definitely the smallest group of 5 km runners in the series yet! 

I usually have just under a 6 min/km pace but really hoped to finish closer to 28 minutes.  Alas, that was not to be.  I ran as hard as I could and had the kids cheering me on in the end.

I actually finished 2nd with another girl ahead of me by 30 seconds.

We cheered our friends on and I won a Outdoor Research running hat as they draw for prizes using your bib number!  

{Kai was getting hungry and therefore looks very unimpressed!}

The next one is August 30th at Campbell Valley Park.  The boys have begged me to sign them up so I'm going to as long as they promise to train.   Anyone else going to join us?  You can find the information here.

Hope you had a lovely weekend!


Monday, June 22, 2015

Math Fun With Hot Wheels

School is out and we are in that adjustment phase figuring out how the three kids will get along being together all the time.

We make sure that they have a lot of time outside being active hiking, at playgrounds, or playing hockey with their friends.  For the past 3 years, we have also been setting aside 20 minutes a day where they work independently on specific subjects.  Maybe it's inevitable with two teachers as parents, but I find that this helps them when they return to school in September.  It also really keeps the disagreements to a minimum when they have this time alone to focus on a specific task.

Kai enjoys doing traditional school books.  Our six-year-old son Koen prefers more play-based learning.  His teacher has recommended that we work on his fine motor skills (printing and drawing) over the summer and we needed to find a way to make it fun.

This past week we discovered Hot Wheels FUNdamentals Learning Program which has lesson plans for kindergarten and grade 1 students.  You can adapt it for all ages as Nya (just 3 years old) fully enjoyed the activities, too!

The first activity we chose to do was a math one measuring objects using car lengths as the unit.   You can print up cars if you don't have enough of them in your home or if you want to ensure that they are all equal sizes.  There are some suggested objects to measure and then you can choose some of your own as well.  Koen loved it!  

He measured a marker and a pillow.

And he had to record the measurements on the paper.

He also chose to measure the light switch and table top.

Nya had to try it out, too.

There are so many other math activities that you can do with cars; patterns, grouping, speed, and distance travelled (just to name a few!)  With Kai, who has a real love for math and science, we talked about velocity (distance/time) and aerodynamics (what shapes make the cars go faster). 

So there you go--math using Hot Wheels.  I would encourage you to check out some of the ideas they have here if you are looking for some educational activities over the summer!

Do you encourage your kids to do independent educational activities over the summer?   If yes, what do they like to do?  If you try out some of the Hot Wheels FUNdamentals Learning Program, let me know!


*Disclaimer: We were provided with Hot Wheels products to facilitate this review.  Opinions are our own!*

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Happy Father's Day, Gary

The kids and I put together this Father's Day video which you can see here.  Apparently I married Gary because he had nice clothes.

I had the kids each fill out a card for Gary about what they love about him. Nya says that daddy's job is `to get my jammies' and he's really good at learning numbers.

I am so glad that Gary is the father of my kids.  Why?

He enjoys teaching them the joy in adventure (how did we take three kids to the Philippines and Thailand?!)

He enjoys playing with them.

He loves to take them hiking and encourages a love for the outdoors.

{McKee Peak above, Lynn Canyon below}

He loves watching sports with his boys.

He enjoys family days and helps to document them.

He's better at playing barbies than I am.

He includes the kids in household activities so that they learn how to garden and clean vehicles.

He spends time in the kitchen with each of them; allowing them to participate and teaching them along the way.

He'll wait in line to meet a Disney princess.

He's not afraid to look silly.

He let's the kids experience more risks than I would.

He also teaches them respect, love, responsibility and so much more.  Although we may have differences in opinion on how to parent at times, we both have the same goal in mind; teaching them to love God, others and themselves.

Happy Father's Day Daddy Bear!  Thank you, Gary.

Louise, Kai, Koen, and Nya.