Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Mama Bear Box {Giveaway}

Mama Bear Box is a local B.C. business that provides trendy and essential homemade baby products delivered right to your door!  Each month there are 4-5 new products and the fun part is that it's always a surprise what is in the box.   This would be a fabulous baby shower gift because who doesn't love getting a special package delivered right to their home?  And on a personal note, this would just save so much time and energy by ordering online!

This box is a sample from September's Mama Bear Box; drool-proof bibdana, teething necklace, glow-in-the-dark soother clip, natural lavender baby soap and natural healing balm.



I love the idea of supporting other mamas by buying from their small shops--this way you'll be exposed to some that products you've never even heard of.


You can buy month to month box ($39.99) or there is even a three month ($113.97) or six month ($215.94) option.  The value of the boxes ranges from $50-$60.00.  Upon check out you can choose whether you would like a box geared towards a baby boy or baby girl.  Here are some of the businesses that will have their product in the October Mama Bear Boxes!

You have the chance to win a Mama Bear Box valued at $39.99!  Whether you'd like it for yourself or a baby gift for someone else--it's a great prize.  Just fill out the Rafflecopter below and be sure to check back to see if you're a winner!  Open to residents of Canada and the U.S.A.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, September 28, 2015

Tea Time

My mom passed away ten years ago which was just before I had kids of my own.  I wish I would have gleaned more information from her; what a resource she was--she had five kids in eight years! I never thought to ask for parenting advice...actually, I wouldn't have known what to ask because I really didn't know what I was getting into.  Sure, I learned from her example but as for actual tidbits about raising toddlers or teenagers, I didn't inquire.


There was one piece of guidance that I have in her writing: Even if you don't like tea, drink it and listen, you will be amazed at the ease of the conversation; sometimes it is the only way to get a teenager to talk!


{Gary and Kris enjoyed some classic tea times with the family}

Many evenings a week, when 8 or 9 pm would roll around, my mom would announce "Tea time, girls!"  We had one of those nifty intercom things that would call us all out of our rooms and we would gather around the kitchen table.  We would drink a cup of tea and eat from my mom's wonderful variety of homemade cookies; haystacks, brownies, chocolate chip cookies, and boterkoek (that's dutch for "butter cake").  The treats would get us there and the conversation would keep us.  With five girls, there are a lot of emotions and feelings that fill the home.  With five teenage girls, the silence of secrets can be scary.  Inevitably, around that table, feeling safe, we'd start talking.  We didn't share it all, but enough came out that my parents had a better sense of what was going on in our lives.  There were so many laughs around that table, as well as our share of tears.


Right now with my own family, we have dinners together each night but I know as they get older, this will be more difficult with their extra-curricular activities.  I'm not sure that my kids will be into "tea time" but I know they would definitely be into "cookie time". Don't underestimate the power of the kitchen table.


 When did you feel safest sharing with your parents?

Love, 
Louise

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Pinterest Perogies

Perogies were on sale this week at Coscto.  We don't eat them often (hello, carbs!) and thought we would make them a little more exciting.  We boiled them and then put them in our waffle maker. Thanks, Pinterest!


Tomatoes would have made this much better but apparently we've eaten every last one from the garden..or someone has.


Now I think I need to start a Pinterest board on all the fun things you can make with a waffle maker!  Do you have any ideas?

Love,
Louise

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Thankful Thursday



This week I am thankful for:

1. Health.  All of the kids are relatively healthy after weeks a variety of infections being passed from one to another.  Nothing like getting a phone call, during a mom visit, that your oldest son just vomited in the classroom.


2.  Bubbles.  

3.  Soup. I looooove soup.  It reminds me of my childhood and it's just so comforting on cooler days.  I miss my mom's meatball soup on Sundays.  Looking back, it was more than just soup; it was family time and tradition!

4.  Wedding photography.  I'm so thankful for the couples that we've met over the years.  We are now done all of our weddings for 2015 and we ended on such a high note--what a great September.  Now I need to edit them all, but ya, feels good!  Just two weddings that we accepted for 2016 and then GC Photography is taking a break :)


5.  Cuddles with my boys; movie nights are great for that!   

6.  CLASSES ONLINE.  I have to take 53 hours of foster parenting classes (as required in the first year of fostering).  I went to the first two classes and they were not my learning style....and long....and far...and difficult to work into our family's schedule by starting at 6:30 pm.  I found out that they have an online option and not only is it way more my style (succinct information while sharing our own stories/feelings while someone responds), I can complete it at my own pace and use my time more wisely!  My resource worker approved Gary and I taking it in this way--so thankful!

7. Chiropractors.  Gary's falling apart.  Okay, maybe not, but he's had quite a few problems with his back, hips and legs.  He saw the chiropractor three times and learned some new stretches and is slowly getting better.  The chiropractor says he's too big of a guy to be running so we'll see what Gary does instead!

8.  Netflix while editing. I don't know how I didn't do this sooner!  Well, I just got my iPad mini so maybe that's why?  We only got Netflix a year ago so that's part of it too. I have one wedding left to edit and one season of Scandal left to watch-- I hope it carries me through :)

9. Nya loves preschool.  How is my youngest in preschool? Wow. She is so incredibly sweet...just this week she was holding my hand while we walked through the store and she said, "I just love holding your hand, mommy."   She tells me daily that she loves me and how beautiful I am.  Oh man, what a gem.


10. Gift cards!!! I'm a little frugal so I LOVE having gift cards to indulge in things like Starbucks and frozen yogurt with my Nya Bear.  By the way, Chapters (I had a gift card so we also went there this week) could be my new favourite store.  Love it.

I hope you are having a good week!   If you could get a gift card to any store, what would it be?

Love,
Louise


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Resliency

Resiliency: the ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy (Dictionary.com)

Life is fine right now but I would say there is definitely some adversity.  It's not easy being a parent under "normal" circumstances, and now, with adding another child with some special needs, we've found the transition to a new normal taking longer than we thought it would.  I feel stretched but I also feel hopeful.  At times I feel defeated but I also feel...strong.



One thing we are covering in our foster training class this week is self care and resiliency.  Some characteristics of resilient people are: self esteem, recognizing that life has challenges, knowing that your actions can affect an outcome, problem-solving skills, a sense of humour and support. This last one is huge for me. Studies show that resilient people look for support.

I'm a big researcher--I love getting as much information as I can. I search out people who have been in similar situations. I appreciate connecting with others in facebook groups or in person. I value the opinion of people who have been trained in an area that I'm uncertain of. I love reading for different perspectives and nuggets of wisdom.  Support. Support. Support.

When my mom passed away, I connected with others who had lost a parent (I still do),  I read books, saw a counselor (only once--I should have gone more), and talked with my sisters who were in the same boat.  Not only did I need to find help through the loss, I needed to find new supporters.  My mom had been my number one chearleader and when she died I realized that I needed to fill that position because I couldn't remain healthy without it.


I also know I am a big words of affirmation person and if I have to ask for it, so be it! It's not my job to "do it all", but I can take care of myself to do the best job that I can.   Last week, I asked people for encouragement on facebook. I. Asked. For. It. I felt a bit silly but I knew that I needed it. So, kind of funny, but at the same time, all those comments and emoticons lifted me up. "You've got this" "You can do it" "I believe in you"....who wouldn't want to hear that?!


I'm not good at asking for help--I feel like I'm inconveniencing people.  You know what, though? As my mother-in-law taught me, I can always ask and if it doesn't work for that person, well, they can say no.  I'm getting better at it.  I'm trusting that other people will be honest and just say "no" if it doesn't work for them.  Also, I know I have a community of people that will support me in prayer--what a gift!

I would encourage you that if you are feeling any adversity, please search out support around you.  Whether it's a facebook group, friend, family, book, or counsellor--they can help.  If one source is a dud, keep looking.   Where do you find your greatest source(s) of support?

Love, 
Louise

PS If you don't follow on facebook, I'd love to see you there!  You can find me here

Monday, September 21, 2015

Hamburger Bean Pot

This is a childhood recipe that we all loved; it's so easy and affordable to make.  Gary and I like it as a quick "go to" when we don't know what to make and are limited on time.  My mom put together a recipe book of all our favourite recipes before she passed away and I love using it – I have so many wonderful memories connected to food, do you?

As you can see in my mom's writing, it's "so easy, so good!"  I love, love, looooove this special gift that I have from her.








Hamburger Bean Pot

Ingredients:
4 slices of bacon chopped
1 lb ground beef
1 chopped onion
1 apple peeled and diced
1 can of brown beans
1/4 cup of molasses
1/4 cup of barbeque sauce

Instructions:
Brown ground beef, onion and bacon.  Add the apple (I always add two), brown beans, molasses and barbeque sauce and stir over medium heat for about 10 minutes.  Serve over rice or mashed potatoes.

Super easy, right?


As my mom said in her recipe book to us, " It is a gift of love and memories to sit together and make time for each other."    What is a special family meal that you had growing up?   

Love,
Louise

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Little Encourager

I feel like I should know my kids better than anyone, and yet, they continue to surprise me.  Sometimes it's in a oh-no-you-did-not-just-say-that or a how-can-these-two-bug-each other-so-much kind of way.  Other times, I look at their positive interactions and my whole body relaxes while my heart stretches and grows.  

You never know exactly how your child will respond to a new situation that they are put in.  My Nya Bear has surprised me the most.  She was our "baby"--the youngest.  She was used to getting a whole lot of attention and non-stop cuddles, and then came a child who required a lot of that attention and a lot of those cuddles. 


She loves our Little One.  She calls herself the "Little Mommy" and takes her role seriously.  She introduces herself to people like this: "I'm Nya! I'm the Little Mommy.  I help take care of _______." I wish I could share photos of the two of them together--they mirror each other's activities throughout the day.  They eat breakfast facing each other, sit side-by-side on the bench watching Paw Patrol with their snacks in hand, take turns going 1-2-3 weeeeeee down the slide, and love racing back and forth down the hallway with a Ready, Set, Go!


Nya loves using our Little One's nickname whenever she sees this child--she says it in a goofy and inviting way.  She has helped us work on the skills that we are trying to teach and has made up a few of her own techniques which make me laugh.  There are times when our Little One needs a bit of space and will push Nya away gently, she gets it, she redirects the contact to a high-five and moves on. 


This girl is an encourager. Wow. When our Little One tries one of the skills that we are demonstrating (over and over and over), Nya claps and cheers. She knows this child's loves and often invites her little buddy into activities that she may not love, but she knows our Little One does.


It's not perfect--Nya has definitely had her share of saying "no" to us and I have to wonder how much is due to being three and what part of it comes from this adjustment.  She has mimicked some of the less enjoyable behaviours that she's witnessed.  She has to attend meetings with me at least three times a week and we drive a lot to do so.  I make sure to have special time for just the two of us which we both enjoy (and indulge in more sugar than we should.)  She loves her buddy.  Loves.  She has been very helpful in connecting birth mom and I with her sweet smiles and warm hugs; it allows mom and I to see that we are both moms, who at the foundation of it all, love our sweet kids.

I am so thankful for this pleasant surprise.  Thankful for my "Little Mommy"--the Encourager.

Love,
Louise

Have your kids pleasantly surprised you?  How so?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Thankful Thursday



This week I am thankful for:

1.  AN AWESOME BEDTIME FOR OUR LITTLE ONE. Dare I say it? I just did.  After months of feeling like we were moving towards "normalcy" at a snail's pace and struggling SO much with knowing what the variables were in the mathematical equation that is the "magic sleep button"...something happened (prayer? sense of safety? attachment?) and now we can do the whole bath, books, pray/cuddle, sing, and SHUT THE DOOR thing and our Little One GOES TO SLEEP.  It's been three nights of this.  Our last hurdle is the wake-up time.  We'd like to sleep in past 5 am but one thing at a time!

2-10. AN AWESOME BEDTIME FOR OUR LITTLE ONE.

Yes, totally "cheating' on my Thankful Thursday.  I know you're never supposed to say "I'm so busy" but, well, I am.  Right now I'm working full time with wedding photography, parenting 4 kids, doing my 53 hours of foster parent training two evenings a week, subbing once a week, meetings 3-4 times a week, racking up some serious km's driving, etc.  Know your limits, stay within it.  I'll be normal amount of busy that comes with 4 kids in about 3 weeks and I can't wait!  My plan is to run and eat healthy--I've been indulging in a few too many treats.

What is one thing you are thankful for this week?

Love,
Louise

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Not Just a Stroller

Yes, I'm sentimental; I have memory boxes and journals and way too many photo albums under our basement stairs.  However, balanced with that sentimentality is practicality.  I don't hold onto everything, it must be useful--clutter drives me crazy and our house is full enough with six people.

Our stroller recently went missing. We have a a few strollers--a cheap one to leave in the back of the van "just in case", one quality single one that's easy to maneuver in small spaces if need be, and then, we have our very favourite one: the double jogger.  The double carries two kids comfortably, takes almost no effort to push, can be used for jogging (obviously), folds up easily, and has a great basket underneath to carry whatever we need to bring along.  It was our most-loved one that went missing.  I realized immediately where we had left it--on our last family walk and picnic, we must have left it behind in the chaos of cleaning and packing up.

I drove the park and looked around but a few days had passed and it was nowhere to be found.  I put up a notice and I left posts online for people to keep an eye out for it, and then, we waited.  I was very surprised at my reaction to the loss of this stroller.  I sobbed. I haven't cried like that in months-- maybe even years.  Why was I so upset about a stroller?  It's replaceable!  It's just an object!  What was my problem?

When I looked at that stroller, I didn't just see wheels and buckles.  I saw years of memories.  We got that stroller (second hand for $125) when our boys were little and therefore have had it for six years.  We used it to participate in the Run For the Cure as a family every year...a special time to remember my mom.   When I've needed a break from the teething children over the years, Gary has taken one or two in the stroller for a 5 km jog.  They eat snacks, look for horses and dogs, and I am given a half hour of much needed peace.



When I looked at the stroller, I saw adventure.  We have done so many local walks with it.  Sometimes the kids sat in it and sometimes it was just used to hold cameras and bird seed.


When I looked at the stroller, I saw family time.  We used this double jogger to walk to get groceries at least once a week.  It's a twenty minute walk each way and the kids would get a cookie from the bakery as incentive.  We talked, we raced, we were together.



When I looked at that stroller, I felt peace.  We have two rambunctious boys who inherited my dad's "pest" genes.  They are loud.  Our youngest two are busy, and sometimes, on hard days, when the crying or tantrums are too much, we need to escape the confines of our house.  Once they were in that stroller (with a snack) peace returned.  Happiness. Contentment. Freedom.

Four days after it went missing, I got a phone call that our stroller had been found and was being safely stored for us.  My immediate response was "I love you!  I love you! Thank you so much!"  I went and picked it up right away (handing out hugs along the way...with an "I love you" or two) and my heart was so happy.  This jogging stroller isn't just a way to get kids or groceries from point A to B; it's a vehicle for togetherness and peace and exploration.

Welcome back, Stroller.

Love,
Louise

Tell me I'm not alone!  Do you have something that's special to your family and sanity?  

Monday, September 14, 2015

First Movie Night of the Season

One family tradition that we have throughout the school year is our Friday Pizza & Movie Nights!  I love it because I don't have to think about what to make for dinner (we just do frozen Costco cheese pizzas and add toppings) and the kids love to watch a movie together (which usually involves a special treat!)


Last October we decided to try Netflix out and we've been hooked ever since.  Gary and I love it for our date nights on the couch (Suits, Homeland, Friday Night Lights, and Scandal!) and the kids love it for movie nights...and of course Paw Patrol.

We usually get all cozy under a blanket but it was really warm this week so we spaced ourselves out, added some "friends" on the couch, and went through the list of new family movies on Netflix.


We let the kids decide what they wanted to watch for the first Movie Night of the season.  What did they choose?


They chose The Muppets. I was surprised that the kids were into a musical comedy but they really enjoyed it; especially the older boys (ages 6 and 9.) I liked it because Jason Segel and Rashida Jones were in it and it was just a feel-good movie.



The Muppets is about the old gang learning that their theatre is going to be demolished and they need to reunite to raise $10 million dollars to save it.  Nya and our Little One only made it half way but still hung out with the family and played quietly.


I love traditions--especially when everyone enjoys them, we're together as a family, and it's easy (and cheap!)


This week's snack included Twizzlers and chips; they've already requested popcorn for next week! When you don't normally get sugary snacks, that definitely helps to amp up any movie night.


Kai gave The Muppets four stars out of five and said it was the highlight of his day!


I think next week's movie choice will be between Meet the Robinsons and The Princess and the Frog.  Do you do movie nights?  Are there any Netflix movies that you would recommend?

Love, 
Louise

**I am part of Netflix Canada's #StreamTeam and all of these opinions are my own...well, and my kids'**


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Thankful Thursday



This week I am thankful for:

1. A great wedding on Sunday.  The day was perfect and all four kids were great back home. Phew.  It's always a bit stressful finding care for the kids (we have one-on-one care for our Little One) so I love when it works out well!

{They were filming a movie in Clayburn Village so we had to get a wintery wedding photo}

2. A great contest to share about!  I am hoping that our kids' school wins some money :) If you haven't checked out this post yet, there's also a $25 gift card for Guildford Town Centre in it!


3. Family photos.  I get sweaty just thinking about getting my kids in clean clothes, keeping them clean, and having them sit still (and preferably smile at the camera) while we take some photos via wireless remote.  Done and done.  Love having them :)


4.  A last summer getaway.  I do love Harrison.  I hope to go back this fall with just Gary.  Not sure how it would work but I can dream :)


5.  Back-to-school routine.  There are a lot of changes this year and it's taken a lot of communicating between Gary and I to figure out who is dropping off and picking up each child and when and where.  Each and every day is totally different.


6.  The ability to still substitute teach once a week.   It will hopefully work out with the two littles in different day cares.  It is dependent on everyone being healthy it won't be every week. 

7. A touch of gentleness amongst the chaos and wrestling.  Although, Nya did jump on top of the dog pile of my kids in grocery store this week.  Before kids I would've thought "That mother has no control of her children" but now I just think "they're laughing, no one is crying, let's go to the next aisle now."

8. Pre-made meals.  Before kids, Gary was like, "We won't buy frozen meals, we need to make it all from scratch."  Ever since we've had two or more? We have frozen meals at least 2 times a week (pizza and lasagna)--it's called sanity.

9.  Roses from Gary for no reason.   He loves me.  I do have to say that when that when things have been stressful in the past I would tend to yell and be angry with him (being honest.)  Now, I feel like I cling a little desperately to him.  What we're going through right now is exhausting but together we can do it!


10. Being part of the Netflix Stream Team!  I love Netflix so I am super pumped to blog about it :) 


I hope you are having a good week and aren't too sick of my Thankful Thursdays!  I didn't plan on having them go on for over a year but, well, I enjoy it!

What are you thankful for today?

Love,
Louise

Monday, September 07, 2015

Earning 4 Learning at Guildford Town Centre

Hello Surrey (and surrounding area) friends!  Did you know that you can win money for your child's school just by shopping at Guildford Town Centre (GTC)?  Actually, your neighbours and friends can put their shopping receipts towards your child's school, too!

The program is called Earning 4 Learning and it's super easy:
1. Register here
2. Pick the school you'd like to submit points to
3. Take a photo of your GTC receipt and upload it to earn one point per dollar spent (yes, you can use gift cards!)


The program is only on from August 26th to September 16th so I recommend you scan and upload them as soon as possible.  You can check the leader board at any time.  How much money will be awarded to the school?  The top 20 schools will receive prizes ranging from $250-$5,000!

I checked my kid's school yesterday and they were at zero points (only 18 Surrey schools currently have any points.)  Good thing I bought Gary a shirt at H&M last week and I may have possibly bought some yummy fair trade dark chocolate at London Drugs–I submitted it and the process was very easy.   Now we are in the top 20!


Check if you have any receipts from the past week and please submit them!  If you go shopping in this upcoming week at GTC, be sure to upload your receipt and award the points to the school of your choice.

And some extra awesome news: if YOU would like a chance to win a gift card to the lovely Guildford Town Centre, please enter the Rafflecopter below!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

**This post is sponsored by Guildford Town Centre and opinions are my own!**

Friday, September 04, 2015

Harrison Hot Springs Resort and Spa 2015

Once or twice a year we head out to Harrison Hot Springs Resort and Spa.  We love it there. Why? 

1.  It's only an hour away; far enough to feel like you're getting away but close enough that the kids are totally fine getting there. 

2.We love the warm pools.  There's something for everyone AND the indoor pools open at 5 am which is helpful when your kids are crazy like that.  

3. The two playgrounds on the beach rock.  

4.  Free cookies and tea at 4 pm.

5. Decently priced family suite.  You get two adjoined rooms for $189.00 which allow for four kids and two adults (two kids were in playpens.)  The rooms aren't fantastic but work well for us!

6.  We order pizza from Village Pizzeria for dinner ($21 for a large) and eat it on the beach.  {We bring a cooler with snacks and cereal, milk, bowls and spoons for breakfast because feeding a family of six would just be too much for us--yep, I'm cheap!}

7.  It's calm, quiet, and beautiful.  It's so nice to just walk around in the fresh air and enjoy nature. 















{Six months pregnant with Kai and then...nine-and-a-half years later!}

Well, that was our last holiday of the summer!  Now, on to school, preschool, therapies, dance, basketball, foster parent training, subbing (yay, still going to sub once/week!) and weddings. September is going to be a doozy.  You ready?!

Love, 
Louise