Friday, December 29, 2017

Reflecting and Goal Setting

This is the time between Christmas and New Year's Eve where it's nice to look back and reflect on the year that was and then goal set for the one upcoming. I've had some bigger resolutions in the past such as work on our marriage, improve my fitness level and find time to rest. This year? I'm going in a totally different direction. Are you ready? Wear lipstick and give more hugs. So simple, attainable and measurable.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursday

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! I lost track of the days and also how many chocolates I consumed. Today is Thursday which is a time to reflect and focus on gratitude – I'd love for you to participate! This week I am thankful for:

Sunday, December 24, 2017

How to Teach Your Kids About Money

We talk about teaching our kids skills such as cooking and laundry in preparation for the "real world", but what about money management? One of the greatest gifts my parents gave me was teaching me how to be money savvy from a young age. From shopping and couponing together to finding a job for each stage of life (babysitting to retail to teaching and a whole lot in between) and donating a portion of our income, they walked alongside us. We talked about mortgages and knew the Christmas present budget – money was discussed naturally throughout our daily conversations.

How to teach your children about money

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursday

I always thought that once my kids were in school things would slow down. But. Nope. Kai is in school sports now and we've added a baby so life just keeps on going on the same old pace (okay, busier especially now in basketball coaching season). This week I am thankful for:

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Should You Buy an Instant Pot?

Yes, I'm late the Instant Pot party. I generally like to get a feel for how a product is doing longevity- wise before diving in. After a year of the Instant Pot gracing my Facebook and Instagram feed from friends I knew and trusted, I reluctantly succumbed to the Black Friday sales.

Should you buy an instant pot? Here are my thoughts on it with it's pros and cons.

Monday, December 18, 2017

What It's Like to Be a Foster Parent When You Get the Call

{As a foster parent I have gone through this on seven occasions and each time I get incredibly nervous with the necessity of quick decision-making. Not every home would go through these feelings, and maybe I'm a bit dramatic, but these are mine. I cannot share details on the ministry or the children in it's care, I can only share my own thoughts...and I have a few.} 

What it's like to be a foster parent when you first get the phone call.

The red light on the answering machine was blinking. I knew what it was. I mean, it could have been my mother-in-law – the only one who regularly leaves us messages on our machine – but more likely it was The Call because it's Thursday. Thursdays are the day when the placement team in our city meets to match up children who need a home with families that have rooms available and are the best fit for the children. Most of our placements have happened on this day of the week.

Three Quick and Easy Christmas Games for Kids

We recently hosted a Christmas party for four other families and I wanted some super simple games to play as a family which would work for a variety of age groups. I looked on Pinterest and found three keepers (aka I didn't need to buy supplies, it was eco-friendly, and great for all ages).

Three quick and easy Christmas games for kids!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursday

Well, we've had an interesting week! I had to call in sick last Friday because Nya Bear caught a respiratory virus and that very day we said "yes" to a sweet foster baby. Then Gary had a basketball tournament over the weekend and I came down with a different virus. So, ya. I had to miss hockey on Tuesday (boo) but somehow we made it through the week okay.

This is what I am thankful for today:

Watch Your Holiday Favourites on YTV

Watch your holiday favourites on YTV

When you find something that all of your kids can agree on without fail, you grab on to it! For us there is a unanimous appreciation for snacking on freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, playing school, having chicken pot pie for dinner and watching YTV. This TV channel is the most watched in our home and they have stepped it up a notch for the month of December.

Watch your holidays favourites on YTV this December!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

How to Take Your Photos to the Next Level

Did you know that Gary and I were photographers for eight years? It was an awesome experience building and owning our own side business and we developed many skills and met wonderful client turned friends. We closed down our business last year because weddings meant we were away from our kids on the weekends which is prime adventuring time. The good news is that we kept almost all of our equipment and I can continue to share images here. Using my DLSR is important to me because I appreciate having quality photos of my kids and the places that we have been to.

Would you like to put more time and effort into your photos for this upcoming year? 

Monday, December 11, 2017

When You Find out You are a Perfectionist

I recently took the Enneagram test to learn more about myself – why I do what I do in both a healthy state and under stress and what that looks like in childhood, relationships and at work. After completing the free online questionnaire, the results were in and I was sure they were mistaken. I must have answered some of the questions incorrectly; maybe I was indicating how I was striving to be rather than how I actually behave. I retook it changing some answers I was on the fence about. Same results.

What to do when you find out you are a perfectionist

What Netflix Shows are Canadians Savouring and Devouring?

When people ask "What show should we watch on Netflix?" I struggle with the answer because each person connects with a different genre and I need to know if you're looking for something funny, scary or intriguing. When Netflix posted the results from shows that Canadians savoured and devoured over the year, I was interested to see which ones I loved made the list–were they ones that I would recommend? 

What Netflix shows were Canadians savouring and devouring for 2017?

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Thankful Thursday

Keeping the introduction brief today. Every week I write about ten thing that I am grateful for and it seems even more important now as it's been rainy for a month and darker earlier. If you're feeling on the gloomy side of the spectrum, I'd really encourage you to practice some gratitude today. And if you're happy and you know it, being thankful never hurts.

This week I am thankful for:

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

What I Wish I Knew Before Saying I Do

I don't know if I have ever had a bigger mix of feelings than the night before Gary and I got married. I realized the magnitude of what was to be – til death do us part. There was deep excitement and a whole lot of fear, to best honest. We had a rocky dating relationship (date, break up and repeat) which I never imagined would be the case with the man that I was supposed to be with forever. I figured that when you met "the one" it would be easy from that point on because it was meant to be. Maybe working through those stages helped realistically prepare us for what was to be in a lifetime together.

What I wish I knew before saying I do

The next day, as I stood with my parents about to approach the aisle, I asked my mom to tell me a joke because I could not handle the range of emotions. She told me one about a cow that I wasn't able to processs it but it allowed me to walk down the aisle while staying emotionally intact. It ended up being the best day of my life.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Behind the Scenes of Blogging

I started blogging back when most people used it as an online journal – 12 years ago! I wrote for two reasons at the time: to share photos with friends and family (this was before Facebook which I thought wouldn't catch on) and because it was therapeutic. I had always been a journaller but when we got married I ditched the daily notebook writing for the computer. Three years ago I was nominated as one of the Top 30 Mom Bloggers in Vancouver (runner up, yo) and decided that it was time to kick things up a notch when I realized that more people were reading it than I thought. I'm still a little fish in this pond but have done some sponsored content, am monetized with ads, and have used it as a platform to share on topics I am passionate about: fostering, parenting, marriage and adventure.

Behind the scenes of blogging
At a local media event
I love learning a bit about the behind the scenes of people's jobs and TV shows and therefore will let you know some of what goes on just writing one blog post. This is very general but gives an overview of the process.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Thankful Thursday

You know those moments where you experience great joy? Do you sometimes go to the place of thinking about what could ruin it? There is vulnerability in experiencing joy and hoping that it won't end up with us being hurt. We're afraid to fully embrace it and that is called foreboding joy. As someone who has experienced loss, I can go there. According to Brene Brown in Braving the Wilderness.

"The only way to combat foreboding joy is gratitude."

Thankful Thursday

Another great reason to practice gratitude, am I right? Let's allow ourselves to feel true joy.

This week, I am grateful for:

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

What Happened When I Joined a Hockey Team

Leaving university was a tricky transition for me. For seventeen years straight I had worked hard at my role as a student; I knew what to do each day and what the end goal was. I had the consistent support of my family and my friends – my village. Once I left the city I had been in and started teaching, it felt like everything changed and I floundered. My friends dispersed into their various roles, my evenings were spent planning and marking, and I had to engage with a new community.

Building new relationships isn't something you can rush. 

Over time, I became connected to the school community I was teaching at. I made new friends and ended up marrying another teacher – how's that for building strong relationships? I joined a flag football team with friends from my university days and within a few years felt that I had transitioned well into my new role as a working and married adult in the suburbs.

What happened when I joined a hockey team. How in person connections lifted my spirits and brought about greater joy.

Getting into the Christmas Spirit with Kid-Friendly Netflix Movie Nights

November can be quite dreary and throw in a busy season of basketball after school hours and we are in the need for some calm and cozy connecting after dinner. Our house may not be decorated for the season yet but it has been the perfect opportunity to start watching kid-friendly Christmas movies on Netflix! Looking forward to the magic of Christmas is always fun and a great change of pace. 

What have the kids been watching?

Advent calendar saying make Christmas cookies and watch a movie on Netflix

Friday, November 24, 2017

Glow Christmas in the Fraser Valley

Glow is a Christmas event geared towards people of all ages in Langley, BC. With four light gardens, a 210-foot musical tunnel, food trucks, and Christmas market, it will definitely get you into the Christmas spirit. It has the beauty of outdoor lights in the cozy comfort of an indoor environment–a greenhouse! 

Glow Christmas at Milner Gardens

Some of the things that we enjoyed were:

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thankful Thursday

A wild heart is awake to the pain in the world, but does not diminish its own pain. A wild heart can beat with gratitude and lean in to pure joy without denying the struggle in the world–Brene Brown in Braving the Wilderness.

We know what's going on in the world, we will do our part, we can still have joy in our life.

This speaks to me because at times I feel like "Louise, there are so many big issues in the world. How silly your gratitude is in the grand scheme." But it is good to live in this tension between acknowledging reality and embracing joy. As with each Thursday, this is what I am thankful for today:

Thankful Thursday

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Thankful Thursday

Thankfull Thursday

Wow, this week has been so wet and stormy on the west coast. We had a long weekend full of family time (maybe too much?), Remembrance Day activities and just getting stuff done. Today we have our annual review for fostering. This is where they go through the safety checklist in your home (it's a big one) and we will talk over our contract and what our limits are regarding age and needs. We have this talk often as it's good to assess boundaries and reassess after each placement. Check out this graphic below that Brene Brown emailed out this week, so fitting for Thankful Thursdays, right? Let's practice it, team.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Information Overload: Enough is Enough

On this day five years ago I purchased my first iPhone and my life changed. As convenient as it is, it has become way too important to me. At first I had no data so that I would not be tempted to use it when I was out of my home but with the offer of so much for data for basically nothing (okay, not true, our bill is not nothing but it was a deal!), I upgraded. I'm on it a lot. I use it to google facts, recipes, podcasts, Netflix, take photos, text and email. I also use it to browse Facebook and Instagram. I'm not sure what your social media feed and favourite Internet sites are telling you but this is what I seem to hear each and every day...

Information overload in the age of social media and digital devices

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Our Hope for an Intentional Christmas

We recently had a family meeting to discuss the upcoming Christmas season and how we can approach it intentionally. First of all, the kids loved the official term "family meeting" and took it seriously by sitting nicely and raising their hands to contribute. We also finished it off with a cheer which I would recommend – don't need to be too serious! The topic at hand was the reason for Christmas, how much we should be spending on gifts and what sort of items would be considered appropriate for the list. And yes, they know that Santa isn't real although Nya believes that he fills the stockings.

How do you approach Christmas gifts with your kids?

Thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursday

We have a huge decision hanging over our heads in regards to fostering. Taking a break has been so amazing for us again and it's so hard to know what is the best thing for our family and marriage. The pros and cons balance the scale. I would say yes in a second to a six month old with regular needs but that is extremely unlikely based on our experience. Our family has room for a certain amount of energy/needs and it's hard when you have no idea really who you are saying "yes" to. It's also tricky because very few people are in our position (same family make up with similar fostering experiences) so it's hard to find a mentor on this. All that said, it weighs heavily on me each and every day. There was a quote I read this week that says "We'll never see what could be if we allow fear to define where we go" (Logan Wolfrom) which has encouraged me. We have always trusted that God would bring the kids to our home that were meant to be there but lately I have struggled with this because it has been too hard in one particular case. Too much. I also lost trust with the Ministry. This has allowed us to put more boundaries in our fostering requirements (I learn best through experience) but I'm having a harder time with trust in general. So really, it comes down to my faith life too. That's what we are currently wrestling with which can sometimes feel consuming.

That aside, this week I am thankful for:

Monday, November 06, 2017

What Our Arguments Are Really About

This past weekend we took a course called Hold Me Tight. It is a program that focuses on Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT). It is the idea that we are dependent on one another for attachment needs (comforting, protecting and nurturing) just as a child is on a parent. It includes working on our emotional connection through being open, attuned and responsive. Here I am touching on the arguments that we have and why we have them which is just one aspect of the course. I found it insightful and I hope you do too.

There I am rage-folding the laundry. Fold roughly. Sigh. Huff. Fold roughly. Sigh. Huff. What has just happened? Well, from the outside it looks like something like this:

Why do we argue so much? How can we work through our conflicts? Using the Hold Me Tight method.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursday

Every Thursday I take time to reflect on 10 things that I am grateful for. I started years ago and didn't mean to go for so long but now I can't help it. There has been heaviness in my heart this week as an old student of mine passed away. He was such a kind and friendly boy (I say boy because I still picture him as a grade 9 student) who always had a huge smile on his face. Always. I think of his family and all that they are going through right now. Loss is just so, so hard. It's a messy process and it hurts for a long time (I'm 12 years in and still dealing with it). There is no easy way to switch gears except to say that even in the hard times I have gone through, I let myself feel all the feelings yet tried to remember to focus on the grateful piece too.

This week I am thankful for:

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

How to Make Natural Deodorant That Actually Works

I have been wearing natural deodorant for three years. The reason I decided to move in this direction is that although antiperspirants claim to be safe, I want to reduce any possible risks due to my genetics. Men often have deodorant options but most of the ones available for women are also antiperspirants with parabens and aluminum. That sweat was meant to come out for a reason–we don't want to clog our pores on our face so why would we do it under our arms?

How to make a natural deodorant that actually works: A recipe!

I have tried about 15 different kinds of natural deodorant over the years and all are not created equally. I have really enjoyed pastes as they tend to work the best and are gentle on my armpits. I recently decided to make my own and put it to the test; I ran 5 km's, I chased after children, I even taught a full day of PE. The result? This recipe works. So, without further ado, here is the simple recipe to make your own deodorant.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Fall Family Photos

Family photos are important to me and whether we do it ourselves or pay someone else, all I want are some great ones with my kids and then as a whole family. Seeing the sunshine yesterday, coupled with the gorgeous leaves, I made the quick decision that we would get photos that day. The kids and Gary agreed to it, we chose the closest park to our home, and wore clothes that weren't exciting but are very "us". Well, let's be honest, sports shorts and hats are what the boys would prefer but they were willing to wear jeans. For an hour. We went midday which is a no no on a bright sunny day but cooperative kids took precedent. Here are some photos of my lovely crew:

Monday, October 23, 2017

Driving Change with Electric Vehicles

A friend of ours recently purchased an electric vehicle and we found ourselves fascinated while looking at it and discussing the pros and cons to having one – will this be the way of the future? Since they were introduced in 2010, approximately 1% of all new vehicle sales in our province are electric. In B.C., driving an electric vehicle can make a significant environmental change as 98% of the energy generated by BC Hydro is clean as opposed to other places in the world that may use coal or fossil fuels. What are some other advantages?

Charging station for electric vehicles in B.C.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursday

Anyone else feel like their life is just a constant state of readjusting? They aren't always big things but I feel like there's something new always added into our day. Lately this is the transition of Baby leaving, Koen going gluten-free (and sesame-free), and Kai playing more sports at school. We have to adjust how we do things. Life, hey? Okay, so this week I am thankful for:

1. Fall leaves. We went to Tynehead looking for salmon on Wednesday but they still weren't there. At least we found some pretty leaves!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Being Power Smart and Saving Money

As a biologist and frugal mama, the combination of saving money and the environment are things that I really care about. Several years ago we learned about the Team Power Smart program which provided another incentive to try and reduce our energy usage as there are cash rewards. We were successful in the first year and continued to maintain that usage and therefore the rewards continued. How were we able to decrease our overall energy usage by 28% in that first year? BC Hydro has a fantastic list for saving electricity and these are the ones that we follow:

1. Blankets. The temperature in our home is a little lower than most in order to save but also because we have a very active family who always seem to be warm from running around. We love having extra blankets on our couch. Not only does it make our home look cozier, it sure feels that way too! We will often cuddle under them to read books or watch a family movie. Don't forget that slippers are awesome, too.

BC Hydro Power Saving Ideas

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursday

This week was as bit easier to focus on all I'm grateful on as it was Thanksgiving after all! Seeing everyone's thankful posts on social media was uplifting and I enjoyed seeing all that people are thankful for. This week I am thankful for:

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

When Netflix Sends You Googling

Anyone else love being exposed to history through fictional books or movies? I recently read Moloka'i and learned all about the history of a leper colony in Hawaii. Immediately after I had to google to see what was true and what was fictional. The same thing has happened when watching Netflix! There are several series that we have watched where I have had to head off to google and see what the characters really look like and how close to reality the events were. What are some of my favourites?
What shows on Netflix can give you a history lesson while providing entertainment?

The Crown: Based on the life of Princess Elizabeth. It's sort of embarrassing how little I knew of the royal family and I now find them so much more fascinating. It is very well done and beautiful to watch.

The Crown on Netflix

Monday, October 09, 2017

How to Prepare to Be a Foster Parent

If you are considering becoming a foster parent or are already working on fulfilling the requirements, welcome! I know it's a big decision and that you may never feel fully prepared. Along with the steps to qualify to be a foster parent (application, home study, classes, medical check, criminal record check, safety check) I would have loved a list of ideas on how to prepare for the arrival of our Little Ones. Often we have very limited time to prepare and therefore it really helps to do as much as you can beforehand. Although this list may be dependent on the age of the child that will be entering your home, here are some practical tips to help you prepare your heart, mind, and home.

How to Prepare to Be a Foster Parent

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursday

I feel like each week inevitably fills itself with a bunch of adulty things that take up a lot of time and/or money, last week it was the hot water tank, this week it was the mechanic. It's not my favourite but on to the next day and week we go. This week I am thankful for:

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursday

What a whirlwind of a week! We had a lot of stress with the installation of a hot water tank and subsequent gas leak. Followed that by the addition of a little girl and it's been busy. What am I thankful for this week?

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Stanley Park Hallowe'en Ghost Train: Alien Invasion {Giveaway}

October is just around the corner and with that comes fall activities and Halloween. Several years ago I took the boys on Stanley Park's Ghost Train and they had a fun time! This year's theme is Alien Invasion which is running from October 13-31st. If you think the evening hours would be too scary for your little ones, there are matinees on Friday the 13th until Sunday the 15th without live performers (and a discounted price).

Stanley Park Ghost Train

Monday, September 25, 2017

Why I Can Say Goodbye to My Foster Child

{As a foster parent I try to share the reality so that you may consider it as an option for yourself. Gary and I never thought we would be foster parents until about four years ago when someone planted the seed in our hearts and minds. The thoughts I have on fostering are my own and I cannot speak for all of the foster parents out there. I also cannot share the personal stories and facts about the children but hope that there is enough information to give you an idea of what fostering is all about and why I can say goodbye time after time.}

What is the number one comment that foster parents receive? "I wish I could foster but it would be too hard for me to say goodbye". I want to address this. I get it. I fully understand what you are saying and why. Who would invite a break-up into their lives? Who would want to go into a situation knowing ahead of time that their heart would be broken? I am an emotional woman. I cry happy and sad tears frequently. I lost my mom to cancer when I was just 26 so I understand loss and fear it. Is saying goodbye hard? Yes, but it doesn't stop me from getting attached and it can be filled with hope and happiness.

How can you say "goodbye" when fostering?

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursday

You never know what a week will bring and this one is bringing us a new child. The plan is for her to join our home tomorrow so this will be brief. With three months of doing relief in foster care which was so needed, we have said "yes" to a short term placement so we'll see how it goes. In the meantime I better read up on my tips for the first week of fostering again! This week I am thankful for:

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

How to Make Your Child's Birthday Extra Special with Netflix

I remember when I was younger calling the news station to ask them to wish my mom a happy birthday. They would often announce special birthdays at the end of the newscast and although hers wasn't a special one (100th or above!) it was such a delight to hear it announced on TV. Over the years we have also submitted photos to our local TV station for our own kids as they would do birthday announcements with the addition of a photo. Now alongside your annual tradition of the birthday bumps (do you do them? Our kids LOVE it) you can get your kid's favourite characters singing to them for their birthday using Netflix...

Netflix Happy Birthday

Friday, September 15, 2017

Flying in the Fraser Valley

Today was a special day for Nya as it was her first flight with my dad! It was very last minute so I wasn't sure how she would feel when I picked her up from school and told her we were going flying. She was so excited! It may have had something to do with the fact that I said we were going to a fancy restaurant and she asked if she could use her fancy voice. Yes, she could use her fancy voice.
We met my dad at the Langley airport and off we went!

Flying in the Cessna 172

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Thankful Thursday

Hey team! Along with the fresh start that September brings, I have this sense of blah. There's some small problems in our home this week. Our new flooring isn't doing what it's supposed to (lay flat) so we've followed up with the manufacturer. Our hot water tank stopped working on Tuesday night so we had to throw a whole bunch of money towards a new one last night. Not a super exciting purchase as it's hidden away in a closet in the basement. Then there's the bigger issues that we are hearing about each day. The hurricanes that have hit the south are just heart-breaking. Every place we visited in March (Puerto Rico, Florida, St. Kitts, St. Martin, Grand Turk) has been greatly affected. Waterton Lakes National Park, which we visited in August, is experiencing a major wildfire which has caused so much destruction and loss. I can't even think of all the animals there.

So, in order to take a moment to focus on the positives, here are ten things I am thankful for today:

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Simplifying, Decluttering and Organizing Your Life

Anyone else in cleaning mode and looking to simplify, declutter and organize? I've summarized some great tips on these topics that I've shared over the years and I hope you find it helpful! Without further ado, here are some great techniques for making life easier, just click on titles:

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Simple and Delicious Tomato Salad

Are you wanting a simple and nutritious salad for dinner tonight? Maybe you have an event you're going to and you need to bring a fruit or vegetable dish. If you were you coming here for exact measurements, I apologize, but salads are flexible. You like cheese, go wild. You like balsamic vinegar the most, have fun! This is a versatile salad and such a crowd-pleaser using just six ingredients.

Tomato and cheese Salad

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Thankful Thursday

I'm pretty sure that we just had the best summer holidays of our life. It wasn't "fancy" or expensive, it was two road trips with our family of five. We are in a big transition week as the kids are headed back to school and Nya is going for her first time! This means that I am having to figure out what life will look like–maybe not all that different as she's part-time and I'll just continue working one day a week. 

Every week I write ten things that I am thankful for. This week I am grateful for:

Monday, September 04, 2017

The End of Summer and Pondering What is Ahead

We had a beautiful day at the beach today and it was just what we needed. This summer we returned to being a family of five, had two big road trips, adjusted to being home again and then finished with renovations. It feels so good to be back to normal, well, until we start transitioning back to school tomorrow. I feel like Gary and I are in a mid-life crisis of sorts completely connected to fostering; it's this huge inner struggle between doing what we know can to make a difference in the lives of others and at the same time recognizing that we need to weigh the effect of that on our mental/emotional/physical health and well-being.