Saturday, April 22, 2017

Day out with Thomas–The Friendship Tour 2017

Day out with Thomas
Any Thomas the Tank Engine fans out there? I've got just the experience for you! A Day out with Thomas – the Friendship Tour 2017 is at the West Coast Railway Heritage Park in Squamish from Saturday May 20th until Monday May 22nd, 2017.

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Perfect Planter

Perfect Planter

Did you know that April 22nd is Earth Day? Although we are great at gardening, composting and recycling, we haven't put much time or effort into plants in our home. Adding greenery is such a simple, affordable, and lovely way to spruce things up! Looking at I found this beautiful Maize Pitcher by Birch Lane and thought it would be perfect as a centerpiece for our new harvest table.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Simple Calming Indoor Activities for Busy Toddlers

Are you looking for activities for your kids that are incredibly simple with very little parental involvement needed? I have two toddlers that have a lot of energy and short attention spans as well as a preschooler that is able to sit calmly and enjoy a good craft. We were stuck indoors on a rainy day and needed some quiet and calm activities as one of the kids wasn't feeling well (and tends to get out of control quite easily). Another priority was independent play as sometimes the fewer interactions between kids, the better. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Thankful Thursday

Oh boy. So, this week was better but the flu hit one of the Littles which was one of the worst things that could happen at this time. That might sound dramatic but when you utilize all your energy during the day and don't have any time at night to recoup, it's hard. Add in that you are still bonding with this child who is looking to you to make them feel better, it's not ideal. Praying it does not spread as I have no excess energy left for anything. This week I am thankful for:

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Dear Foster Parent in Your First Week

Tips for foster parents

Dear foster parent in your first week,

Exhale. You did it! You probably have very limited time to read this so I will keep it brief.  Over the past two years we have welcomed three young children into our home and each child was unique in their response and needs. I want to share some ideas on what to do but first I want to encourage you.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Thankful Thursday

I'm starting to write this on Monday because it will probably take me all week to get to all ten! We added two more little kids to our home last week at the start of hockey season for the boys so it's been...busy. This is what I am thankful for this week:

Monday, April 03, 2017

Our Eight Day Eastern Caribbean Cruise with Kids

For our first cruise we chose to do an eight night Eastern Caribbean cruise which we booked through a travel agent. Gary and I have never been to the Caribbean and if we were going to fly all the way to Florida, we might as well make it worth our time by doing a longer one! We chose Carnival Cruise Line due to the affordability and the family-friendly nature aboard the Carnival Sunshine.

Family photo in Grand Turk with Carnival Cruise
Family in Grand Turk

Here was our itinerary:

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Journey to the Autism Diagnosis

April is Autism Awareness Month and I want to thank my guest poster Rachel Cornelsen for sharing an intimate part of her life–the journey to an autism diagnosis. She will be sharing "Life After the Diagnosis" later this month and I am very appreciative of her contribution and vulnerability.

I always had this “gut feeling” that there was something different about our E (nickname), but I could never put my finger on it until shortly after his third birthday. He would wear toques all the time and would only wear cotton skin tight pajamas unless we were somehow able to convince him to get dressed. He was quite particular about his food, eating Campbell’s tomato soup for at least 2/3 of his daily meals and otherwise consuming mostly foods with smooth or soft textures  such as cream of wheat, oatmeal, smooth smoothies, alphaghetties, and scrambled eggs.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Taking Care of Me

Apparently it takes me multiple experiences to learn the same lesson: I need to take care of myself first.  I've been inching my way in the right direction for a while now but it's time to get even more focused. We all know that self-care is important but sometimes we trick ourselves into what that looks like or that we'll get to it "soon".  Maybe I'm conceited and prideful thinking I can do it all–I need a good dose of humble pie, over and over.

Being part of various communities from fostering to special needs to faith to work, there is a lot of pressure to do all you can to help those you love. You feel like you are doing a lot and then see that someone else is fostering three kids and you just have one. Someone else has more difficult struggles in parenting.  Someone else is helping out at Sunday School every week AND organizes a meal train AND leads a Bible Study. Someone else is working full time and their kids are still in activities. What? How can I keep up? Where is the line between being there for others and being the best that YOU can be? I know that comparison is the thief of joy but I do truly wonder how others do what they do. I know I need to reevaluate what works for our family frequently as our needs are constantly changing. I need to stop comparing what I can or cannot do.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Fifteen Tips for First Time Cruisers

Gary and I never envisioned cruising as middle-aged adults as we anticipated trying it out once the kids moved out. However, various friends of ours went cruising with their kids and after looking into it we realized that there were family-friendly cruises that were affordable for our family of five.

Tips For Cruising with Kids
Grand Turk Beach

Using a travel agent we booked an 8-night Easter Caribbean cruise with Carnival Cruise Lines.  Our decision was made based on affordability, family-friendliness, the number of ports and their locations, and finally the dates–you can read about our trip here. Being that we had never travelled this way before we had a lot of questions. We asked friends and read online as much as we could and here are some pieces of advice I would offer you:

Fifteen Tips for First Time Cruisers

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Five Netflix Shows to Watch About Fostering

Being a foster parent, it's difficult to share about our journey. First off, we're not allowed to share details as it involves children in care. Secondly, we want others to consider becoming a foster family but want it to be clear that it's difficult yet so worth it. One of the ways I like to connect to pieces of our life is by watching documentaries, movies or series that can relate to what we are going through.

What are Netflix movies or series that relate to fostering?

1. The Fosters. I watched the entire series and thought it gave a great peek into fostering.  This show is also why I now call my kids "Love".

Monday, March 13, 2017

Friendship In Real Life: Food for the Soul

Friendship is an area of my life that has changed so much over the years. Understandably, my needs have changed; from needing a partner for skipping rope to someone to talk to about homework questions and boys to someone to go out dancing with to now really having the desire to be heard and challenged, the roles were all different. It does seem that these relationships were much easier ten years ago and whether I can attribute that to the rise of social media, my marriage, having three children, I'm not sure, but it takes a lot more effort now. My soul craves deep friendship. Yes, I have my husband and we work on a playful friendship as an important ingredient in our marriage but often life is heavy and we aren't feeling so...friendly. I crave female companionship with a larger dose of empathy and compassion. I have been blessed with wonderful friendships but I do need to be more intentional about fostering them.

Monday, March 06, 2017

How to Save Thousands of Dollars Each Year

How we spend our money indicates our priorities and for us the two main places that we choose to spend our money are the kids' education and family travel. We also set aside a specific amount to donate each month although I know this is an area we could improve on even more. I often hear people asking (politely) how we can afford vacations or private school and this is some advice I'd give on how to save thousands of dollars each year. We live almost solely on one teacher's salary so how do we stretch our dollar?

Tips for Saving Money

How to Save Thousands of Dollars a Year

Friday, March 03, 2017

An All-Inclusive Trip to St. Lucia for Gary and I...Maybe

Hi, friends! I recently entered a contest with Sunwing to win an all inclusive trip to St. Lucia for Gary and I. We made it through the first two rounds and now it is the third and final one with a 3/15 chance of winning (1/5 is pretty amazing). The vote is very simple, just click on this link and it will take you to our photo. Like the photo and verify with your Facebook account (this means it only works for those with Facebook but it is ensuring only one vote per person to keep things fair). Unfortunately this does not work with the Facebook app so you will have to use a computer or your browser on your phone.

I am so thankful for those that got us into this round; I was feeling the love! I hope you have a wonderful weekend.


Thursday, March 02, 2017

Thankful Thursday

Gratitude. I write these posts for several reasons; it's not that my life is all sunshine and rainbows–in fact, there are many frustrating things that happen daily. Every Thursday I take some time to focus on the week and the items that I am thankful for and it is very good for my mental health.

This week I am thankful for:

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Encouraging Healthy Living with the Healthy Family Expo

A priority in our home is promoting healthy bodies and minds–both for the kids and ourselves as parents.  We try to cook homemade meals each day while taking into account the sugar content as well as Nya's dairy intolerance. Our boys flourish with a lot of activity as it helps to keep their attitudes positive; from jumping on the trampoline to playing hockey in the alley, it's easy to make exercise fun while spending time together as a family. I personally need my 10,000-15,000 steps a day and feel so much better mentally when I do. 

Are these priorities for your home as well? Are you looking for some family fun that involves kid's concerts, an Active Kid Zone, numerous vendors with samples and prizes all for a great admission price? The Healthy Family Expo is a fun-filled day for the whole family that introduces Metro Vancouver parents to small steps & simple solutions for healthy, active, eco-friendly living.

Monday, February 27, 2017

How to Tackle the Screen Time Issue in Parenting

"All of my friends have iPads" "When can I get a phone?" "Can we watch SpongeBob?" "Can I play Clash of Clans?" If you have a preteen in your home, you have probably heard these comments or something similar. I am so thankful that my childhood was so much simpler to navigate as we didn't have cable TV and were allowed to choose between five channels to watch for one hour a day. Times have changed and I have come to the realization that I am quite tied to my iPhone–more than I would like. We had to come up with some rules for our home in regards to screen time in order to have consistency and an action plan. I read the book Growing up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World by Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane for some direction and would like to share some thoughts from the book.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

You Are Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

I believe we can learn a lot from each other's lives. I want to thank this anonymous writer for sharing her journey in faith and parenting. Raising children with typical needs is difficult enough and adding in complex behaviours adds a whole other dimension and struggles–it can be exhausting and isolating. My hope is that if this could be a piece of your story that you feel less alone. If this isn't close to your story but something you witness at the park or store, you will be slow to judge and eager to view the situation with a lens of compassion.

We recently reached a milestone birthday with my son. I think that as much as he was extremely excited to hit double digits, my husband and I were equally excited to have reached this with him. I will share some of our journey and the things God taught us along the way.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

This Is the Room

This is the room where Gary painted the walls light green when I was four months pregnant with our first child.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Growing Into Me

When I was 15 I was just a fraction of who I am today; I had so much more to grow–I hopefully still do. I appreciate seeing how far I've come and my own journey has helped me to keep perspective as I see my own kids deal with egocentricity. I thought I knew everything. I thought life was all about what happened up to the age of 19, and who really cared about anything beyond that. People over 19 were old and boring. My two goals were the following: Do really well in school to get into sciences at university and get the attention of boys. What this attention looked like didn't really matter– I just wanted to feel beautiful and desirable which I believed would come from boys wanting to ask me out.  I don't know why I didn't care about life beyond my teenage years; I came from a great home, had a church that I was part of, a faith that sort of mattered, was at a good school and had some solid friends. If these were my thoughts at that point, with a pretty decent foundation, what are teens thinking these days with the addition of social media and all the struggles they may have in their own homes and social circles?

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Chapmans Cruise the Caribbean

Every year we have one big trip and for 2017 it's an eight night Caribbean cruise with the kids! This is not something that I planned months in advance which is unusual for me. Usually I research and book early but we had no idea until recently that we would have two weeks totally free to do as we wished. We always envisioned an Alaskan cruise with our kids but you can't do that during Spring Break and I wouldn't mind some sunshine right now. 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Family Movie Night with Netflix

I love the tradition of movie nights. When we were kids, we also had them but they involved a lot more work. We had to go to the local video store and rent a VHS (stands for video home system in case you were wondering) that they had to have in stock and also a VCR to play it. Now, we sit on our couch, click on Netflix, search movies, and away we go. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Thankful Thursday

Somehow it's already Thursday! With B.C's Family Day on Monday it has made it hard to keep track of what day it is. All right, so...I'm feeling a lot of confusion over what I want to do in regards to life/work as changes are coming. Our Little One is moving out very soon and in September Nya will go to school. In order to keep our fostering contract and not have to redo our home study, we can't just take a break for 6 months. We can do respite but there is such a variety of ways this could look–emergency, after hours, respite, relief, short term...I'm not sure what will work best for our family (and I'm pretty certain that anything short term would turn into a long one). I know what our kids want (to continue fostering long term) but it's trickier for Gary and I as there are so many factors to consider–just subbing a couple of times a week would be so much easiser. The pro list for fostering is very short but the ones on the pro side are life changing. All this said, we have a lot going on right now and I'd love any wisdom you have to share.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Harrison Hot Springs Resort and Spa

Harrison Hot Springs Resort and Spa is a place that we go to every year–it's tradition! We've been in every season and there's something especially fun about being in the hot springs pool with snow all around. We go for a quick one night getaway and it's long enough to rejuvenate us and feel like we truly did relax. What do we do while we are there?

Friday, February 10, 2017

For the Uncrafty Valentine's Day Mom

It is fun to celebrate love and friendship with the upcoming Valentine's Day. I see people sharing their decor ideas, handmade cards and beautiful homemade treats.  I get it; in the past I've done Valentine's Day photo sessions with my kids so that they could hand out personalized cards. Unfortunately creativity is not my forte so I just end up feeling frustrated while looking through Instagram and Facebook. I know I could make these amazing things but I don't want to. I have to check myself. Will I enjoy going out to buy these craft items and assembling them with my kids? Nope. Do my kids actually care about anything other than candy? Nope (okay, Nya does care who gets Lippy Lips Shopkins Valentine). Exhale. Still a good mom.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Thankful Thursday

I haven't written in a week which is highly unusual for me. I feel uninspired and unmotivated. We've also had our kids at home for what feels like forever (two snow days and now my kids have five more days at home). I feel anxiety over the weather and the warnings that have come with it. For the most part, we can just stay home if need be but we do have certain obligations to attend to as well. All that said, I feel out of sorts. So, let's get focused here and figure out what we're thankful for.  Without further adieu..

I am thankful for:

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Thankul Thursday

Hello, friends! This week brings cool, windy weather here with a forecast of snow. This makes me feel...cold. And grumpy. So, let's focus on the positives here.  This week I am thankful for:

Monday, January 30, 2017

How to Prepare for Snowshoeing

One winter activity that I enjoy is snowshoeing. It's affordable as we own our own snowshoes and use the free trails. Even if you end up renting, it is still a great way to get the alpine experience without spending a lot of money. It is also easy for people of all ages and abilities as the mountains have a variety of terrain in their snowshoe trails.  I've been in a number of weather conditions and often you don't really know what to expect so these would be my recommendations for a safe and comfortable time:

Friday, January 27, 2017

What I Know About Parenting: Eight Tips for Everyday Life

First off, let me say that I am not claiming to know how to be a great parent. What I am sharing is what I have learned about parenting over the past 10 years. Yes, I'm a bit of an information seeker and have gleaned ideas from experts, classes, books and fellow parents. I've sifted through all of the facts and opinions and have taken what has worked for our family and am continuously open to learning more. This whole parenting gig is a lot more complex than I initially believed and I appreciate that we are able to learn from each other. We have a range of personalities and needs in our family and I feel like these tips address many factors.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Why I Love Monday Mornings

Most people dread Monday mornings. The memes start filling my Facebook feed on Sunday with jokes about it feeling like the weekend just started nine minutes ago or the face of an inconsolable toddler entitled “Monday’s coming”. I love the start of a new week. I have four loud kids and we play hard on the weekends– exploring, visiting family and friends, and just a whole lot of time together in seemingly small places where the volume is amplified. On Monday mornings three of the kids head out the door alongside my husband and my whole body exhales. I feel an instant wave of relief and relaxation pour over my body. Sure, I have a house to clean, laundry to do, and grocery shopping on the list, but it’s relatively quiet. My four-year-old daughter and I have the whole day together with very few obligations. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Fort Langley National Historic Site with the Parks Canada Discovery Pass

This year we celebrate Canada's 150th birthday which means that all National Parks are free to enter with your Parks Canada Discovery Pass. We decided to check out Fort Langley National Historic Site as it is local to us. The Hudson's Bay Company fur trading post was built in 1827 and was used for fur trading, shipping cranberries and salted salmon, and as a provisioning post with the gold rush of 1858. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Importance of Friendship

Let's talk about friendship. One of the most important things to me in regards to my children is that they make good friends. I hope that they will feel known, loved and supported by these people in their lives. I know the day is coming soon where their friend's opinion may mean more than mine–a time where they may feel more comfortable confiding in someone else. I am thankful for the positive influences in my life that have provided encouragement and support and have helped me to see the world through different lenses.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Thankful Thursday

Every Thursay I take time to reflect and focus on gratitude. This week I am asking everyone in the family for one thing they are thankful for:

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

How Biological Kids are Affected by Foster Siblings

One of our greatest concerns when we decided to go ahead with becoming a foster family was how it would affect our biological kids. Would our kids get hurt? Would they learn bad behaviours? Would they be upset at having to share us with another child? Would they be able to handle saying "goodbye"? We have been so pleasantly surprised with just how well they have adapted. Our kids are not perfect and I know they could just as easily teach someone else naughty words or behaviour. What has really impressed me is how each of them has been able to connect with our Little One in their own way.  Kai is able to offer comfort, Koen's goofiness provides laughter, and Nya's gentle nature means she is a perfect playmate. 

I put together a little video so you can hear it from the kids themselves.  They aren't super "Rah rah rah!" about it but that could be because I made them sit still and answer questions. It's just a normal part of their life to have an extra sibling around and so they don't often think about the pros and cons of it.

Love our family and thankful the kids are on board with what we've decided to do. I don't know what the future holds. I don't know if we will foster again. I do know that for now we have room in our hearts and home for this Little One.


Monday, January 16, 2017

Where We Netflix

We love having Netflix in our home because of it's portability, affordability, the lack of commercials and the variety of shows offering something for everyone. We're a family that does not have a lot of screen time, but do appreciate a good show each day.  

Where and when does most of our Netflix-ing happen? 

1.  Making dinner. I love having something like Friends on–I don't need to pay close attention and it keeps me entertained while doing something I don't really enjoy.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Grouse Mountain with the Kids

Several weeks ago we bought an annual family pass to Grouse Mountain. Gary and I had an amazing snowhoeing date and with sunny skies this weekend we decided to go up with the kids. I was nervous that it would be too cold or that they would be tired of the snow due to the fact that we've had it around for about a month now. We were pleasantly suprised with their positive attitudes and how easily they were entertained!  

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Thankful Thursday

I will apologize in advance that most of my thankful items and photos are taken from our main living area. I did not venture far this week because I had the flu and it was freezing cold and super icy outside. No, I did not get a flu shot but I did get it for two of my four kids. I'm feeling the pull towards depression right now due to life (flu, weather, Gary has basketball like 12/14 days in a row, busy schedule etc) so I'm really hoping that now that I'm starting to feel physically better I can put more self-care into action!

Monday, January 09, 2017

Being Brave in Marriage

While sifting through my old journals, cards and letters trying to find correspondence with my oma that recently passed away, I came across the journal that contained the dating journey for Gary and I.   Over the next hour, I read two years worth of messy feelings out loud to him (just the parts that related to him–I wrote a lot). He had never heard half of the vulnerable thoughts that I had and now I felt comfortable sharing them over 12 years later.  

Sunday, January 08, 2017

What to Know About Autism

I want to thank Bethany, my guest poster, for sharing her knowledge on autism with us.  Did you know that autism affects 1 in 68 children?  I learned this recently and was so surprised at how common it is.  If you think this doesn't affect you in any way, you may be surprised as autism is a spectrum and someone you know and love could very well be on it. Finally, if time is limited, there is a chart included that is a very useful tool. Thank you to Bethany for the oodles of time she put into this post.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Thankful Thursday

My goal for this year is to rest.  This doesn't mean sit on the couch binge-watching Netflix (although I am loving Luke Cage), it means taking time to quiet my mind.  This week I had several great opporutunities to rest and I am thankful for:

Monday, January 02, 2017

Snowshoeing Date on Grouse Mountain

Gary and I had an adventure date planned as my Christmas gift to him.  Normally we go snowshoeing first thing in the morning (which I do recommend safety wise) but in order to experience the Light Walk we went up in the afternoon.  I had never been snowshoeing at Grouse Mountain and we decided to make the most of it by getting a family annual pass that was on sale so that we can do the Peak of Christmas with the kids next December.  Also, my hope is to do some hiking there in the summer and the Grouse Grind a time or two.