Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursday

This week we are on vacation in Arizona. It has been a fun time for our family of five to explore the area between Phoenix up to the Grand Canyon. However, if your holidays are anything like ours, it’s a whole lot of family time in tight spaces out of our normal routine which has me thinking “Are our boys always this annoying?” “Why can’t they sleep past 6 AM?” and “Why can’t our kids just sit together nicely in the back seat of the rental car? I travelled all the way across Canada with four siblings and didn’t feel the need to pester them the whole way”. Overall it has been great but it has been equally exhausting parenting-wise. So, now that I have that out of my system, I’m ready to go!

This week I am thankful for:

Friday, March 16, 2018

Preparing to Parent Teens in Today's Culture

Suddenly I find myself approaching the next stage in parenting: the teen years. I enjoy teenagers and spent five years getting a degree so that I could teach them science (biology in particular). However, there is fear which comes from the fact that I remember myself during those years. I was a hard-working student, had a part time job throughout high school and was quite responsible overall but I still had an "experimental" side to me and I didn't have to deal with the whole social media aspect that kids nowadays do.

Preteens hanging out by the river

In order to help fill my parenting "toolbox" with skills and resources I read Tough Guys and Drama Queens: How Not to Get Blindsided by Your Child's Teen Years. It is written by Mark Gregston who is the founder of Heartlight which is a residential counseling center for teens. Here are some tidbits that I gleaned from the book:

Consider what your priorities in parenting are. 

What are the things that you want out of your relationship? What is your greatest hope for you children? These are some of mine:
  • openness between us (connection/respect).
  • empathy, compassion, willingness to learn, hard-working, appreciation.
  • a desire to figure out their faith for themselves; I don't want them to just take what we've said. 

Recognize that today's culture has shifted.
  • parents are well-meaning but often try to protect their kids rather than spend time preparing them. Have you talked to them about pornography and the dangers of social media
  • teens are bombarded by images and appearance has become an even greater priority. I am glad I was not raised in this time; I can't imagine the pressure with posting photos and getting likes and not equating it with how pretty you may or may not be. 
  • hours with screen time are less hours of face-to-face connection and developing social skills. Some teens spend ten hours a day in front of screens (including computer for school). I know I was allowed one hour per day of TV and I didn't have the Internet until I was 18 – times have really changed.

You can't force authority.

You can't force your teenager to do anything but can teach respect for authority through relationship. A big one for me is to watch out for judgment. It's relationship, relationship, relationship.

"Truth with judgment pushes kids away; truth with relationship draws them to you." – Mark Gregston. 

I am full of "teachable moments" which can definitely come across as critical. My sisters may have called me "bossy" a time or two. Our kids have two teachers as parents which is a double whammy of wanting to impart our wisdom at all times. Be sure to share your own shortcomings and struggles so they know that everyone has them. Listen rather than teach. I often go for a walk with my oldest who is almost 12 years old and he opens up a lot at those times. I am so tempted to bring in my point of view when I hear how he struggles with group projects (don't be so bossy, Buddy) or how he's the leading scorer in hockey (hey Bud, no one loves a bragger) and just try to listen and empathize.

Conflict happens but it will deepen relationships. I think of when Gary and I go through a difficult marital conversation, we end up with more depth in the end when we are willing to work through it. Your love is unconditional and not just there when they are behaving as you would like. Grace.

Another quote Gregston shares is:

"...consequences teach lessons; relationships change the heart." 

When I did something that disappointed my parents because I broke their trust was a big enough punishment for me. Being grounded and having to write an apology letter were secondary.

Let go of some of the control.

Kids want to feel like they have some control, can make their own decisions and can prove their maturity. I did not like Kai's long hair but he did. I let it go. And finally, he said "cut it". Phew. This is often the hardest with the oldest. Let them go to the park with the neighbour boy, finish their homework without checking, make their own snacks, do their chores without correcting and pick their own clothes. Trust that you've done your job, and if coming from a faith perspective, trust that God is involved, too. Give them more responsibilities. When I was sixteen, my parents said no to camping off the logging road with friends so I went and lied about where we were (sorry, Dad!). Had something happened, they would have no idea where I really was.

Have clear boundaries & pick your battles.

I have a wild child. This does not mean that I am not a good parent as I can only do so much. Hopefully as his brain continues to develop he will make wiser decisions. Clear boundaries and their consequences are helpful and he recommends having ten rules. I have done this before with younger kids as you can see here.

Some of our rules now:
  • Use kinds words or none at all.
  • Respect parents and siblings 
  • Tell the truth
  • Exhibit appropriate Internet activity (only on approved sites)
What are their consequences? Usually each small infraction (because believe me they are far from perfect) is ten minutes off their 45 minutes of iPad time. You will have to utilize what is important to your own kids. We don't have big rules right now but the consequences will be much larger once they are driving and able to go out with friends.

In high school my mom said that I could only have piercings in my ear so I stuck to it and went wild – I think I had a total of ten. She said no to tattoos and I'm glad because I would have chosen something I later regretted. Those were the battles she was willing to pick and looking back I'm glad that she did.

Determine privileges and expectations.

From driving to cell phones to curfew and church attendance – what are your expectations? Gregston recommends that if there is something you plan to give your kids, do it a bit earlier.  One experience with this recently is that we had said only G or PG movies. Kai (almost 12) was invited to a movie that was PG-13. My "go to" was that I was not allowed PG-13 until I was in grade nine. When I thought back to how I felt about it, it was so frustrating. We gave him the go ahead after looking up the particular movie and what gave it that rating.

Where does your child sit in your list of priorities based on where you put your time and energy?

I'm assuming that if you're like me, they are towards the very top in regards to priority but not always where we invest the most time and energy. At this point I'm really looking forward to parenting teenagers and just hoping that my kids continue to enjoy spending time with me.

In conclusion, the book offers great conversation starters if you are looking for ideas.

Sample questions to ask:

What are some of your greatest fears for school next year?
How do you think life will change when you are older?
If you could change something about yourself what would it be?
What should be the expectations in our home?

To all those who are parenting teenagers already, fill me in on the reality of it all! 


How can we prepare ourselves and our children for the upcoming teenage stage? What is most important as we move forward?

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Thankful Thursday

On Monday I went from the high of having a beautiful sunny day and just one baby at home to the low of Gary calling me to say that Koen got sick in the van on the way home from school. After almost 12 years of this parenting thing, I am so tired of illness and being quarantined etc. We leave on holidays soon and we want to be healthy for that. I have done the puking on the plane thing way too many times (not me, my kids and Gary–on the way home from Thailand AND Disney World AND on the Carribean cruise). My spring allergies are out of this world right now even with nasal rinses and Reactine. So, now that my complaining out of this way, here we go...

This week I am thankful for:

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursday

Last week I felt like I was stressed about life. We still don't know what to do with the "big question" (how long do we continue being a foster family) but will just take it day by day and continue to love on our Baby Girl until she leaves our home. In regards to work, I will keep subbing one day a week (hopefully more next year!). We have a trip to look forward to so that is always uplifting. The weather hasn't been terrible so that helps too. As usual I'm about to practice some gratitude, are you ready?

This week I am thankful for:

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

The Problem With Ranking Our Pain and Struggles

Empathy is the ability to understand the feelings of someone else by sharing in it – actually putting yourself in their shoes. It is very different from sympathy which is feeling sorry for someone and therefore creating disconnection. A newborn has the capacity to be empathetic but it needs to develop it through experience and being taught. Have you considered how empathetic you are?

Have you ever thought about your lack of empathy in certain situations? 

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Thankful Thursday

If you are new here, every week I reflect on ten things that I am thankful for. These are personal posts and I do appreciate everyone who takes the time to read. I hope it allows YOU some time to think on what you are thankful for. Gratitude really needs to be practiced and my parents were gifted in this area and passed it on to me.

This week I am thankful for:

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

When Someone Calls Your Child a Hurtful Name

Have you ever had someone say something mean to you? What about to your child? I used to think I would give that person a piece of my mind but my thoughts have changed on this – I approach it a little more gently and try to see both sides. I am not saying verbal attacks are okay, because they are not, and if an adult ever said something harmful to a child I would be all over it with that power imbalance. Harsh words need to be recognized and dealt with, however, there are several reasons why it occurs and knowing them could help us when we approach that situation. Here are four examples that I am familiar with...

Monday, February 26, 2018

How Parenting a Child From Hard Places Looks Different

I hardly feel like I'm qualified to speak about this but as a foster parent who has cared for five different children from hard places I have some insight to pass along. I also have a minor in psychology if that increases my credibility in your eyes at all (insert winky face emoji).  How will this information on attachment help you? Well, knowing what some people go through allows you to understand the world a little better and develop more empathy. Also, who knows what your future will look like – maybe you will have a connection with someone who had a difficult childhood.

What might it look like to help support and nurture a child who has suffered neglect and trauma?

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Three Simple Meals Using One Rotisserie Chicken

Several weeks ago I was overwhelmed with the number of kids we had and the schedule we currently juggle. I knew I had to meal plan better and push aside the notion that everything had to be from scratch. We had purchased 1/4 of a cow this fall and were a little beefed out – we needed some variety of the chicken nature. Here are three super simple meals which are healthy-ish, made in under twenty minutes and nice on the wallet too. How do I do it? It all starts with one rottiserie chicken that can be used to make two to three meals depending on the number of people in the family. Great savings, right?!

Three simple and affordable chicken recipes

Thankful Thursday

The key to experiencing joy is practicing gratitude. In Brene Brown's book Braving the Wilderness she says, "When you are grateful for what you have, I know you understand the magnitude of what I have lost". You appreciate your mom? That makes me feel good because I don't have that. I am thankful for a great childhood because I know so many don't get to experience that. Eugene Cho says in Overrated that contentment comes from generosity and gratitude. What are you thankful for today?

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursday

Everyone goes through busy/tough stages and right now we are in the last two weeks of a wilder time. Gary is finishing up coaching basketball and then I will have my other driver back home. As much as basketball season is hard for us, it is important to him and so we make it work and I want to support him in that. Just because something is hard doesn't mean we need to hear "Maybe he shouldn't do it" – I wrote about that here. So without further ado...

This week I am thankful for:

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

What We Need to Hear When Life Is Hard

When life gets tough we hope that our family and friends will be there for us. I know when I lost my mom I appreciated all the support through meals and kind words; it is often easier to know how to support a grieving friend than someone whose life has been made difficult through an intentional choice. Let me explain.

What we need to hear when life is hard

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursday

We attended the funeral of Gary's grandma and I learned there that her motto was "In everything give thanks" and I think that really is behind what I am doing here, too. I'm not saying that life is one big party and I need to be thankful for every junky thing that happens BUT learning to look for the little items of gratefulness in each day does help my mental health. So, as per usual, here I am practicing my gratitude. Today I am thankful for:

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

How I Tripled My Pageviews in Two Months

{To those of you who come here normally for parenting, adventure or marriage posts, this piece is different and is aimed at those who have websites and are looking to increase their views}

Are you stuck at the same number of unique monthly views no matter how many times you post new content or what time of day you share it to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram? I have been blogging purposefully and faithfully over the last four years usually two to three times a week. I realized that I had a lot of content that was just being posted on my Facebook page and then lost forever in the world wide web.

 How could I get more people to see the hard work that I put into writing and photography?

How can you increase your blog's monthly pageviews without having to writing new content? Using Pinterest wisely is the best way and here are eight simple tips.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

I Just Want to Be a Grandma

When asked what goals I hope to achieve in life, career and travel are not at the top of the list – and I love my travelling. What do I want more than anything when I look to the future? To be a grandma. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I am in any rush and I don't even love the baby stage and all that comes with it. I want to be a grandma because that means that I will be alive whenever (if ever) my kids have children of their own. I will make it to my 50's and hopefully through to my 80's but I'll take 70's if I "have to".

Photo of mom with three kids

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Thankful Thursday

Oh boy. I sort of feel like venting about how unfun our lives are right now. Can I do that first before I get to the good stuff? I live for adventure and time alone and those two are just not happening right now. Life is extremely busy when Gary is coaching (just means I get to do all the driving) and throw in a couple of babies (we have a foster baby plus daycare 1-year-old three days a week) plus all the appointments and visits and I'm a diaper-changing taxi driver. So so boring. This usually happens every December to March and once I hit Spring Break life is good! Last year we went on the most amazing Caribbean cruise and this year we are going to Arizona so I am very excited about that. Just writing that made me feel better. All right, thank you for letting me vent, on to the good stuff.

This week I am thankful for:

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

What I Want My Kids to Know

{An audio version of this post is here.}

My mom wrote us a letter which we received after she died. I don't have a lot of emails from her as most of our contact was over the phone and therefore those intentional words bring me a lot of peace and a connection to her. I will sometimes say to my husband "If anything happens to me, make sure you remember to..." and it's not that I am pessimistic, I believe I am realistic. My sister has my passwords and Gary knows what I want my funeral to look like. Although my children have an online journal of sorts here, these are some words that I would want them to know and remember.

Exploring Bear's Hump and Waterton National Park

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Four Sites to Follow if You Have a Toddler

Being a biological mom to three and a foster mom to five we have gone through this toddler stage a time or two (or eight). There are many great resources if you are looking for snack ideas or simple activities and here are some of my favourites to follow if you have young kids:

If you are looking for ideas for healthy snacks, educational yet fun activities or just a good laugh, here are some great resources.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursday

I am feeling so grateful these days. I'm not entirely sure why as not a lot has changed but I'll take it! I am generally a positive person but do get weighed down by the busy schedules and lack of "me time" these days so maybe even just having two hours to myself on Monday during the day was all I needed!

Each week I write down ten things that I am thankful for and I would encourage you to embrace this practice as well as gratitude needs to be practiced. This week I am thankful for:

Sunday, January 21, 2018

What I'm Looking Forward to On Netflix This Month

The wonderful world of Netflix always has something to offer for each and every person – I seriously can't keep up! I enjoy asking what people are watching and adding it to my list. There is always a series to look forward to with new seasons coming out or new shows all together. What new releases are intriguing to me? 

Well, did your kids love the Trolls movie? Mine sure did! Nya is going to LOVE that there is a new series that started January 19th called Trolls: The Beat Goes On. It follows the adventures of Poppy, Branch and all the other Trolls characters and just continues where the movie left off!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A Quick Comparison Between a DSLR and iPhone 7+

When it was time for me to upgrade my phone I asked around for the advice. Many people talked about how amazing the cameras were on the newer phones and I ended up going with the iPhone 7+. I am someone who really values quality photos and generally carries my DSLR with me if we are going on an outing – it's a Canon 5D Mark III which is a pretty decent one. I use my camera almost every single day at home as well. I was curious whether I would be able to leave my DSLR behind more frequently and solely use my iPhone 7+ to capture images and video.

I realize this is not a fair comparison.

The iPhone 7+ has a 12 megapixel camera (7 megapixels for selfie mode) and my Canon 5D has a 20 megapixel one but let me just share a few pros and cons of the iPhone 7+ in comparison.

How do the new cameras on the iPhone 7+ compare to a DSLR? Is the portrait mode worth it?

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Are Bento Boxes Worth the Investment?

Do school lunches stress you out? I used to dread it. While it's not at the top of my list of fun things to do it is definitely more enjoyable these days. Yes, I enjoy making school lunches. What do I give 100% of the credit to? Bento boxes.

I was very skeptical making my bento box purchase.

Would it hold enough food for my fast-growing boys? Would the liquids make everything soggy when it was tossed around in their backpacks? Would my kids make a huge mess trying to get it open? Is it actually worth all that money?

Bento boxes can be very expensive. Are they worth it? Are lunches easier to make? Is there less waste? Are they actually spill proof?

Friday, January 12, 2018

Being a Working Parent and Letting Go of the Guilt

One of the trickiest pieces of parenting that I did not anticipate was how working would fit into it. Would I have to work? Would I want to? How would it affect my kids? Could we live on one income if I didn't? And the big one: Who would take care of my children? Since having children eleven years ago I have taken a maternity leave, worked outside the home and worked from home with a photography business. Do I have it all figured out? Almost. Maybe. I asked my friend Melissa about her working parent journey and if you don't have time to read it all, skim to the end where she talks about regrets and guilt. Do it. 

A big thanks to Melissa for sharing her wisdom on the working parent balance.

Being a working parent–how do you know if you have to or want to go back to work? How do you deal with the guilt that can come with it?


Thursday, January 11, 2018

Thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursday

Hey friends! I was nervous about this week being transitional and rightfully so! With baby (and her appointments and visits), my three other kids' schedules (school, hockey, swimming and basketball) and Gary teaching and coaching two basketball teams, there's a whole lot of communication needed for who is driving where and when – not a lot of room for last minute changes! Throw in an extra 1-year-old three days a week and my down time is now pretty much gone. This is all good stuff, just busy. So, what am I thankful for today?

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Why I Can't Let You Help with the Laundry

If you would like to listen to the audio version, click hereSorry I'm speaking so quickly in it, I was trying to do it with four kids running around and had to get it done before someone screamed. Would you ever listen to the audio version or no?

The other day I had a friend at our home babysitting our youngest so we could hit up the mountain with the big kids. Baby would be napping for a significant portion so my generous friend asked what she could do to help out around the house. I said sweeping would be great and she suggested folding laundry. My brain went into alert mode. I quickly said there was none (there really wasn't) and I tried to get the vision of someone else touching my laundry out of my mind. So many things could go wrong – piles mixed up, clothes put away in the wrong drawers, people touching my underwear?! Am I a bit extreme? Perhaps. I do think we all have one thing (at least) that we don't want someone helping with in our home, am I right?

Why I can't let you help with the laundry

Friday, January 05, 2018

What I've Learned About Life as a Foster Parent

We have had five foster children in our home over the past three years and although we are still somewhat new in this journey, there is always a lot of learning that happens quickly! From a one month stay up to two years, each child has been here for different reasons in regards to their home lives and experiences. However, here are ten things I can tell you about what's it's like as a foster parent in almost every case.

"Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you."– Mother Teresa

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursday

Oh my goodness, life has been such a different kind of busy in just a "keeping the house running" kind of way aka boring stuff. Meetings, phone calls, emails, paperwork, party prepping for Koen...not my favourite stuff. I'm looking forward to routine which we will hopefully get back into in a few weeks. The first week back to school will not be my favourite with the adjustment of back to school, basketball and having two babies here (I'm doing some daycare) etc–all good stuff just need to figure out who is driving which kid when and where. What am I actually thankful for this week?

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

A Look Into What It's Like to Parent Teenagers

I often feel like I'm in the sweet spot of parenting with kids ages five to eleven. They are all potty trained, sleeping through the night, can get their own food, I have eyes on them most of the time and they go to bed without too much is good! I know what kind of teenager I was (responsible with an attitude and a bit of a wild side) so I'm slightly terrified of this upcoming stage of parenting. I asked my friend Melissa who is the mother of four, with two being teenagers, some of her thoughts on this stage. Here she has given us a look into what it's like to parent teenagers. Are you ready?

Are you a parent of a preteen? Curious what the next stage – parenting teenagers – might look like?