2017 Garden Finale (almost)

I seriously sucked at updating the garden posts this year! I just looked back to find my last garden post – August 20 – seriously?! That’s terrible but since today is Nov 1 I figured I better do one last recap to finish it off, be prepared for a picture heavy long post!  We do still have tomatoes in the greenhouse but only because I’ve been far too lazy to get out and harvest the plants and now the weather is changing to negative temperatures daily.  Our yard is also a disaster – as is the case most years, honestly I think by the time October hits I’ve been in garden mode for so long that I find it hard to finish strong.  Though this year is much better than last year in that regard! Who knows, maybe I’ll get a burst of energy and inspiration and just get it done this week.

The end of August was pretty good for the garden.  I harvested the onions, braided them and hung them to dry.  They weren’t great onions – small and lots of blemishes, there was a lot of them but they only lasted a few weeks.  We started to get more and more ripe tomatoes and I had the idea to freeze them separated into their varieties.  That worked well for a bit but eventually I gave up that idea and just picked them all together.

September was the end of the garden and the beginning of canning season and it was busy! We harvested everything but the greenhouse.  Our tomato harvest is up over 200 lbs and we are still getting about 7-8 lbs every 4-5 days from the greenhouse.  I’ll do a separate post once I clear the greenhouse out with the harvest totals and my garden takeaways this year.  On top of what we harvested from our garden we also went and picked well over 100 lbs of crabapples – of which I probably only preserved half of because I couldn’t get to them fast enough and they spoiled.  I made unsweetened and sweetened apple sauce, apple juice concentrate and am in the process of making apple cider vinegar.  September was also when the frost started coming and instead of picking everything when it started I decided to cover everything for several nights.  In the end I’m not sure how much of a difference that made but I didn’t mind doing it and I knew that there was going to be more good weather.

Last but not least – October! This is really all tomatoes with a pepper thrown in for good measure from the greenhouse.

That concludes the 2017 garden year! It wasn’t what I expected or hoped for but I’m satisfied with how it turned out anyways.  Always lots of lessons learned and I’m going to do a bit of reflecting on that in a couple (or few) weeks once I’ve fully reached hibernation mode!

 

Becoming Oily


I’ve been wanting to start writing a lot more about my journey with essential oils – why I love them, how I got started, and how we are using them.  As always I don’t really write unless I get a spark of inspiration and today that inspiration is coming from my husband jumping on my oily band wagon! So before the inspiration fades I’m going to just hammer out a post in true “Ashley” fashion.

I’ve been using essential oils for about 3.5 years now – ever since Ezekiel was a baby.  I’ve written before about how I really started to focus on wellness when he was a baby.  I’ve been back and forth on this wellness journey – one step forward a couple back, two steps forward one back and it goes on and on.  I’ve found beauty in this journey and I have no shame about my set backs because each one has taught me something new.  So anyways, when Ezekiel was a baby I ordered a starter kit from Young Living.  I chose Young Living after researching other companies and realizing that their Seed to Seal process was and is far superior to any other company out there.  I guess the gardener/farmer in me just really resonates with planting a seed, growing that seed and preserving the amazing product that comes from that, but I don’t think you need to be a farmer or gardener to appreciate knowing EXACTLY where the product is coming from and how it got there.

After receiving my starter kit I basically only used my oils for diffusing in replacement of candles as well as for all my own cleaning products.  I didn’t dive any deeper into the science of the oils or how they could really support our bodies and our health.  My main purpose in using them was to eliminate some toxins in our home, to have cleaning products that I could use while my small son could be right beside me helping and I wasn’t worried about him putting anything in his mouth or touching the products.

Fast forward to this past year, and specifically the last few months and I’ve been diving deep into the health portion of essential oils and I am BLOWN AWAY at just how incredible these little bottles are and how they are changing our lives.  I’m not going to share all of the ways here right now – that post would be far too long.  Here’s the thing: there is actual science behind these oils.  They may not be researched much in western medicine (but we are getting there!) but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t true science in the oils.  I used to think they were a bit “hokey” but since starting to learn the actual science I’m 100% a believer in these oils.  The same science that applies to any drug also applies to oils but oils are FAR superior!

Please don’t get me wrong – I am in no way saying we should all ditch the drugs we are on and use only essential oils.  I am currently taking two prescription medications and I will not be replacing those with essential oils but I WILL be supporting my body and all it’s systems with essential oils especially my immune system.  My husband is hoping to reduce the amount of prescription drugs he is taking by starting to eat healthier and use essential oils to support his body as well because the drugs he is currently taking definitely can be reduced by lifestyle changes.

So don’t think that just because I’m a bit more crunchy than before that I’m swearing off western medicine – not true and I don’t think that will ever be true of me.  What I am saying is that the less toxins and man made and manufactured things we put into our bodies the healthier we will be.  I’m so excited to be on this journey and the more changes I see in myself and my family the more I want to share!

If you have ANY questions at all PLEASE connect with me, I have so much more to share and I’ll be doing that on the blog from time to time but I really love a good one on one chat!

You can find me on Facebook or Instagram (m_l_ashley) or E-mail me at joyofsimplicityblog@gmail.com

Are you currently an oil user? Have they changed your life like they have changed mine??

Garden Update July 8,2017

I’d really love to make these updates more regulated – like say – make an update every Sunday.  Yet this time in my life and motherhood journey I’m learning to be ok with “good enough” for most things.  So I take pictures regularly (confession: currently I have more garden pictures on my phone than kiddo pictures) and when I have some time to sit on my phone (and not scroll Instagram) I’ll write out a post.  Right now my baby needs some momma snuggles while sleeping so I have Jessica Jones on Netflix (my husband and I have recently become obsessed with all the Netflix original Marvel shows) and a post to write.

Since I last wrote I’ve actually gotten quite a lot accomplished in the garden.  I have all the tomatoes potted up, the tomatoes in the garden are pruned, supported and fertilized.  I harvested A LOT of greens and we’ve been enjoying salads daily.  The garden is growing amazingly, the wildflowers are blooming more and more each day, the herbs are coming along well, the tomatoes are mostly all flowering and many have tomatoes, and the peppers are finally starting to perk up and we already have a few growing. 

This next week there’s a couple “have to” items on my list: hang up a shade cloth in the greenhouse and pot up the rest of the peppers.  Along with those two things I’m going to try and work through the rest of the potted tomatoes – prune them, stake them and fertilize them.  Lots and lots to do around here! 

So here’s the last while in pictures:

Now, here’s the garden today:

On Doing “It All”

I get a lot of comments about how I look like I’m able to do it all, how I’m able to get so much accomplished, how I can keep my house so clean.  I get so many comments that sometimes I start to feel bad.  If you go on Instagram and browse through some feeds of mothers, a common theme will be “keeping it honest” and making sure that everyone knows you are not perfect.  Then you get pictures of piled high laundry, toys everywhere, dishes in the sink with a caption about how you should leave it all and just play with your kids.  Instead of relieve me of need to clean it just makes me feel guilty for needing to clean instead of play.  I chose the word “need” intentionally because friends, if I don’t clean and keep my house clean then I am a moody mess of a mom and definitely no fun to play with.

Even as “clean” as my house looks there are a lot of things that are filthy! I’m really good at keeping my house tidy and orderly, keeping the floors clean and the bathrooms scrubbed.  I’m really really not good at things like cleaning windows, baseboards or walls.  So while it may look like I accomplish it all let me assure you that for every one thing I do accomplish there is a list of 5 that I don’t.

Yesterday morning I woke up later than normal but with a lot of motivation to get my house spotless and get a lot of my spring cleaning list completed (prime example of my “list of 5”).  Sunday I spent the day relaxing and honestly doing nothing.  My husband even made me supper and brought it to me in bed.  Due to my “day off” I neglected a lot of my daily rituals that make me sane and keep my house looking presentable.  I went to bed aware that my house was a “disaster” but vowing to get it cleaned up today.  Yet when I went downstairs this morning I was overwhelmed with just how much there was to do and how much I wanted to accomplish.  I quickly realized that my expectations of the day were unrealistic, but it took me a few hours to really let go of those expectations.  During those few hours I was annoyed more than I was joyful, I was overwhelmed and anxious about the state of my house and about the gardening that wasn’t getting done and supper that I hadn’t planned or thought of and preschool for Ezekiel that I haven’t started and the list goes on and on and on.  On top of that Eden’s reflux flared up pretty bad and she was irritable, Ezekiel was going on and on about going for a walk and I was quickly losing patience.  My expectations were driving me crazy and so while I was feeding and rocking Eden I closed my eyes took some deep breaths and released them.  I adjusted my expectations and I let go of my need to “get it all done.”  I became OK with getting done what I could and letting go of the rest.

Once I did that it was incredible what I was actually able to accomplish and how joyful I became.  At the end of the day I couldn’t believe how I was able to turn my day from a very bad day going worse to a great day – it’s usually the other way around.  The only reason that happened is because I focused on one task at a time instead of focussing on my never ending list of tasks.  I was even able to check off a few items on my spring cleaning list.  As I went about the day I reflected on why it is that I am usually able to keep my house clean and organized and why I’m not usually overwhelmed by it – it came down to 2 words:

Discipline and routine.

That’s really it.

Every day I have a variation of a routine I follow, it’s constantly being tweaked to fit our lives better and to try and fit more into a day (think walks, park play, craft time etc.) and it’s revised daily to fit the needs of a baby with an awry routine but it works.  The only reason it works? Discipline.  There are a lot of days I just don’t want to put the dishes away, water the plants, pick up after my family, do the laundry, sweep the floors or tidy the things that have been left laying around but if I don’t I know the next day is going to be an uphill battle for me mentally.  This is how I keep my mental stability intact always but especially in my postpartum days.  A screaming baby is much less irritating to me when I’m walking around my house trying to calm her if my house is clean and orderly.  An inquisitive and whining 3 yr old is a little more tolerable if I’m not staring at a disaster that I’m trying to clean up.  My routines and disciplines didn’t happen overnight though, they were slowly incorporated into my day.

So as a response to those wondering why it looks like I’m always getting things accomplished I thought I’d give you a glimpse into my routine. Maybe you can pick up a habit or two and overtime feel like you aren’t drowning in trying to get your house to a tidy state, or maybe you are truly ok with leaving it the way it is – that is JUST FINE.  Honestly – you do you, but I have to do me for the sake of my mental health and relationships with my family.

MORNINGS

I’ve always been an early to rise early to bed girl so my mornings are a huge part of my sanity.  I despise waking up with everyone else and have to work really hard to be in a good mood if it happens.  Thankfully Eden has been sleeping long stretches (6-8 hours) at night and will wake up in the early morning for a feed before going back to sleep for another 3-4 hours, this is my wake up call.  I change her and feed her and then shower and get ready for the day after putting her back to bed.  It’s never a specific time but if she wakes up anytime later than 4:30 then that’s when I get up.  I have found it much harder to shower and get ready if I don’t do this.

After that I go down and get coffee, take my medications, put away any lingering dishes, wipe off counters, tidy anything that wasn’t tidied the night before.  I also do a quick check on the plants and water them if they need it.  I prepare breakfast for Ezekiel and I and have it on the table for when he wakes up – it varies from eggs to cold cereal depending on what I feel like.  He’s not a picky eater so this works for us and he gets very very hangry if he doesn’t eat.  I’ve found that if I don’t have it prepared we both get distracted and it gets very difficult to get him to eat anything.  Then after doing all that I sit down with my coffee and usually browse social media (or write a blog!) until one of the kids wakes up.

After everyone wakes up honestly the day takes shape as it goes.  I usually have some sort of plan for the mornings – whether that be a coffee/playdate, the zoo, cleaning the house, a long walk but aside from cleaning day I try to get out in the morning.  Ezekiel is an outdoors kid, and he’s also a kid that wants me to be with him and play with him always so if I don’t do something fun for him in the morning he gets super annoying with asking to do something and wanting me by his side always.  Eden is still able to go with the flow and doesn’t have a set schedule so for now we use Ezekiel’s schedule to plan the day.  Eventually two mornings a week will be dedicated to school for Ezekiel – that will start in the next couple weeks.

Lunch is around 12:30 and this is when I am able to do a tidy of the house and kitchen in particular because I eat a lot faster than Ezekiel.  While he’s finishing his meal I’m checking off tasks (sweep the kitchen, fold the laundry, start supper prep, do the dishes etc.), I get as many as I can off the list.  Then we all go upstairs and Ezekiel gets to watch one Netflix episode – if Eden is content this is another time I can do a quick tidy upstairs which usually includes putting away clothes, picking up whatever has been left behind in our various trips up and down the stairs.

Nap time is usually 1:30 or 2 and thankfully it’s almost always nap time for them both so I get a bit of a break.  I always take 30-60 minutes just to sit, sometimes I read, sometimes I watch a TV episode but it’s usually with a coffee in hand.  After taking time for myself I start to get supper prepped – marinate meat, chop veggies etc. so it’s easy to actually prepare when it’s supper time.  If I’m lucky I’ll get to do a “one off task” like mow the grass or bake some muffins and I base that on what I feel like doing that day or what desperately needs to get done.

Ezekiel will wake up around 4:30 or 5 and I make sure he has a small snack and we usually check in on the greenhouse at this time.  I sit outside with him if Eden is sleeping and it’s nice out, or we’ll read books.

Supper is around 6 or 6:30, we eat, clean up, tidy the downstairs and head upstairs for bedtime.  Ezekiel will watch one more Netflix show, both the kids will have a bath, we get them dressed, give meds and put us all to sleep.

Throughout the day I do a lot of 30 second tidies and that’s the key to my house being kept clean.  I should mention that Ezekiel is always responsible for his own tidying so he does a lot of 30 second tidies as well.  I also always do at least one load of laundry a day – it keeps it manageable and less intimidating, it also ensures that the clothes get washed and put away instead of just washed.

What I struggle with and what I want to start incorporating into my day is the spring cleaning tasks.  I usually look at it as a huge thing that needs a tonne of time to get done and I just don’t have big chunks of time anymore.  I can’t take a day or two and just dedicate it to spring cleaning because I have two small children who would not cooperate with that plan – as I learned yesterday.  If I start to add a task or two to my days my list would be done in no time and I wouldn’t be so overwhelmed by it and then if I kept up with it – like spot cleaning walls, wiping down baseboards every few months etc. it wouldn’t have to be “spring cleaning” because those things would just be done always.  So that’s what I’m going to do – start adding one or two tasks a day and hopefully that motivates me to keep those things cleaner than they are now.

Whew – that was a long post but honestly this is how I “do it.”  I’m so far from perfect though guys, there are definitely days that nothing gets done and that breakfast, lunch and supper are a variation of baking, fruit and veggies and that’s OK.  We need grace daily to get through the day and we need to remember that we are human – imperfect and flawed. No one will ever accomplish it all, where they excel in one thing they’ll lack in another.  So instead of focusing on where you lack focus on where you excel and just let go of the rest.  Your sanity will thank you.

 

March – One Little Word Update and Lent

I’m entering March in amazement that I don’t have a baby to cuddle yet.  I’m at peace though, although I’m ready for this babe to come I’m ok with whenever that is going to happen.

With February gone (and boy did it fly by!) I thought I’d do a bit of an update on my one little word and what I’m doing this month to try and rest.  February I tried to incorporate meditation to my daily routine as well as a spending freeze.  Neither went perfectly but as I  was reflecting I realized that none of this is to achieve perfection, but to gradually better myself.  I did meditate over half of the days but never found a perfect routine – I’ll continue to meditate and try to get a routine going that works.  Of course with adding a newborn to the mix I’m sure this is going to take a while!  The spending freeze also was not a complete success (again) but much better than January – an improvement!  More than anything it made me very aware of what I was spending and where it was coming from.  My goal this year is to become and stay credit card debt free.  In a few days I’ll be able to officially say I have no credit card debt.  The trick is to keep it that way.  Sounds so simple but with a household on one very small (and about to get a lot smaller) income sometimes there are things that just have to be bought and the only way to do that is with a credit card.  The real challenge is deciphering wants vs needs and making sure that if I do need to charge something to the credit card that it is 100% needed.

Now for March.

I thought it was fitting that Lent this year started on March 1.  When I realized that I thought I could try and combine both my goal of resting more and of giving something up for Lent.  One year for Lent I completely gave up social media.  I thought about doing that again this year but then I realized that I wanted to do something that was actually long lasting beyond just Lent.  So I came up with limiting my phone time.  It’s a conversation I see a lot around social media and amongst my friends – the amount of time spent scrolling and looking through various apps on our phones has gotten out of control.  For me it’s really sky rocketed since being home on modified rest.  I’m often bored and to try and combat that I just look at my phone.  It was getting to the point that I would have to charge my phone twice a day just because I was spending so much time scrolling for no reason.  It was distracting me from really engaging with Ezekiel, it was making me procrastinate on things that are actually productive, it was numbing my mind.  When I was out standing in lines or waiting for appointments I’d scroll and scroll and scroll.  I had stopped engaging with the world around me as I stared at my phone engaging in the cyber world.

As I was thinking about this I tried to come up with something that would be sacrificial, encourage rest and realistic for long term.  I don’t want this to just be 40 days and then back to mindlessly scrolling my phone.  So I came up with limiting my scrolling to 3-15 minute sessions.  The first being after waking up, while drinking my morning coffee (if Ezekiel is still asleep).  The important part here is that it is not while I’m laying in bed right after waking up, it’s at least 30 minutes after waking up, giving myself time to think about my day and set my intentions for my day.  The second being in the afternoon while Ezekiel is either napping or having his quiet time.  The third being after putting Ezekiel to bed but at least 1 hour before going to sleep to ensure that my phone is not the last thing I’m looking at during the day.  Notice that all of my designated “scroll” times are when Ezekiel is not around to see it.  I don’t want him to grow up thinking that mommies phone is more important than what he is saying or doing.

I’m on day 2 of implementing this and it is actually way easier than I thought it would be and has already had such a positive impact on my day.  Yesterday I was at a long appointment that had several minutes of waiting at various points and instead of scrolling my phone I read a book.  Then I had several errands to run and while waiting in those lines I looked around and engaged with what was happening.  Again, while at home and not doing anything instead of pick up my phone to scroll, I read a book, baked an apple loaf, knitted, made supper.   It felt freeing and when I was scrolling it made me more aware of the things I was actually interested in seeing and what is important to me – there were certain people that I’ve been praying for specifically whose updates I wanted to see and so I scrolled quickly through photos and accounts that weren’t important to me to find the ones that were.  This was instinctive but was eye opening.   Today I am at home doing not much of anything because I am so exhausted from what I did yesterday, it’s a bit harder to not just pick up my phone but again it’s been so rewarding.  Right now my phone is still quite close to me at all times because I have to use the contraction counting app on it but that’s the only app I open outside of my designated “scroll” times.   I have the sound on in case I have a call or text message (which are NOT off limits during this) and then I mute it overnight.

I’m looking forward to seeing how much more impactful this is going to be in my life!

36 Weeks!


If you were to ask anybody – friends, family, all the medical professionals involved in my care – I doubt you would find anyone who could have imagined I would make it this far in my pregnancy.  It truly is such a blessing!

This pregnancy has been the very opposite of easy, but every single step of the way from conception to today has been miraculous.  It’s this fact that has carried me through without mentally hating every single second.  My body has fought against this pregnancy in a lot of ways but I owe it so much for protecting this miracle baby of ours.  I am at ease now, knowing that I will most likely be able to take my baby home when I leave the hospital instead of leaving it there to be cared for by doctors and nurses.

Despite all my gratefulness, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t ready for it to be over.

I am definitely ready.

The last few weeks have been difficult.  My pre-term symptoms are increasing – most days I’ll have about 50 contractions and some sort of cramping along with it.  Recently the contractions have increased in intensity and I think my body is preparing itself for the big day (little does it know that all control of getting this baby out is going to be taken away from it!).  Half of the days I have really great mornings – like today I got up and felt pretty good – I baked, did laundry and planted some more seeds for this years garden but by the afternoon I am wiped and beyond exhausted.  The other half of the days I feel awful for most of the day and night.  The exhaustion is similar to my first trimester where I just can’t fathom getting up and doing anything productive.   So most days I spend at least half of it in bed resting.  I’m doing a lot more than I was before 34 weeks.  I now lift my toddler if I need to, I carry the laundry up and down the stairs, I walk the grocery store instead of using their electric wheelchairs, I cook supper and do a lot of baking.  It’s a start but it’s still not normal life yet.  I can only tolerate a little of each before I need to sit down and rest.  The extra weight paired with the extra relaxin makes my body ache more and more each day.  The baby is uncomfortably low making standing and walking fairly difficult.

So I’m ready for D-Day and I’m no longer doing anything to stop it from coming.  I’m daydreaming and planning for the days ahead when I have a babe in my arms and a toddler by my side.  Some things I’m most looking forward to:

  • Trips to the zoo
  • Mom and tot/babe yoga
  • Walking, walking and more walking
  • Cleaning my house in one day
  • Playground visits
  • Playdates
  • Transitioning all the rooms in the house to accommodate 2 new members
  • Exercising to gain back strength in my body
  • Gardening

There is just so much to look forward to once this babe makes an appearance.  Of course I’m also keeping myself in check and being realistic to the fact that I will be having a c-section and will definitely need to rest for a couple weeks before being able to even begin to transition to some sort of normal.  I think one blessing of being on modified rest, is that it has taught me how to slow down and take it easy when I need to.  It’s broken my “super-woman” mentality and need to prove anything (mostly to myself and no one else).  It’s taught me to know when enough is enough and it’s stopped me from pushing myself farther than I need to.  All these things will come in handy post c-section when I feel the urge to clean my house 7 days after a major surgery.

So, I’m still here and still pregnant, anxiously waiting for a clear sign that it’s go time!

 

One Little Word Check In

As part of my One Little Word (R.E.S.T.) this year I’ve decided to intentionally focus on one thing each month that will help me to dig into resting.  I recognize that this year is going to be full.  With adding two people to our household – one being introduced to Canadian culture for the first time and the other being a newborn who will need a lot of care and attention – it’s bound to be crazy and at times stressful.  So resting is even more important for me this year, it will be absolutely necessary for my health in every way.  My mental, spiritual, and physical health will all need to be nurtured and paid attention to.

January I decided I would do a “spending freeze”and not spend any money beyond groceries, medications and gas.  I wanted to be able to not stress about money and wanted to start the year off with responsible and healthy spending.  Well that was a complete and utter failure.  I brought it on myself by not planning properly.  I didn’t look ahead at the month and anticipate expenses, and so necessary (and super expensive) things like car maintenance came up and because I hadn’t budgeted or anticipated for it I ended up feeling like a failure.  After that I just threw it to the wind but at the same time I always had this nagging in the back of my head.  So instead of completely giving up on my financial goals this year I am picking myself up and trying again in February.  Today I sat down and mapped out a budget that included expenses that I could anticipate.  My knitting obsession was included in the budget so that I didn’t feel like a failure when I know for sure I would give in and just go buy yarn.  I also know that I have a ladies date day with some friends that will cost money so that was included.  Lastly this month is seed starting month and I need a few extra supplies, so I built that in to the budget.  I’m ready to be financially free this year and I am determined to make it work.

Instead of just use my January goal for February I decided to keep on going and also focus on meditation as planned.  This summer I started practicing meditation in the early mornings but once I got pregnant all of that fell to the wayside.  I know that there are so many benefits to meditation and I am looking forward to including it into my prayer life as well.  Mentally I know that I will need an outlet and a coping strategy when things get overwhelming this year.  If this pregnancy goes as predicted that stress is probably going to start soon with a babe born a bit too early (although we are trucking along very well so here’s hoping the predictions are wrong!).  I know that I am going to become obsessive over certain things like pumping enough breastmilk to meet the demands of a growing preemie and getting the house ready for two new people.  On top of that I know I will be stressed about splitting my time between home and the hospital.  I am hoping that being intentional with meditation and learning coping strategies to deal with stress will help me to recognize my stress early and take time to deal with it instead of push it aside.  I rarely feel stressed mentally but I have come to realize that although I don’t feel it mentally I am still stressed and my body eventually manifests the stress in other ways.

I am so looking forward to this year, to being able to have the capacity and time to focus on becoming a happier, healthier me and in turn becoming a happier, healthier wife and mother.