Hobbies are Important

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As I sat and knit while in the hospital on Sunday evening and listened to various podcast episodes I couldn’t help but think how relaxing it was.  I mean I was in the hospital after a preterm labour scare but I was at complete peace as I put my hands to work and distracted my mind.

Then last night I attended a craft night with one of my good friends where we learned how to make watercolour pillow covers.  It was a night of socializing, eating and crafting and after we left we both stated how relaxing it was.  As we sat and painted using our hands and distracting our minds we were relaxed.

Then again today as I sat in my bed counting contractions, knitting and listening to podcasts I felt a joy in what I was doing.  I’ve done very tiny amounts of knit work in the past but have rarely finished anything and certainly have never finished a big project like the blanket I am working on.  I grew up watching my mom do every type of craft imaginable – sewing, needle work, yarn work – seriously you name it she can probably make it.  I always wished I could do those things and I tried several times but just never got into it and then lamented that I wasn’t crafty.  I do a bit of crafting and DIY here and there but I don’t have a dedicated craft “hobby.”  I think the biggest reason that I’ve never been able to really pick up a craft hobby is because I’m a doer and goer – I need to be always doing something productive usually in the form of household tasks and organization.  It’s gotten a lot worse in the last few years since becoming a momma if I’m not doing a productive household task then I feel like I’m wasting my time.  Even reading – a hobby that I used to enjoy immensely – fell to the wayside.  In the evenings I’d be so exhausted that I wouldn’t have any energy to get more tasks completed and so my solution was to just go to bed.  Sometimes I’d watch an episode of a show I enjoy but usually I’d just go to sleep – I’m talking EARLY like 7 or 8 pm.

Friends, this is pathetic!

In the warm months it doesn’t feel so bad because I have my garden as a hobby during the day and so that brings me so much contentment but the evenings are still void of anything.  The thing is that evenings is a time where I could be spending with my husband while our little one is in bed.  We don’t have a TV but he usually will watch Netflix on his computer and I rarely am interested in anything he’s watching so I just go to bed.  Since being on modified rest I’ve realized the importance of having a hobby and I’ve realized that it is NOT wasted time.  There’s something about taking the time to craft something with your hands that is going to be an item for someone you love.  As I knit this baby blanket I dream of the little one that will soon be wrapped up in it and it brings my heart so much joy.  It makes the time spent so worth it, and I know that every time I look at it I’ll remember this time spent resting and willing my body to cooperate.  The memories will be knitted into every stitch and it will be beautiful.

Today I went to a store that sells all things yarn related and as I browsed and gently touched all the yarn I dreamt of the projects I could complete.  I’m so excited to have this hobby and can’t wait to continue.

What about you? Do you have a hobby that you enjoy doing? How do you occupy your evenings when the littles are in bed?

Goals, Thoughts, Wishes

So I’ve shared my “One Little Word” for 2017 already, but I’ve also made a list for myself of some specific things I hope to see in 2017.  I’ve labeled the list “Goals,Thoughts,Wishes” they are 7 things that I’m going to work towards.  They are specific and I really believe they are achievable, two must have things for any goal.  I thought that I would share my list with you all as a way to keep myself accountable.  I know that I won’t nail every single item but I do hope to make some good progress on each item.

So without further ado:

  1. Home Pre-schooling – This is probably my loftiest goal by far but one that I’m really determined to do and try to do well.  Besides adding another wonderful child to our family in 2017 I’m most looking forward to spending the year with Ezekiel.   Some people keep their toddlers in daycare for the social aspect, and some make sure to put them in a pre-school.  I’ve chosen to keep him home for that extra one on one time during home-schooling and to save a substantial amount of money.  I’m currently working on researching and developing a curriculum based on where Ezekiel is at currently and where I think he could be at the end of our year.  I’m cognizant that this will have to be flexible but the important things to me is that we have variety, socialization (outings with friends, library classes etc.) and get outside to explore as much as possible so those will all be worked into our curriculum.  I’m hoping to start by mid-June depending on when this new babe decides to make an appearance so the next two months I’ll be in organization mode to get the curriculum finished up.  I’ll write an updated post before we start and maybe blog our experience as we go, there are sure to be lots of mistakes and a steep learning curve!
  2. Post-Partum Restored Health – Last year my health was so far from where I wanted it to be and although a lot of it wasn’t in my control, there are many things that are in my control.  I will be going gluten free again (this is a recommendation from my GI doctor and he wants me to do it now, so this may start earlier than postpartum).  I’m really looking forward to being home and having the time to focus on food, nutrition and cooking it was a huge highlight from my first maternity leave.  I will also try to be active each day – whether that be walking, yoga, or a home workout – moving my body will AGAIN be a priority.  This will be a struggle in the beginning given that I will be coming off of several weeks of modified rest and many more weeks of not being able to do much other than walk for a few minutes.
  3. Financial Stability and Wellness – This could be one of the bigger struggles coming up.  After 3 years of being a one income household and struggling just to keep up with it I’m ready to take back some control.  I’m researching and hoping to find a way to make some extra income this year to put towards my debt.  Luckily my husband has little to no-debt and is amazing with his money.  It’s my debt and payments that are the problem and so in 2017 he’ll be working and able to contribute to household expenses while I’ll be able to focus on paying down my debt and being smarter with my money.  I’m starting this one off with a bang by making January a “no spend” month.  That means that nothing more than the necessities will be purchased.
  4. House Decor and Maintenance – This one is big! The three years that we have lived in this house there are things that we’ve never done like clean the carpets and furnace ducts – I’m embarrassed to even admit that! I’m also really terrible at deep cleaning, I’m talking light fixtures and baseboards so I’ll be working on a list of tasks that should be completed within the year and splitting that up into 12 months to make it more manageable.  Then there are the wish-list items that may not happen depending on our budget like painting.
  5. Social – Last year we tried monthly dates and I think we only did three months – a terrible attempt.  This year I’m going to try to do this again.  With school, work and now adding another little soul to our family it will be easy to forget that marriage takes work and maintenance.  I want to spend time focusing on us beyond just our kids and responsibilities.  I’m also excited to start up some ladies nights with friends to keep connected and build a community around me.  This is something that I’ve lost over the last couple years and as I sit at home on modified rest it has been so apparent.  I’m a homebody but I also crave community and connection and I’m ready to get back to that.
  6. Family Trip – This may just be a week in the mountains, or maybe it will be a week in another country.  I have no idea but we need a trip away together.  I’m going to be spending a lot of time researching, budgeting and planning it well so that it is something we can afford to do.
  7. Gardening – My garden last year was beyond what I could have imagined but I’m dreaming even bigger this year! I’ll be narrowing down what I plant for what we actually use.  I want to plant even more flowers, get even more tomatoes and peppers harvested, maybe even sell some.  I also want to start the front yard landscaping project – this one may be put on hold or only partly done depending on budget but it’s something we’ve been dreaming of for a couple years and now that the back is more or less complete it’s time to focus on the front.

That’s it! As I wrote it out I began to think maybe this is all too much! Yet one step at a time is what gets you to your goals.  So I’ll be focusing on the small steps that will take me closer to each goal and I’ll be happy with progress whatever that may look like.

Happy New Year friends! Praying it’s the best year yet for you! 

 

One Little Word 2017

Christmas is over and I’m feeling all sorts of emotions over it.  On one hand I’m sad that I don’t have my pretty tree up anymore.  I’m sad that the anticipation and Christmas with a toddler is over.  On the other hand, I love the new year, I love the new start and everything that comes with it.

This year especially we have a new start as our family grows.  Not only are we welcoming a brand new baby, but we will also be welcoming my husbands first son into Canada around the same time.  A short time after that my husband will start to work in the area he’s been studying for the past two years (and another 2-3 years before that he was studying English just so he could get into the program).  So 2017 is going to be a big big year.  I’m not huge into changes – yes I love fresh starts and new beginnings like the New Year, but these big changes and new starts that are coming are a bit over the top for me.  I like routine and predictability.  New borns are easy enough to deal with, beyond exhaustion and the normal newborn challenges you get to pick the routine as a parent to some degree.  You get to decide how that first year will go and from that a routine is eventually formed and it’s usually within your comfort level. Add a full grown child into the mix with their own ideologies, and ways of doing things at the same time as getting used to a newborn and a little bit of anxiety creeps in.  Then add a husband with a whole new routine and the unknown of where or when a job will start and my routined predictable life gets thrown out the window.

When I think of each of these situations on their own, none of them cause me any anxiety.  I can break them down, rationalize and deal with the changes (in my head of course).  If I put them all together into a timeline and how fast they will all happen, I get a little overwhelmed.

2016 was nothing like I had wanted or imagined.  It started with a lofty goal and dream that quickly got brushed to the side due to multiple health issues.  That dream is still on hold and I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever pick it up again.  The health issues that the year started with are still there and not figured out, although they did start to improve slightly in the summer.  Then, enter pregnancy and EVERYTHING that entails this go around and I feel like I spent the year barely surviving while trying to juggle family life and working like crazy to keep our heads above water.  Of course there were a lot of good times and good memories, Ezekiel grew in every way possible and seems to get more and more amazing with each day.  We are beyond elated to have been surprised with a pregnancy and cannot wait to meet this little one (well we can wait until March!).  We had a few little day trips and a couple longer trips that were all fun and worth it.  I discovered just how much I really love growing things and my gardening hobby grew a lot.  So yes 2016 wasn’t easy, but it also wasn’t terrible.

My one little word for 2016 was INTENTIONAL.  If you go back to this post you can read how I broke down that word into how I was envisioning it to work into my life.  When I read through that post again the other day my initial thought was that I had completely failed to work “intentional” into my year.  Yet as I reflect on 2016 I see that I was quite intentional in a few areas.  My health being the first, I finally allowed myself to recognize that something was wrong and I spent the first half of the year at appointments and tests trying to figure them out.  I had started to exercise again more regularly with walking.  I was intentional with my health.  As a mom  I was very intentional with Ezekiel and continue to try to be just as intentional – this one is simple for me, it’s actually just my parenting style.  I was also intentional with gardening and making sure that I was prioritizing my hobby into my life because I realized how much JOY it brought me.   I was intentional with my time off of work, I cut back my working days a lot and made sure that I prioritized time off with family and I allowed myself to not feel guilty about it or anxious about it.  So although my one little word didn’t get worked into my year like I had imagined it was still a year of being intentional.

When I was thinking of what my word would be this year it wasn’t hard to realize where God was guiding me.  December has been spent with scares of pre-term labor and other pregnancy related complications which has landed me on modified rest.  It was and has always been one of my biggest pregnancy related nightmares and here I am on week 4 of rest (with hopefully 10 more weeks to go).  Ironic that the last two years have been spent on high speed just trying to survive and finally I literally have no choice but to stop.  It was a rapid stop, one that almost gives you whiplash.  Once I settled into resting I realized that this is exactly what 2017 needs to be.  Not literally sitting and doing nothing, but making REST a priority in my life.  It will come in many forms and ways and I’m not going predict or theorize how it will happen.  What I will say is that I’m going to be reminding myself often that 2017 is about RESTING.

Have you made resolutions or picked a word for 2017? I’d love to hear them!

Putting Food By 2016

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My biggest gardening adventure this year was to be able to can enough tomatoes to get us through to next years harvest.  I was able to harvest 136 lbs of tomatoes, and the majority of those were processed into tomato sauce and canned into jars.  I did give some away and we ate some of them but mostly I spent A LOT of time in the kitchen processing the tomatoes.  In the picture above you can see the second shelf is full of jars of tomatoes, and we have already used more than 10 jars of tomatoes, that’s a lot of jars!

We chose to only can tomato sauce for a couple of reasons.  First is that it’s just plain easier than blanching and peeling 136 lbs of tomatoes and then dicing them up and packing them in jars.  Second because we aren’t too fussed about the texture of the tomatoes we cook with. With that decision made I experimented with three slightly different ways of making the sauce.

  1. Mill them raw then cook them down.  I did this with probably over half of the tomatoes, and it works well but it wasn’t my favourite.
  2. Cut them up throw them in a pot to cook a bit and soften to make it easier to mill them.  Then mill them and cook it down a bit more.  This was the worst way ever, mainly because I burnt them and now have 7 jars of smoky tomato sauce.  It works well in chilli but otherwise I don’t enjoy the smokiness.
  3. My favourite way is to cut them in half lay them skin side up on cookie sheets and roast them in the oven until the skins are charred.  Next mill them into a sauce, depending on your preference and the types of tomatoes you use you may not need to cook the sauce down at all.  I found this to make a nice, rich, thick tomato sauce and it was the easiest way I found.

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I did some other canning this year as well.  Every year Heritage Park here in Calgary, AB has a Harvest Sale with 100% of the proceeds being donated to the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation.  The produce is often marked down and so it’s a great affordable way to put food by for the winter months and I really love that all my money goes towards charity.  I bought a box of apples and pears that were made into Apple Pear Sauce that my toddler takes in his lunches daily and loves.  I also bought a box of peaches, they weren’t great peaches, in fact I couldn’t eat them as is but I did find an amazing recipe for Honey Peaches on the Food In Jars blog.  The best part is that they don’t need to be peeled (are you sensing a laziness theme here?) and honestly, I am devouring them! I eat them almost daily with plain yogurt and granola.  I also did a few jars of peaches packed in fruit juice but haven’t tried those yet.  The last thing I canned this year (not pictured) are three large jars of pickled beets which I’m excited to dive into.

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It’s been a lot of work to put food into our pantry for the year, but honestly the feeling of providing for my family in this way is amazing.  The tomatoes are obviously my pride and joy and I get happy just looking at that shelf of jars.

Did you do any canning this year? I’d love to hear some new recipes, and if you ever want to try your hand at canning next year I highly recommend that peach recipe!

A Surprising Summer

Wow, it’s been three months since an update! Fall is upon us, the tomatoes are almost all packed away in jars, the greenhouse and gardens are (almost) cleaned out.  I’m cuddling up with tea and fires for most of my evenings yet I’ve been silent on here.

So where has the time gone and where have I been?

Well, right after my last post I found out (to my great surprise) that I was expecting a baby! With that realization quickly came the first trimester woes of feeling all around exhausted and terrible.  I had a huge aversion to anything vegetable related so gardening did not happen and my beautiful garden slowly was neglected to ugliness (however my tomato plants paid me greatly anyways!).  I spent my days, evenings and nights cuddled up with Ezekiel, I did only the necessary things to keep us clothed, fed, and alive.

Then came the second trimester with the terrible pain that makes me go to bed at 7 because I can’t be upright anymore.  I can generally be pretty productive during the day but try to space out my chores and errands with lots and lots of rest.  I’m still working but am now down to 8 hr days only shifts (compared to 12hr day/night shifts), it helps but too many in a row makes for a terrible week of pain.  Other than that I’m actually feeling OK at this point.  I’m more wary and cautious about preterm labor and trying to avoid it.  I’m doing my best to sit and rest when I can.

I have a huge list that keeps growing of things that need to get done before the new babe comes (and before I literally can’t move anymore) – deep clean the house, shampoo the carpets, organize the pantry, clean out the office, plan the big boy room and new nursery, paint the walls that have been driving me nuts for 3 years.  Most of those physical things can actually wait, I doubt I’ll get a lot of it done considering I find it hard to clean the house at this point. But there are other things that I’m starting to get some motivation to do, things that don’t require me to exert physical labor – Finish the last 3 years of photo books is top on that list.  It’s a daunting task at this point, but I have a daunting amount of time on my hands, and I can’t go to sleep at 7 every single night! Tonight I was wide awake but not able to be doing anything productive that required me to be upright and moving around – so getting back to blogging was top on my list!

Anyways, this post isn’t a big specific post about anything, just a general update but look for a full garden breakdown from Aug/Sept coming soon and maybe some pregnancy related posts as well :).

Hope you have all been well and if you planted a garden this year I hope it paid you in great food!

Ciao friends!

Taking Back Control

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I’ve been thinking a lot today about living with a chronic illness and/or chronic pain.  I bet there’s thousands upon thousands of blog posts on this subject but I process best through writing and so I will add my few words to the millions already written.  Grab a coffee with me and keep reading if you’re interested :).

Why this post today?  Well I guess it’s because the last couple days I’ve been struggling more with my energy and so I’ve been wondering why.  I’ve gone through the mental list of possible reasons and in the end I think it’s just what comes with the territory of chronic illness – and you know, that’s OK.  I’ve come to the conclusion that there will always be ups and downs but I really think living well through all of it requires consistency, persistence, and a whole lot of grace.

I’m not quiet about my medical conditions/history, in fact I’m probably annoyingly verbal about it.  Yet if you were to meet me and spend a week with me and if I were not to verbalize anything you would never know that I have any sort of condition (granted you could probably pick up on the twisted back if you were really paying attention).  In fact I would have never ever given myself a label of “chronic” anything up until a couple years ago.  I suppose I never labelled anything until I was trying to conceive and was advised to stop taking my NSAID’s to boost my chances.  In that moment I began to understand that I did in fact suffer from chronic pain and had done so for so many years that I can’t remember a time without pain.  Despite the chronic aspect of my pain I continued to live well and it really didn’t impact much of anything in my life.

Fast forward to the last 7 months.

I was just coming out of my full time working momma fog and began to realize that I had been feeling significantly unwell.  I’ve already wrote about my health struggles but it’s only recently that I have accepted that this too could very well be a chronic thing.  The thing is, it’s only the last 4-6 weeks that I’ve began feeling well again despite my health issues.  I feel as though I’m finally rising above the fog and now that every serious scenario has been ruled out I can finally begin to gain control again.  See, in the midst of all of this I had allowed myself to spiral downwards in a number of ways.  I felt out of control of my health as a whole and because of that I began to feel out of control of other areas of my life – spiritually, mentally, and financially.  I am so thankful for amazing physicians who allowed me to find solutions – even if they are just helping symptoms at this point – so that I could be lifted out of the dizzy fog and back onto solid ground.

A couple weeks ago I made the conscious decision that I was now going to gain back some control.  Obviously I know I’m never fully in control but there are always steps we can take to live well and live responsibly in a way that benefits our own lives and therefore the lives around us.  The hard part is realizing that it is our responsibility to live well, and living well always takes a certain amount of effort and consistency.  I know from past experience that it is very possible to live well despite chronic illness and pain and I am determined to get back to that point.  Here’s what I’m doing to get to that point:

Physical

  • Daily walking – this means getting up as early as 0445 in the morning and walking for a minimum of 30 minutes as well as getting out for walks during the day.  There’s not a lot I can do safely in terms of exercise but walking is easy, cheap and safe.
  • 3x/week body weight exercise – a lot of the time this is a very short amount of time and crammed into the daily routines of life.  It looks like dance parties with my son incorporating squats, planks, push-ups etc, or cooking supper while doing squats, or planking during Ezekiel’s bath time.
  • Eating fresh and eating green – having the garden has helped a lot with this part and I’m not being strict yet because I know it will be a natural evolution of life but I am trying to be far more conscious of what goes into my mouth.

Mental

  • Podcasts – I’ve been listening to a lot of health and wellness podcasts that have greatly enhanced my mental health.  I love learning but rarely have time to do new learning so this is something that’s easy to do while walking and driving.
  • Sleep – I’ve been getting to bed at a consistent time and waking at a consistent time.
  • Walking and exercise also contributes to mental wellness.

Spiritual

  • Meditation – I’ve committed to a daily meditation using an app.  I don’t outline a specific amount of time or what I want to accomplish – all of that will come with practice.

Financially

  • Keep the credit cards at home – I’ve taken them out of my wallet and put them away in a drawer.  I don’t do much online shopping so that’s not even a temptation for me but I consistently have been using my credit cards when I run out of cash and then paying them off with my pay cheques instead of just keeping myself accountable to the budget.  I’m determined to be credit card debt free in the next few months so that I can focus on paying student loans/debts.  The easiest way to get rid of the temptation is to remove it all together.
  • Strict grocery budget – I spend a ridiculous amount of money on food.  So I’ve instituted a strict grocery budget and I’m following it by using a calculator in the grocery store which helps me to say “no” to those extra items that I don’t really need but think I want.  When I go to the farmers market I take only the amount of cash left over from the grocery store and leave my wallet in the car so I’m not tempted to by anything extra.
  • Drink drip coffee – this is huge for me guys.  This was the hardest one to come to terms with.  If I have some extra money in the budget I’ll buy my special coffee but otherwise I’ll drink the drip coffee that my husband drinks.

There are sacrifices that need to be made but I know that these small sacrifices now will reap amazing rewards when it comes to living well and especially living well with chronic illnesses and pain.  Each part of our lives are intertwined and when one part is suffering the other parts are sure to follow which is why I’m addressing each area of my life in order to gain back wellness.

The end goal is to be in optimal health before getting pregnant with our next child and I’m determined to reach that goal.

 

Loving Myself

  
Almost two years ago I had reached the lowest weight of my adult (and I think adolescent life) and I felt great! Fast forward through returning to work, several stressful situations, poor tracking of food and supreme lack of activity and now my most current health issues and I am 20 lbs heavier and not feeling great at all.

It’s not all about the weight, although I’d like to lose at least 10-15lbs of what I’ve gained, it’s more about how I feel BECAUSE of the weight.  It’s thoughts that go through my head, the discouragement I feel because I feel like I’ve failed myself.  Today I spent a full day on myself, learning to love myself the way I am, learning to be comfortable in my own skin despite what the scale says.

The thing is, is that I’ve gained the weight and punished myself by not allowing myself to buy clothes that I feel comfortable in.  The clothes I wear are wearable but definitely not comfortable and I kept promising myself that once I lost some weight then I’d be able to buy a few more items of clothing.  It’s been several months with no budging on the scale (I haven’t been trying at all), and although I do intend to change that in the next few months I am done punishing myself.  This morning I spent the entire morning just browsing the mall, trying on clothes and being so intentional with what I purchased.  Only a few items and only things that I was absolutely comfortable wearing.  I was so exhausted by the end of it but I came home excited about those items and ready to take on the next few months of intentional eating and activity.

After I returned home I decided that instead of driving to pick up Ezekiel from the Dayhome that I would walk the 2.7 km to get him.  It was so nice to just walk alone, contemplating life and enjoying the gorgeous weather.  We walked slowly back home stopping at the store and stopping to let him explore the flowers, trees, ants and anything else he was curious about.  I’m sore all over and I’m more tired than I’ve been in a while but I’m satisfied knowing that today I’ve taken one step closer to loving myself as I am.

Two summers ago I got in the habit of a daily walk or two usually at least 4-5 km in length and that’s really all I did for activity but that’s all it took to make me feel well.  I intend to get back to that place, of course daily walks on a 12hr work day aren’t going to be possible but the days in between will be full of walks and taking time out of the day for activity instead of worrying about the house and the laundry.