Inspiration

Inspiration has been an ongoing topic of discussion in my house lately.  My husband and I are both very drawn to things that spark inspiration – I would guess everyone is drawn to those things as well, but I wonder if everyone stops to appreciate these little sparks.  I would bet that in a world of fast everything – food, fashion, technology – that it’s getting harder and harder to not only recognize the sparks but also to appreciate them when they are recognized.

We’ve had an unexpectedly slow December with my husband being laid off in the first week of this month.  It’s a big blow for sure, and if we allowed ourselves to sink into worry and stress it would make this month horrendous.  I mean it’s the busiest and most expensive month of the year and here we are wondering how we’ll be able to pay the bills and buy the groceries let alone fill the bottom of the tree with presents.  We could definitely dwell on the negatives but that would only make it worse.  Instead our conversations and focus has been on our future, our goals and our dreams.  Somehow, though there are moments of stress, we’ve been able to stay positive and truly enjoy each day.

I’ve been thinking about this today.  I wonder what it is that we are doing that makes this time less stressful than I feel it should be, and I think it lies in our desire to fill our lives only with things that encourage and inspire us.  There are a few specific things that we have been doing, some of them for a while and others we are just starting to do.

A big place of inspiration for both of us is our home and how we fill it.  When you come to our house the first thing you would probably notice is the plants.  I’ve lost count at how many plants we now have, but it’s well over 50 and will continue to grow.  Plants inspire us to live closer to nature and to live simpler lives.  I’ve recently taken time to fill our office with inspirational art, things to remind us where we want to go and what it takes to get there.  We don’t fill our home with clutter but think carefully about each and everything we bring into it.

We both take time to listen, read, or watch things each day that inspire us to do better and be better.  My husband searches through Pinterest, reads things he finds on Facebook, and watches shows or documentaries that inspire him to overcome obstacles.  I belong to a bookclub dedicated to self development.  We read 10 pages per day and use an app called Marco Polo to discuss the book.  I also read my Bible daily and make sure I’m spending time in prayer.

Something else we are both passionate about: sparking inspiration in others and I think this goes a long long way when it comes to having a positive outlook on life.  If you know me, you know I love Instagram.  It’s been a love of mine for almost as long as it’s been around.  Over the years my use of the app has changed and now I mostly use it as an online journal.  Each thing I post will more than likely have a twist of positivity because I feel strongly about building people up and letting go of negativity.  If I can’t post something positive I probably won’t post that day.  My husband is the same way with Facebook, he only shares what he feels will encourage others.  You can also listen to him on the phone daily, talking to his friends and speaking words of life and encouragement.

I’m beginning to see the absolute importance of inspiration in our lives, and I truly think it’s the key to why we can stay positive in a stressful time.

What’s your daily inspiration?

Homeschooling

If you would have asked me when I became a mother if I wanted to Homeschool I would have said HECK NO! I was 100% on the side of public school, and actually thought that homeschool was detrimental to the development of children.

Not joking.

I also was under the impression that only crazy Christians who wanted to protect their children from the corruption of the “real” world homeschooled.

Guys – have I ever talked about that time in my life that I thought the entire world operated in black and white?

I’m so thankful for personal growth, because WOW.

Over the last year and a bit I’ve started to have a passion for homeschooling. There are a number of reasons for that and the closer we get to Kindergarten the stronger this grows.  The more we talk about it the more my husband and I feel like this is what needs to happen.

So, why homeschool?

Well, one of our biggest reasons is the fact that I can tailor my children’s learning to their unique interests and learning styles.  I never thought about this until this past year while watching Ezekiel’s love of learning develop.  He’s such a little sponge and actually gets upset if we don’t do school every day.  What he doesn’t realize is that all throughout the day we are actually doing school – just not sitting down writing and colouring.  I try to tune in to his interests (currently we are back to being completely obsessed with Thomas and Friends) and then use those interests to challenge his learning.  Right now we are working on pen control, confidence with writing, counting, letter sounds and sight words and most of what I do outside of our workbooks centres on Thomas and happens during Ezekiel’s “playtime.”  For example, we might count the number of freight cars that Thomas is pulling, talk about what letter Percy starts with or try and draw Gordon while colouring.  All of these things are done intentionally but seem like they are just part of our day.

Some other reasons we are leaning towards homeschool is:

  • Freedom of time to travel without being “pulled” from school.
  • Ability to homestead and not have to worry about formal school hours during busy seasons.
  • Ability to help develop strong work ethic and life skills beyond school work.
  • Ability to focus on our children’s unique personalities and skill sets.

Of course there are definitely downsides to homeschooling but at this point we really feel strongly that the benefits far outweigh the downsides.  So with that in mind we power forward and work hard to try and make that a reality for September 2019, which primarily means paying off debt in order to be able to bring me home at least for the majority of the time.

With this being our ultimate goal I figured that this year at home with Ezekiel would provide a great “trial” run with homeschool.  I decided that I would undertake home preschool.  I had grand plans, I tried laying it all out and building a curriculum while I was on bedrest and waiting for our sweet babe.  Then I became a mother of two, life was hectic and I was trying to figure it all out.  So my grand plans became my “good enough” plans and we’ve done everything very informally.  I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t a bit disappointed with my inability to make it more formal.  Yet I recognize my limitations and honestly I think we’ve done pretty good considering all things.  I try to do some form of school at least 3 times a week and that looks much different each week.  What I am so excited about is the fact that I’ve seen Ezekiel advance leaps and bounds from a year ago.  He’s a really easy student to teach given that he’s the one asking daily if we can do school and he would honestly sit for a few hours and just learn.

So, this year hasn’t been perfect, and there’s a million and one things I would like to change once kindergarten hits but it has solidified our desire to homeschool even more and for that I’m saying it’s been successful!

Would you consider homeschooling your children?

I plan on sharing a bit more in detail our homeschool journey so feel free to ask some questions and I’ll try and answer!

DIY Toilet Bowl Cleaner

Toilet bowl cleaner was the last thing I began making in terms of cleaning products.  I just couldn’t find a recipe I thought would work or that I would like.  Toilets, in my mind seemed the dirtiest and I couldn’t wrap my head around how a DIY cleaner would do a good job at cleaning them.

So silly how we’ve been in a society of chemicals for so long that our minds don’t allow us to believe that anything but a chemical can do the job we want!

Let me tell you about this cleaner because if you are like I was and unsure if you can trust a homemade cleaning product to get the results you want, this recipe will change your mind.

Not only does it smell amazing but it gets the dirtiest of toilets clean.  The best part is that you can leave it within arms reach of your kids and not be worried AT ALL about them touching it.  I have a bucket of cleaning supplies that I carry from room to room as I clean and when I was buying the chemical laden toilet bowl cleaners I was constantly worried about Ezekiel getting into the toilet bowl cleaner.  Now I let him squeeze the cleaner into the toilet himself!

So without further ado!

What you will need:

  • A squeeze bottle (I use a plastic bottle that was once dish soap)
  • 1/4 cup Baking Soda
  • 1-2 Tbsp Dr.Bronners Castile Soap (I use unscented)
  • 15-20 drops Young Living Purification essential oil (or any oil you’d like but I LOVE this one for this recipe)
  • Water to fill container

What to do:

  • Using a funnel add each ingredient into the bottle in order listed.
  • Shake to mix and use as you would any other toilet bowl cleaner!

I like to put this in the toilet when I start to clean and let it sit.  I always clean the toilet last and the smell will linger for a bit after your done.

Let me know if you try this and how you like it!

PS: if you want to follow my oily journey closer you can now find me on Facebook

It Takes a Village

As I write this my parents are driving back to Saskatchewan after a 4 day visit.  They came for Ezekiel’s birthday, which happened to coincide with two very hard weeks.  It’s made me realize just how hard this motherhood thing is when we try and do it alone.

I’m a naturally independent person, I pride myself on my ability to do a variety of things on my own.  I enjoy being alone, I enjoy challenging myself and I enjoy looking back and saying “I did that.”  Be it finishing school while working several jobs, buying a car, getting a job, building something for our backyard, planting a garden or working on a house project.  I rarely ever ask for help and that is a huge downfall.  Now that I’m mothering two little beautiful humans I’m realizing just how big of a downfall it really is.

A couple weeks ago both Ezekiel and Eden ended up getting sick, and Eden was/is cutting some teeth at the same time.  So, besides going to a few essential appointments we were quarantined to our home.  I don’t often mind being quarantined to the house but it makes for long days and lots of isolation and too much of that just messes with my head and heart.  Once they were starting to feel better (aside from Eden’s teeth) I thought we were in the clear, but I ended up getting really sick and losing my voice over the Remembrance Day long weekend.  At the same time as being sick I had to plan and prepare for my parents visit as well as Ezekiel’s birthday party.  I was a bit overwhelmed to say the least and honestly feeling awful.  Also, this week Eden has decided that she’s no longer satisfied with sitting and playing, she wants to go, go, go, go but can’t actually get anywhere on her own.  This results in a lot of screaming and a lot of me holding her and trying to appease her which means I get next to nothing done while she is awake.  Sleeping at night is a challenge with teething and such a big developmental milestone so we are all exhausted.

Enter my parents arrival, they swooped in and allowed me to relax.  They cooked meals, folded laundry, did the dishes, played a million games with Ezekiel and tried their very best to get Eden to not be a permanent attachment to my body (they succeeded for the most part!).  Instead of running around trying to do it all I allowed myself to sit, drink copious amounts of coffee and knit many projects (I finished three items and got another half done!) Of course my husband also is a rock of support but with working part time and stressing himself into his own illness over his last class at school, this past week he couldn’t be a lot of help either.

Honestly, I’m surprised at just how hard I have found adjusting to two children.  In some ways it’s not hard at all and it’s all kinds of wonderful.  In other ways – especially when there’s a lack of sleep and sickness – it’s the hardest thing ever.  I’m surprised at how defeated I can allow myself to feel, I retreat into myself and become introspective trying to solve the problem of how hard this really is.  I look at the situation and try and figure out how I can survive and still get it all done.

You know what the solution is?

Ask for and ACCEPT help. Not only that but BUILD your village.  Invest into people around you, offer help when you can, lend an ear when you can’t and ask for help when you need it.  We are all on this journey together, just trying to survive but also trying to be the best we can for these little humans that rely on us.

Would I have survived without my parents being here?

Yes.

BUT

It would have been a million times harder than it was.

I’m not saying I’m really good at being in a village – in fact I think I actually suck at it but I’m trying harder each day.  It’s essential, not only for our own well being but also for the benefit of our children.  So today, whatever challenges you are facing find someone you can trust and rely on and allow them to help you.  If you’re not in a time of challenges I bet you know someone who is – reach out to them, offer help because this life takes a village, a great big village.

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!

 

DIY Bathroom Scrub


Happy Sunday friends!

Yesterday I managed to get my whole house clean (save the floors which I did today), it had been far too long since my bathrooms had a good scrub.  As I was cleaning using the products I make myself I thought that it was about time I start to share some of my tried and true DIY and toxic free living recipes with you.

I’m going to start with one of my very favourites – my husband was even blown away after seeing how powerful this is! This scrub is amazing for showers, tubs, sinks, stove tops or really anything that needs a good scrub.  I use this once every month or two on our shower when I notice the hard water spots building up.  My all purpose cleaner (which I’ll share soon) keeps the build up at bay for the most part but every so often it needs a bit more of a cleaning. When using this on the shower I make sure to clean it right before I’m going to have a shower.  I scoop it out with a wet sponge, scrub the walls and then to rinse off I just jump into the shower – because of the peppermint oil I use I get a wonderfully invigorating wake up shower at the same time as getting a sparkling clean shower!  I’ve used this on tough to clean bath tub, dull and stained kitchen sinks, caked on and burnt food on stove tops and it’s worked amazing every time.

The recipe:

1/2 cup baking soda
1-2 Tbsp Dr.Bronner’s Castile Soap (I like non-scented so I can add my own scents)
Enough distilled water to make a paste (you can alternatively boil water and let it cool down)
10 drops each lemon and peppermint oil (or essential oil of your choosing)

Add everything to a glass jar and mix well.

Give it a try and let me know what you think! If you don’t have any essential oils (and want to try them out) feel free to contact me via e-mail or leave me a comment and I’ll give you some more info.  If you want to know why I use essential oils check out this post.

Sugar Free Kids


When Ezekiel was a baby I was adamant that he would not eat candy or processed sugar.  Most people thought I was nuts, extreme and unrealistic (and still do to some extent!).  I received so many comments and questions when I would talk about our (mostly my) decision to not introduce sugar into Ezekiel’s diet and those comments and questions were not always positive.  Regardless (and maybe in spite of those people) I maintained Ezekiel’s sugar free diet for a long time.  I would make him treats at home that were made with honey, maple syrup or coconut sugar.  At parties my friends always had healthier options and those are what I would offer to him to eat (before he could really understand what cake/candy was). Sometimes they would even have a whole section just for Ezekiel with dried fruit and nuts – yes I do have the best friends ever!

Over the last couple years sugar and treats slowly entered into our house and Ezekiel’s diet.  It started with my husband bringing home “treats” or buying Ezekiel treats when they went out together and those treats always involved sugar.  Then he would bring home bags of treats (gummy bears, marshmallows etc) and I began allowing a treat a day after quiet time.  These past 3-4 months it started to become an expectation in Ezekiel’s brain that he needed a treat and instead of correct that expectation we just gave into it.  When we were out he would start to demand a treat, when my husband would come home the first question Ezekiel had was if he had brought home a treat.  Then a few weeks ago Ezekiel started waking much earlier than he had ever woke, he started having trouble calming down for quiet time, his behaviour though not awful was out of character for him.

None of these things are inherently bad and can easily be explained away by Ezekiel getting older and hitting different stages of life but I had this nagging feeling in the back of my mind that something else was happening.  Two weeks ago I just got fed up with the constant questioning for treats, with the inability to listen to my instructions, with the lack of awareness of his behaviour and really just his expectation that he deserved a treat.  He was beginning to act entitled and that was REALLY bothering me.  It probably bothered me the most because I was the person to blame for that behaviour.  In some ways I felt helpless to change it.  I wasn’t sure how I could correct that behaviour through my parenting in a way that Ezekiel would understand.  Then one day I had a lightbulb moment – maybe sugar was to blame for some of this behaviour!

It’s no secret that sugar is bad for us – and I’m not talking about fruit or naturally occurring sugars but those sugars that are added to all our foods, those manmade sugars that tell our brain we need MORE MORE MORE. I could sit and read and write about the impact of sugar on our bodies all day – the topic is complex and has so many variables to it but the bottom line is that too much sugar has negative effects on our bodies in many ways.  Of course our bodies do need sugar to function and as a form of energy but the sugar that is added to packaged food and that is made by “man” is probably not going to do anything good for your body.

So, arming myself with this knowledge and allowing my frustration with myself and our situation with Ezekiel to be known I sat down with my husband and just said no more sugar – don’t bring treats, and start saying no more often and let’s see how this helps our situation. Now let me be clear that if you were to spend a day with us and observe Ezekiel you probably would not have picked up on the subtle little behaviours.  Overall he was still a very well behaved child because that’s his demeanour.  His nature has always been calm, he has always had an inclination to be obedient, he has always been very rational and for that I am eternally grateful.  Regardless, I knew that something was off and I knew that I needed to try my hardest to correct it now rather than wait.  So we completely cut out sugar about two weeks ago and I’m telling you the change has been drastic for us!

I sat down with him and we talked about his behaviour and about how sugar in certain treats can be bad for us by making us act in a way that isn’t the best.  We talked about how we were going to stop eating treats but that we could bake something that he would like using something sweet that wasn’t as bad for us.  We talked about balance and food and growing big and strong by eating food that would give our bodies the things it needed.  These were all conversations we had been having with him for a couple years but I took it one step farther by saying we were getting rid of all treats (for now).  He grasped the main concepts and for about a week we continued the conversation as he processed it.  The way he processes is by thinking about it and then bringing up little things that he’s been thinking about several times over a period of time.

The first couple days he asked for treats, then he stopped asking for treats and began asking for a muffin, then he stopped asking for anything sugar related at all.  This in and of itself was a HUGE win but it wasn’t the only change we’ve seen.  He started to say please and thank you unprompted, he started to offer to help in every situation (did you spill mom? Let me clean that up for you).  Although he still has energy and loves to bounce around, play and sing, he’s not so out of control when he’s running around playing.  Quiet times are now just that, instead of jumping up and down and roughing housing with toys he’s sitting quietly reading books or building with his blocks and sometimes even falling asleep again.

Perhaps the most surprising for me because I didn’t attribute this behaviour to sugar is that he is far less anxious about being alone on any level of our house.  For quite a few months he’s been crazy about always needing someone on the same level as him.  He would refuse to go up and down the stairs unless there was someone with him. It was something that was incredibly frustrating for us because he would desperately want something from a different level we were on but refuse to go alone to get it and then if we were busy and couldn’t help him he would have an emotional meltdown.  Even if you started to go down the stairs before him he would burst into tears – no exaggeration – the moment you stepped on that first stair.  It was bizarre and I kept blaming my husband because he used to play hide and seek with Ezekiel and then jump out and scare him (something I actually enjoy doing to my husband lol).  When we stopped sugar he began going upstairs and playing by himself for BIG chunks of time – praise the LORD! When I go down the stairs he’ll stay upstairs and play.  When Eden needs to be fed or changed in the middle of our meal he is 100% OK to stay and finish eating while I take care of Eden.  It is truly incredible and has really solidified my belief that sugar and kids are a bad idea.

Now, is it totally sustainable? I know that’s a question people are going to ask and going to challenge because it’s one I’ve been confronted with before.

Here’s my answer.

When you can connect actions with behaviours in a way that is easy to understand your child can begin to grasp consequences.  We’ve been talking about food with Ezekiel for a long time, it’s something we deeply value and so it’s a constant conversation in our house.  I think because of this constant discussion Ezekiel finds it easier to grasp the concept that there are foods that are really good for us and there are foods that are not so good for us.  He understands that we try and eat the majority of good food and rarely eat the food that isn’t as good.  I also believe that this constant ongoing discussion will help Ezekiel to make good decisions for himself when we are not with him as he grows older.

We’ve already seen this in action.  The other day Ezekiel was looking in the freezer to get some frozen mango – his treat of choice lately – and found a stray gummy bear that fell from the top of the fridge before I threw them away.  He asked if he could eat it and in a moment of weakness (I really didn’t want to have an argument in that moment) I agreed.  The resulting behaviour over the next 2-3 hours was crazy.  In a period of 20 minutes he had burst into tears 4 times! I sat down with him and we talked about how sugar was making him feel and he was able to grasp the concept a little bit more than before.

So, will we be a strict 100% no sugar, no candy family?

No we won’t, but those instances will be few and far between and they will be reserved for very special occasions.  When Ezekiel asks for candy in a store we will stop and talk about how candy makes us feel and brainstorm something else we might like to eat instead that will nourish our bodies and minds.

It won’t be perfect – life never is, but I will strive to provide my kids with the best possible food so that their bodies can be as healthy as possible.