One Little Word 2017 Reflection

December 31, 2017.

How did this day get here so quickly? Where did 2017 go?

I’ve been reading and following some others who have reflected on this year and I’m seeing a mix of reactions to the past year.  Some had an incredible year, and others had difficult years but what I have noticed is that regardless of how the year was everyone has been grateful.  Some grateful for how wonderful their year was and some grateful for the challenges and lessons they brought.

I am definitely in the latter category – the year was difficult, far more difficult than I was anticipating yet I am so grateful for 2017.  We welcomed a beautiful baby girl who is our miracle girl.  She is feisty, determined, stubborn, and so so sweet and she fits perfectly into our family.  It’s safe to say she is so loved and so adored by us all.  We watched and followed as our now four year old grew and matured and learned so much.  His deep desire for knowledge is inspiring, his drive to learn is what spurs me on daily to live as a present parent and teach him what he wants to know.  Truly our schooling has been 100% led by him and he has advanced leaps and bounds.  Every goal I set for our homeschooling journey has been hit and it’s only because he has so desired to learn.  Carlos finished his schooling despite so many obstacles that would have stopped many in their tracks and made them quit.  His perseverance in the face of trials has always been inspiring for me.  Truly, he is incredible and if anyone can inspire you to chase your dreams and crush your goals, it’s him.

As I watched my family have an incredible year I tried so hard to follow in their footsteps.  I had so badly wanted to reach so many goals, to accomplish so much and it seemed the harder I fought the less I accomplished.  Last year at this time I felt the Lord was asking me to use REST as my guiding word for the year.  I honestly didn’t anticipate just how much rest I needed.  I didn’t realize how broken and worn down my body and spirit was.  I didn’t realize how much I needed to stop and rest.  Quite literally I spent this year in deep rest – almost like a hibernation.  The first part of the year was spent resting, having a baby and resting more.  The second part of the year was me feeling like I was ready to go, to accomplish, to be productive and being shut down every time I tried.  I fought hard against REST, sure that my body was ready to GO.  Maybe my body was but my mind, my heart, and my soul needed more rest, more reflection, more intentional attention.

When I look back at the year, I’ll be honest, it’s a hard pill to swallow.  It’s hard not to be disappointed, and not to dwell on that disappointment.  It’s hard to not feel like it was a “year wasted,” but I know those are lies designed to make me feel inadequate.  The truth which I’m reminding myself of minute by minute is that my year was EXACTLY what I needed.  The truth is that my year was orchestrated perfectly to give me what I needed – time to REST.  I’m thankful for the challenges of parenting two children, for the joys of watching those children grow and learn (even when that means more challenges for me).  The truth is I was stretched in ways I wasn’t anticipating, I discovered parts of me that I wasn’t proud of.  The impatience, need for perfection, the struggles for control – all things that came out and tried to rule my life.  I struggled to fight against those things, I struggle(d) to know my worth and adequacy.  I struggle(d) to mother in the midst of being faced with my worst self.

Yes, 2017 was hard for me, but it was necessary.  I was forced to rest in the hands of my Father, to search for and know His truths in my life.  I was forced to cling to a God who knows and loves me and I’m going into 2018 with the knowledge of these deep truths:

  • I am worthy
  • I am adequate
  • I am beautiful
  • I am enough

The beautiful thing about my truths, is they are your truths as well.  So whatever your year brought I hope that you can also cling to these truths.

A Tiny Light in The Long Tunnel

Ah, the trials of being a parent are endless.  I mean I’m only just in the beginning of this life long journey and sometimes I feel like I’m a rockstar and other times I feel like I’m just barely keeping my head above the water.  Yesterday was one of those treading water, barely surviving days.  I mean I’ve had worse days for sure but I’ve had much much better days as well.

Let me be 100% honest here. There are two things that are essential to life that if I don’t have adequate amounts of I will turn into someone I despise – sleep and food. I mean probably everyone struggles if they don’t get enough sleep or don’t eat well, but I feel like my reaction to exhaustion and hunger is extreme. I don’t want to talk to anyone and give Carlos a glare if he tries to talk to me. My answers to Ezekiel’s incessant toddler questions are short and impatient. That’s just a very small sample of my outward reactions to people – if you knew my internal turmoil you’d probably think I was a terrible person – and you’d be right. The worst part is that I see it all, I am 100% aware of my behaviour and I loathe it but find it incredibly difficult to change my attitude. It’s like I’m watching myself and yelling “ASHLEY GET OVER YOURSELF!” I might be able to change it for a few minutes, maybe even an hour, but it won’t last long.

That was me yesterday.

Eden has been having trouble sleeping at night and after several consecutive long nights in a row I was done. Not only that but I questioned every single thing I was doing, I convinced myself that I had created her inability to sleep at night and that there was nothing I could do to change it.  I mean, probably I am to blame for some of it but I was in full on “woe is me” mode.  Poor, poor pitiful me.

Do you hate the person I am explaining?

Me too.

On top of not sleeping well, I was also not eating well.  I have struggled this year in this area.  It’s not that I’m eating junk food, it’s that I’m not spending time planning and preparing food and so most days I’m falling short on the nutrition I should be getting into my body.

So yesterday, despite my terrible attitude, I knew I had to eat better because that’s at least one part of this equation I can control.  I can’t control how well Eden is sleeping but I can control the food I’m putting into my body.

After a long day I put the kids to bed, falling into bed myself right after at 6:50 pm.  I drifted off to sleep at 8:30, was woken at 10 pm and wondered how I was going to make it through another night like this.  I feel back asleep at 10:30 and was woken again at

5 AM!!!!!!

Cue the angels singing.

Seriously.

A little tiny glimmer of hope.

A small tiny pinprick of light at the end of this long tunnel.

The first year of life is one full of so much.  So much growth, so much development, so much learning, so many challenges, both for the babies and for their parents.

It can feel long.

It can feel hopeless at times.

Then there are these little moments where you understand that, yes, you can absolutely do this.

So for all you parents out there wondering if you’re going to make it.

You will, and you are.

Keep on going, you got this.

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!