Now for More Me

I started this blog with the intent of sharing the ways I attempt to live a more slow and simple life.  I was making huge changes in my life by way of clean eating, exercising, mindful parenting and the like, and I was passionate about it all.  I wanted to share all.the.things.  Yet somewhere along the way life ebbed and flowed, I felt less passionate, less inspired to share and less desire to write.

That brings us here, to right now.

I’ve had a blog for YEARS – I started one in high school as a project in either 2001 or 2002.  I continued blogging on and off but this blog is the first blog I’ve had that was supposed to be intentional with it’s content.  When I started it I dreamt of having a calendar full of ideas, generating content and “making it big” in the blog world.  Obviously none of that has happened!  I’m actually continually surprised by the little bit of traffic I get considering how lack-lustre my efforts have been in recent years.

Here’s what I’m beginning to understand about myself:

  1. Writing is something I love to do.  It’s therapeutic and necessary for my own internal processing.
  2. I really don’t do well with constraints, limitations, expectations etc. in writing but more so just generally in life. When I write I want the freedom to write whatever flows out of my fingertips.

So it is with all of this I come today to say – I’m going to write whatever and whenever I feel like it.  I’m not going to limit myself to “simple living” and I’m not going to be paralyzed by the completely made up need for a content calendar.  I’ve never been good at being anyone but myself and I’m not sure why it’s taken me this long to realize this.

With the amount of time I have on my hands I think I’ll be here more often – but again I’m not going to promise or commit to anything at all!

I hope you are all having an amazing weekend, I look forward to more sharing of ideas and stories in the near future!

Ciao!

2018 Reflection

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Well it’s been a minute or two since I’ve been here.  I only wrote 7 blog posts in 2018 and truthfully I wanted so badly to write more but my capacity to do so was just not there.  I needed to step away from constant evaluation, my brain was (is) in such a fog that processing life was incredibly difficult.  I couldn’t make sense of my current life, my day in and day out.  I lived in a dichotomy of hating not being able to work but also feeling very blessed to be with my babies day in and day out.

The pain I now live with is unlike anything I’ve experienced.  Not too long ago I was claiming that I could deal with chronic pain, that it didn’t change my life or what I was able to do and accomplish.  I’ve had pain as long as I can remember and it was true that it didn’t greatly impact my life.  This new pain though, it’s stronger, more intense and greatly impacts my life.  I’ve been humbled and have gained a new perspective and compassion for those of us living with invisible illnesses.  The pain definitely seemed to take over my year and if I allow it it could steal the blessings and joy that 2018 also brought.

I’m not about to let that happen.  So here’s what 2018 brought into my life that was amazing. I’ve been able to watch my toddler grow and develop, I’ve been able to be by her side and she hasn’t had to deal with as much separation anxiety as she would have.  She is highly attached and us being together has made her year much more comforting.  She’s growing into such an amazing and hilarious little girl and it’s been such a privilege and blessing to watch that happen so closely.  I’ve also watched my five year old learn and explore and imagine and create and have been astounded at his capacity to learn and his passion for learning.  We’ve embarked on homeschooling and I’d be lying if I told you it went amazing, we are still learning our rhythm and figuring it out but it’s definitely been a blessing.  I’ve learned to live in the moment, to adapt my need for control, to trust in the One who holds me close, to live despite challenges, to dream bigger, to crush fears, to pursue the life I desire, to accept help, to lean on others, to be humbled, to slow down.

My one little word was ABUNDANCE and 2018 did not bring much of the ABUNDANCE I was hoping for but it did bring an ABUNDANCE of blessings in the midst of challenges.  When I re-read my One Little Word post for 2018 I still resonate with everything I wrote. This year was the first year I continually had my word in the back of my head, I thought of it often but was usually sad at the thought of it.  Perhaps I am a step closer to where I wished I would be, though I haven’t even come close to that place.  I am still learning to let go of my poverty mindset, to switch my thinking but I do think that 2018 helped on that journey.  It’s a lifelong journey, not one I imagine I will actually arrive at but it’s time for a new word and time to focus on a new journey.

Abundant Living

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I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and praying about living abundantly.  If you’ve been here for a bit you’ll know that my One Little Word for 2018 is Abundance and that it’s less about having MORE and actually about appreciating what we already have.  It’s less about the physical and more about my mindset.  A couple weeks ago as I was praying through this I had such a clear message placed on my heart, I wrote it out on a piece of paper and left it to resonate for a while and I think it’s time to share it here.  I pray that it blesses you.

In times of hardship we tend to just “survive” to just “get by.”  We don’t live our best life and feel as though that’s an impossibility, we feel trapped because our circumstance is unable to change and so we accept defeat.  In our acceptance we probably make poor choices which don’t line up with how we “wish” our lives could be.

I’m using “we” here very lightly – maybe you can’t relate to this at all and I’m sorry if I’m clumped you into what’s actually my own reality or I guess what WAS my reality.

I spent the last 3 years in a poverty mindset.  I was working as hard as I possibly could just to keep our heads above water financially and because I was just barely making it work I thought we were poor.  That mindset that was initially only applied financially eventually trickled into all the areas of my life.  I came out on the other side quite literally broken thinking there was no other option and that it was just an inevitable consequence of my circumstance.  My question after reflection is: what if there was another option?  What if changing my mindset from thinking we were poor to thinking we had everything we needed could have changed the outcome?

Is it possible to be living a seemingly unbalanced life and still thrive rather than just survive? When our circumstances are not what we had hoped can we change our mindset to accept them and learn to live well within them?  Can we dig deep, work hard and get to the other side stronger, healthier and happier rather than beaten, broken and barely alive?

If we can (I really think we can!) what is the formula?

While I don’t pretend to think I have this all figured out, there are some things I think will definitely help.  These are things I’m going to try my best to adopt into my life:

  • Daily “me time” of at least 30 minutes.
  • Daily prayer and surrender – acceptance of what is.
  • Compromise – we can’t do it all, pick your priorities and let the rest go.
  • Accept the sacrifice and know it’s temporary, stop feeling bitterness towards it.
  • Find a tribe, confide in them and accept help from them rather than isolating yourself.
  • Eat well, sleep well and make time for movement.
  • Use oils daily for emotional, mental and physical wellbeing (the Abundance oil pictured above has been very helpful!)

I would love to hear your thoughts on this and if you have anything to add to my “formula.”  This isn’t an easy journey to abundant living but I’m convinced it will be worth it times a thousand!

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!

Rest First


When I imagined this maternity leave I had ideas that it would be similar to my last maternity leave.  My first maternity leave I ended up focusing on being healthy, and it was the first time I had felt healthy since high school.  It was like a body reset and I learned a lot about myself and my health that year.  I’ve mentioned several times that when I went back to work I really lost that feeling of being healthy due to stress and all that comes with that.  When I dreamt of this maternity leave I dreamt of losing all the weight by the 6 month mark.  I dreamt of loving being in the kitchen and inventing good healthy food.  I dreamt of walking every day and being super active and busy.

However, this maternity leave has been so much different.  I still have 15 pounds of weight to lose to get to pre-pregnancy weight and 15 more to lose to get to my ideal weight.  I can count on two hands how many walks I’ve been on in the last 3-4 months and my husband can attest that I’m not cooking like I used to.

Reflecting on how different these past six months are compared to what I thought they would be it’s easy to think I let myself down, that I didn’t motivate myself enough, that I was lazy.  All these thoughts try their hardest to creep in and bring me down but the truth is that I’ve been listening to my body and I’ve been honouring what it’s telling me.

REST

I’m giving myself time to rest and heal and that’s looking a lot different than I thought.  Honestly I thought that healing would mean exercising and building physical strength but my body has been showing me that healing first starts with resting.  This last week I’ve been feeling a rhythm start to our days, my body has been allowing for that to happen.  Up until recently I had no idea what I would be waking up to – would it be an Ashley full of energy or an Ashley unable to move much at all.  The past couple weeks my energy has been fairly consistent – even with Eden having VERY unpredictable nights.  So I can see how beneficial it’s been to listen to my body, to go to bed early, to stay home when I needed to, to relax when I was feeling run down.  With each passing week and month I gain a little bit more endurance and strength to just get a little bit more done each day.  Of course having a baby that is growing and maturing also helps with this but I can also feel the change in my body.  In August I barely had the ability to clean my whole house one day and be up moving a lot the next.  I couldn’t stand for longer than an hour doing things in the kitchen because my body just hurt all over and didn’t have the endurance.  This past month I’ve been up the majority of days canning, cleaning and just keeping busy and my body feels pretty good! Not awesome, but not awful and that’s a happy medium that I gladly welcome after a couple years of feeling terrible.

One thing I’ve been incorporating that last couple months is taking Sundays off.  That means that mentally I allow myself the space to not have a list of to-do’s.  If I wake up and have some energy to do a couple things I will, but I put zero pressure on myself to accomplish anything.  I sleep in an extra hour or two (which means up at 6 or 7 instead of 5), I rarely clean anything, I don’t do laundry, and my husband usually does the cooking.  This allows me to read a few more books to Ezekiel, to sit on the floor a little more with Eden, to write and read a bit more and maybe even spend some time on a hobby – which, with the changing of the weather means knitting!

Lots of lessons have been learned this year and resting is definitely one of the biggest.

Do you force yourself to rest? Is it hard or do you welcome it with arms wide open?

Practicing Positive


Good Friday Morning!

We’ve had quite the night and morning!

My non-cuddly baby has decided over the course of yesterday and today that she must be touching me at all times to be sleeping.  Last night she had to be cuddled up to me just so or she would wake up screaming.  This morning she wouldn’t settled to sleep in her crib and had to be on me at all times.  I just got her settled in the crib by putting her on her tummy – which is so unlike her because she normally hates her tummy.  Anyways, I woke up this morning an hour later than usual with my neck so sore and my head pounding (all fixed with a bit of oils!). I came downstairs to find my coffee machine had malfunctioned (AKA I didn’t put the pot under it just perfectly) so the coffee grounds were in the coffee and everywhere around it and it had spilled all over the coffee bar. My to-do lists this week haven’t been getting done so today it’s one huge long list that won’t get done yet again.

A couple weeks ago today would have totally been a write off in my mind. It would have made me irritable and impatient therefore ruining my kids days as well.  I would have moped around doing things here and there but not completing any of it and all the while grumbling and using a tone of voice that makes me cringe every time I use it.  I would have internally been screaming about the injustice of it all. A couple weeks ago today would have been the worst day ever (exaggeration much?), but I’ve been trying really hard to be intentional with my thought processes.  I’ve been acknowledging the negatives – yes the day has started out on the wrong foot, yes it’s not how I would have liked it to start.  After quickly acknowledging the crap I replace it with all the good – and there is a lot of good to be seen if only you take some time to look.

Todays list of good includes things like getting all the cuddle time in after thinking I’d never be able to cuddle my baby again.  Ezekiel is being amazing, playing quietly and entertaining himself while I have been trying to calm a fussy baby.  He’s using words like “delighted” (“I was delighted to clean up that mess I made by accident” – that’s an actual quote! Who is this kid??) and making my heart melt several times a day.  We had to cancel our plans today which sucks but it also gives me a big chunk of time to be productive and get some things done (water plants, clean the front closet, do dishes, fold laundry, make tomato sauce, clean floors …..).  Cancelled plans also means I get some time to cuddle without worrying about getting out the door, relax in my PJ’s all day, bake some muffins, put some effort into supper tonight (seriously lacking in that department lately).

I’ve found that practicing gratitude by focusing on the good instead of the bad has completely changed my day to day life.  It’s made me a much more patient mother and wife.  It’s helped me to breathe deep and embrace the moments of the day.  It’s helped me to think more clearly, dream a little more and understand that there is so much beauty in the imperfections of our days.  I’ve slowed down internally, my mind doesn’t race about all the things I want to accomplish and by slowing down internally I actually find I become more productive.  By focusing on the positives I’ve learned to stop and watch when Ezekiel says “Hey mom! Look at this!” and by stopping and watching I am acknowledging him as a person, as someone who is proud of what they’ve accomplished and I think that’s crucial to empowering the next generation.  I no longer glance for half a second and say “that’s great,” instead I put the dishes down look him in the eye and say, “Wow! You are really getting good at…..” I’ve noticed that this small change has made him less dependent on me and more independent when he’s playing.  Practicing gratitude has changed not only my day but the days of my little people as well and it’s shown me the impact of my actions on those around me.

I’m not going to lie, this is a difficult practice to implement consistently.  It’s so much easier to allow the negative to envelope me but the reward of this practice is unbelievable.  So today as you go about your day and the negative tries to invade your thoughts and actions I urge you to acknowledge them, let them go and replace them with positive thoughts.  I promise you that by practicing this you will not only change your day to day life but you will impact every person you come in contact with and little by little people’s lives will change around you.

Motherhood – The Secret To Success


Every morning I wake up between 5 and 530.

Yep it’s early but when I wake up (sometimes by my own internal clock and others by my babies hungry cries) I look forward to going down the stairs, pouring my hot cup of coffee, making my bowl of yogurt and granola and sitting on the couch with the fire going in silence and most importantly – alone.

I need that time, desperately need that time.  It doesn’t matter how many times I had to wake up in the night to give the baby her soother or feed her (typically it’s only twice but sometimes 3 or 4 times).  It doesn’t matter how tired I am, replacing that morning ritual with more sleep inevitably leads to my patience only lasting until 8 am instead of 6 pm.

It’s amazing to me how much I need that time in the morning.  That start to my day is the cornerstone of my sanity as a mother.

Sure there’s the odd day every so often, maybe once a month or once every 6 weeks, that the kids wake up abnormally early (6 am instead of 7 or 8) and I miss out on my morning time but we make it through those days.  I do a lot of deep breathing, a lot of reviewing my thoughts before they become words, maybe we watch an extra episode of a favourite show or maybe we just go out and have some fun instead of the doing the housework that was on the agenda.  Regardless, when the day is done so am I and I pray for more time the next morning to refill my introverted gas tank.

I often get asked how I do so many things, how am I so motivated?

This is my secret – I make sure I have some time alone, to recharge, to reflect, to journal, to read, to write, to listen, to pray, to meditate.  I start the day by setting my intentions and I end the day by reviewing how it went and what I can do better tomorrow.

Some people don’t thrive like this, they don’t crave an orderly, organized, routined environment, that helps them accomplish tasks at home.  Those people have different secrets to their motherhood successes and their successes are usually much different than mine.  Usually they are out on adventures, doing crafts, running errands and looking perfect while doing it.

The truth is they look at me and wish they could accomplish more at home and I look at them and wish I could provide more carefree adventures for my children (and look good doing it).

The other truth is even if both of us were granted our wishes we would feel no less fulfilled or happy, in fact we would probably feel frazzled and very unsatisfied.

Still more truth: though our lives look different we are both amazing mothers doing the best we can. 

The secret to every mothers success?

Mothering from the deepest parts of who we are and being true to that person, forgetting about every voice that tries to push us down and make us feel guilty for who we are or what we don’t accomplish that day.  Our success lies in the ability to understand that we are who we are and we were created to be the mother of these tiny little miracles.