Monday, August 31, 2015

It's Monday!

Hello lovelies. Did you know that tomorrow is September, and that September is the ultimate Monday? January gets all the sparkle and shine of having the first day of the calendar year, but September is the real new year, at least for those of us who have spent years decades in school. September, which already possesses so many other glorious attributes, like the first day of fall and apple picking, is also my favourite time to start fresh. There are new routines, new goals for the year, and best of all, you get to buy school supplies.

Oh, September, you're so lovely. But today, while it is still August, I'll continue on pretending that summer is still happening, because I know so many of you love, love, love the summer. We've been doing a lot of summery things in these last few weeks, like today, when we took the ferry to Centre Island and spent the day bouncing around from rides to the beach. We completely exhausted ourselves. 

Yesterday, in preparation for back to school, Alyce finally decided to try riding a two-wheeler. The two of us went shopping for a new bike, and by nightfall she was riding a bike. It was kind of magical. I don't think I've ever seen her so proud of herself and it gave me the shivers to watch her.  I know she desperately wants to ride her bike to school like her friends, because you know, she's in grade three now.

So the summer may be coming to an end, but we don't need to say good-bye to it sitting down. Let's enjoy the warm nights as long as we can, maybe sneak in one more road trip, and eat ice cream for dinner. 

Here's what's on my list for this last week of summer:

  • Centre Island
  • Visit my grandmother on her birthday
  • Convince my children to do a back-to-school cleanse of their toys
  • Take a road trip to Ottawa on the long weekend to visit some friends I have not seen in ages
  • Make each of the girls a card for the first day of school (a tradition in our house, along with chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast)
  • Think about September's new possibilities
What's on your list this week? Any last minute summer adventures?

Be well.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Things that made me happy this week

It's Sunday, you made it through another week. Was it a great one? Did you make the most of August's last days? Around our house we spent a lot of time daydreaming about the start of school (only eight more sleeps!) while simultaneously trying to get every ounce of fun out of the end of summer.  I found myself working overnight doula shifts all week and now my brain is a bit off balance. This coming week will be featuring less work, more fun.

Here are a few things that caught my eye around the internet this week:

I always seem to be on a mission to get my shit together. But maybe it's okay to be a bit of a mess.

My love affair with peach season is no secret. Here are some ideas to keep the romance alive.

On risking your heart.

Salmon + arugula is a salad I need to eat.

Some tips for productive mornings.

Making life less convenient.

Do I make this DIY sunbutter for school lunches, or just admit defeat and send in Doritos?

Do you have a favourite links list? Mine is hands-down from Joy the Baker. I always look forward to opening her posts on Sundays. It's the little things.
Be well!

Friday, August 28, 2015

On gaining momentum

How is your week going so far? Somehow it's almost over and I'm feeling caught off guard. I guess that's what happens when you sleep through a Monday. And a Wednesday (it's been a busy week of working overnight with a particularly delicious newborn). And speaking of babies, a former birth doula client reached out today and sent me the loveliest email. It made my day and has renewed my desire to send thank you notes more often. Because doesn't it feel amazing when someone sends you a note, even just a short one, just to let you know that they appreciate you? 

I wanted to check in today and tell you about our trip to the zoo on Tuesday. Last time I took the girls it was a bit of a disaster for me physically. I wrote last time about how I could barley make it through a couple of hours on my feet before my lower half screaming and shouting in pain. It wasn't pretty. We returned home from that trip and I collapsed into bed.  I'm not sure if it was obvious then, but that was a pretty low point for me. Not being able to keep up with the girlies made me feel helpless as a parent, not to mention old, lazy, and sorry for myself.

I've had a few moments like that since being home for the summer. Driving places we should be walking, saying no to going out when we had no business staying inside on such a beautiful day. Each time I felt very powerfully that these moments where the ones that would ultimately get me to do the hard work of making changes. Because while some of you might be able to act like rational people and simply change the habits you think you need changing (like my annoying better half, who is also never late and always finishes his projects ahead of schedule), I need some gut wrenching emotional lows to really get my ass into gear.

You guys, change is hard.

While my progress has been slow-going over the summer, I did something last week that made a big impact. I bought a new pair of running shoes. They are magical! It turns out my favourite pair of sandals serve fashion only, and what I needed was the support of some fancy new bright pink running shoes. It was a small step, but one that has inspired me to get exercising again, which is kind of a big deal. You see these magical new running shoes make it possible to walk longer with quite so much pain and this meant that I walked through the zoo for three hours (and the CNE last night for almost four) without hobbling. 

I know, I know, what an obvious fix, right? But I'm realizing that these small investments into our health, the ones we keep putting off for what seem like convincing reasons at the time, can put in motion some pretty powerful change. Something I learned this week is that deep down I've been telling myself that nothing will work and I'm destined to suffer in this state of pain and low energy forever, so why bother doing all the hard work of making changes. But small steps, it turns out, can give you some very powerful momentum. Momentum is a gift that I can use to lose this crappy perspective I've been carrying around. 

What small change can you make to give yourself some much needed momentum?
Be well!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

It's Tuesday!

Hello lovelies! Did you have the greatest weekend? Our weekend was a bit of a blur, filled with driving the girls back and forth to my mum's for a sleepover, and me doing some overnight doula work. (I'll be working as a doula again this year until I return to midwifery school.) So this week my Monday was spent mostly sleeping. It happens.

Summer home schooling has slowed to a snail's pace around here. Last week I wasn't feeling the greatest and spent a lot of time resting, with zero energy to devote to planning lessons and outings. This week already feels like it's gotten away from me and so far home school has involved me printing out Spongebob colouring pages. I'm okay with that. But the week isn't totally lost! We are heading to the zoo today in honour of animals week, and I think we'll try to squeeze in a research project on an animal of their choosing.

Did I mention yet that it's only two weeks until school starts? Our days have been spent daydreaming about school, all three of us. Yesterday, between naps, I took the girls to buy new shoes, a tradition I've loved since kindergarten. Still left on our back-to-school shopping list: rain boots, umbrellas, and some reusable snack bags for their lunches (I'll be ordering these later today.)

Here's what's on my list for this week:
  • lots of doula work, which means not a lot of time for other things
  • studying for my newborn resuscitation recertification course this weekend
  • cleaning out my fridge and restocking it with the best food possible, including, I hope, some homemade chicken soup I plan on making today (fingers crossed)
  • considering a very important change: should I cut my hair off again? Oh, the decisions. 
I hope your week is fabulous.

Be well!

Friday, August 21, 2015

eat: a manifesto

I believe everyone can use a good manifesto. Here's one of mine.

When I first wrote about my intentions for better health two months ago I named four big goals that I wanted to achieve in the coming year. I wanted to get better sleep, to move my body, to breathe more (reduce my stress), and to eat nourishing food. Each of these goals requires some pretty hefty changes to my status quo, but tackling the food I eat is one of my biggest hurdles to improving my health.

I couldn't just write a post about my intentions with regards to eating nourishing food. This one needs a manifesto. I'm not outlining an eating plan here, but more of an eating mood. Feel free to borrow it, improve upon it, or ignore it and write your own. 

Food is delightful.

I adore both brussel sprouts and butter creamed with sugar. I am moved by both lentils and ice cream, preferably really hard ice cream that you can bite into, filled with chocolate bits. And peanut butter. While I am committed to eating in a way that makes me feel well, I refuse to live in a world where some foods are valuable and others are evil. Food is about nutrition and so much more. I adore cooking for my family and friends (and I like to think I'm even good at it.) Sometimes this means that I create salads filled with vitamins and minerals and other times it means I bake a pie. I don't want to live in a world without pie. I do, however, want to have energy and feel vibrant in my body, so most days I will choose the brussel sprouts and lentils.

Advice is sometimes helpful, sometimes not.

Oh, advice. Isn't it everywhere? I mean, I think my neighbour would offer his two cents if I mentioned my goals to him, and he's an accountant. Advice can be lovely and often gives me all sorts of ideas. For example, I have a friend who gave up grains, sugar, dairy, and legumes and she feels amazing! It's definitely something for me to think about, but we're not the same person, and what works for her might not work for me.  I've read a great book about optimal eating for folks with fibromyalgia and it's filled with just as many restrictions, including avoiding a whole handful of fruits and vegetables (on account of their inflammatory properties). Again, something to think about. My naturopathic doctor has advised that I stop eating entire categories of food as well, so it's something I'm seriously considering (she says with an eye roll).

I have also received advice to not change how I eat. Maybe, they suggest, just maybe stop eating so much sugar (point taken), but everything else in moderation is the way to go! They can't possibly understand making such a radical change when it comes to food. While I give them points for recognizing how hard changes are to make, they don't know what it feels like to live in my body, with  my chronic pain and slug-like energy. It might not make sense to them, but radical change might be the answer for me.

Either way, the choice is mine to make.

Kill the day with one incredible breakfast.

This idea comes from a dear friend of mine, who suggested that in the face of all these changes to the way I eat, just start with the best breakfast possible. It's a win-win situation: I get to nourish my body with wholesome, real food while at the same time being able to feel the thrill of a victory. If I can't change everything at once (because that much change is just damn hard to do), at least I can win with breakfast. I am going to win at breakfast!

Shame is never the answer.

Have you ever read Rachel Cole's work on being a well-fed woman? She knows what she's talking about when it comes to feeding ourselves. You won't find any recipes on her blog, but you will find exquisite encouragement to feed our hungers, and none of her strategies include shame. I'm going to make a lot of changes to how I eat because my body deserves the chance to feel good. But I won't be perfect. There is just so much pressure to eat purely and the flip side is to demonize those times you eat a hunk off that gorgeous baguette. Let's declare right now, right here, that there is no one way to eat. Shaming impure eating (whatever that actually means) doesn't become us. 

My body deserves the best food possible.

It sure does. Sometimes that means a basket of organic peaches from the market (heaven) and sometimes that means scalloped potatoes cooked for me by my mother (also heaven). We all deserve food that nourishes us and I'm so, so fortunate that I can afford to fill my house with such good things. My health is the only thing that will sustain me long enough to live many, many more years and there's no playing around. In my life right now that means making food preparation a priority in my day, something I'm able to do right now as I'm taking this break from school. I will remind myself every day that I deserve food that nourishes me.

Now, go and eat something good.

Be well!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Taking Stock: August

Hello lovelies. Are you keeping busy with all your summer projects? I'm always amazed at how busy I feel in the summer months, a time when I expect to move through the days at a much slower pace. Maybe I just need more practice at slowing down. Are you good at slowing down? Do you schedule downtime for yourself, or does it just happen in your day?

I read a great post yesterday about the difference between being busy and being productive and it has me thinking a lot about how I'm spending my time. Maybe if I'm spending less time being busy and more time actually getting things done, I might have more time for doing nothing at all (which for me means lounging/knitting/reading). The culture of being busy all the time is not what it's cracked up to be.

In the midst of all this busy, here is what I've been up to:

Making: Still working on knitting my first pair of socks. 
Cooking: Very little. Cooking feels like such work in the summer.
Drinking: More coffee than is probably necessary.
Wanting: Some energy.
Looking: For the bright side.
Wishing: For some routine.
Enjoying: Home summer school with the girlies.
Waiting: For the girlies to go back to school!
Liking: Not having strep throat anymore.
Wondering: How to create new habits.
Loving: Watching baseball games with Matty.
Pondering: What third grade will be like for Alyce.
Considering: Letting my grey hair grow out.
Buying: Back to school things for two excited little girls.
Watching: The Knick.
Hoping:  For more time with good friends.
Marvelling: At the fall leaves I've been spotting this week.
Cringing: At the thought of making dinner. Again.
Needing: Some gentle exercise.
Smelling: Peaches
Wearing: As little as possible in this heat.
Following: The blogs of my fellow classmates in my blogging course.
Noticing: All the new summer freckles on the girlies after a long summer playing outside.
Knowing:That I'll be feeling sad when all my friends return to school this fall while I sit this year out.
Thinking: About how to make the most of this year off.
Admiring: People on their bicycles. They look so lovely.
Sorting: Through piles of clothes for fall.
Bookmarking: The pages of the book Connected Parenting.
Coveting: Fabulous dresses.
Disliking: My sore feet.
Giggling: At the girlies and the hula hoops.
Feeling: Quiet lately.
Snacking: On dark chocolate ice cream.
Hearing: The rain.
Do you want to take stock? I got the idea from Pip.

Monday, August 17, 2015

It's Monday!

You guys, there are only three weeks left until the first day of school! I'll be the first to admit that the girlies and I are summered out. Done. Stick a fork in us. Bring on the school year. When I say it's time to do some home school these days, the run, not walk, to the table. Do they want to go to another splash pad? No. Do they want more homemade worksheets? Yes, please. Their backpacks and lunch bags are ready, we bought new water bottles today, and everything that can be labelled has a label on it. They are ready for school with only twenty-one days to go.

Oh, August. It has some things going for it, like ice cream, beautiful evenings, and the seemingly endless supply of pears from our tree in the backyard. It is still packed full of summer but there are hints of fall at every turn, at least if you're looking for them. But even I'm not ready to completely let go of summer. There are still things to do! Like the CNE, a weekend away with old friends, and not making school lunches.

One tradition that has developed this summer, one that I hope continues as long as the daylight permits, is our daily trip to the park after dinner. Most nights it's Matty who takes them because the evening is my time to write and grade essays, but from time to time I join them. Matty brings a book, I bring my knitting, and we let the girlies just play. These nights at the park are summer to me. They are slow and easy and perfect.

So here we are at the start of another week. I wanted to say thank you for all the encouraging comments I have received on my post from the other day. I've been thinking about it all weekend and I'm feeling really good about my decision to prioritize my physical and emotional health this year. Time to get started!

Here's what my week looks like:
  • No grading!
  • Preparing for the next session of my class.
  • Tackling our back to school list, which includes new water bottles and rain boots.
  • Our home summer school theme this week is eating! We'll talk all things food and cooking, cook something together each day, and take our field trip to Kensington Market. On Friday my plan is stick close to home all day and bake challah for Shabbat.
  • I want to spend some time thinking about a reward/incentive system for the girlies and chores. I've never loved rewards for work done around the house because I think it's important to teach our kids that cleaning up is just part of living in our home (and allowance at our house isn't tied to chores). But I'll be the first to admit that what we've done so far isn't working. I'd love it if you could share some of your ideas!
  • Drinking lemonade, eating ice cream.
What does your week look like?

Be well!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Hello, my name is Danielle. I am a self-improvement junkie.

Let's talk about self-improvement, okay? Okay.

I read this post about not being embarrassed by wanting to improve yourself and I can't stop thinking about it. If I'm being honest with myself, I'm on a self-improvement mission this year. But I never call it that. I say that I want to get healthier, experience less pain, have more energy, and reduce my stress. I'm taking an entire year off from something I adore to do it. This is big. 

What I'm really doing is trying to improve myself. I'm digging deep to try and live my life according to some of my deepest desires: I want to be healthy and I want to feel emotionally well. For me (but maybe not for you) that means dreaming up all the things I think will make an impact on my life. I want to enjoy nourishing food. I want feel heathly. I want to feel vibrant. (I also want to not feel overwhelmed by all of these things, which sometimes happens, too.)

In some ways I'm trying to live my ideal life, and isn't that what self-improvement is all about? Sometimes people will nudge me to try and step back from all these idealistic changes. These are well-meaning suggestions, meant to protect me against feeling let down if changes don't happen. These comments used to make me feel worse, as though no one believed that I could do these things and was destined to feel a low-energy slug my entire life. But lately I've heard these comments as love--as good friends wanting me to be gentle with myself. I've decided to take their advice and go gently into this year, but I won't set aside my ideals. 

And this is where my hopes and goals for a healthier life really illuminate my secret life as a self-improvement junkie. I have been stagnant since giving birth to my first daughter. I have slowly watched my health decline these last seven years and haven't been able to stop it. If change is going to happen, I need to think big. I don't just need to eat more vegetables, I need my own revolution. My ideals serve to move me, to shake myself out of this rut. I need to imagine a new way of living and slowly work toward that place. 

Hello, my name is Danielle, and I want to live a better life. There's no shame in that.

I read inspirational blog posts. I devour people's stories about how they decided to make changes in the lives and what they did about it. I leave reminders for myself around the house. But I've always done this quietly, in the background, afraid that someone might see this part of me for what I truly am: a person who sees so much possibility for better things. And one of these days, I'll figure out just what to do get there. (That's where you come in, dear readers, because I'm sharing this all with you.)

So, please, if you want to make changes, whatever they might look like look, pursue these goals without embarrassment. Run after your goals with abandon, no matter how silly you look. Believe me, we are here to cheer you on.

Be well!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

It's Monday!

Hello lovelies! It's Monday again, and since I feel like last week never happened, this week seems especially promising. It is also a great time for me and the girls to start our temporary homeschooling adventure. As I mentioned last week we are structuring the last weeks of summer a little differently around our house. 

The first six weeks were filled with fly by the seat of our pants playing and adventuring. We lived at parks and splash pads, played outside our house, visited friends, cottaged, went on a boat, and ate s'mores. Last week the girlies had an amazing time at a nature camp hosted by Matty's university. 

But they are bored. Scratch that, they just miss school, and after the year Alyce had at school, we're grateful she's so excited to go back. They already have their new backpacks packed for the first day, I kid you not. Since I'm almost done teaching (grades are due tomorrow!) I will have more time this month and thought we'd try something new. To be clear: we have no idea what we're doing. I'm not claiming to know anything about homeschooling, but we're doing it in our own style and are quite happy with that.

We're picking a theme each week and this week is the human body. Today we started with drawing our favourite part of our bodies (Alyce picked her kidneys, bless her) and then moved on to colouring pages about internal organs. As they coloured in each organ we talked about its job. Naturally, the kids found it hilarious that kidneys make pee. Then I traced each kid's body on big sheets of paper and I asked them to draw all their organs! All of Shira's organs had smiley faces on them, even the gallbladder. 

It was lovely. So many conversations took off as we were going about our business. Alyce asked a lot of questions about how doctors do surgery, since I had my gallbladder removed last summer. Both of them asked a lot of questions about smoking when we talked about lungs, and we even talked a bit about brain injuries and how to look after people who suffer them. So it was a success in my books! The rest of the week will include some more research on lungs (at Alyce's request) and a trip to the Ontario Science Centre.

(Lest you think everything went smoothly in our idyllic homeschool home, I tried to take them to the park for a break and they complained and whined so much on the way that we actually had to turn around and come home. Because how mean I am to suggest that we go play and make castles in the sandbox.)

I think next week we are going to study food and cooking. I'll arm myself with some cookbooks from the library, we'll head to a kitchen store for a field trip (probably Good Egg in Kensington Market (though not to actually buy something because holy cow is that place expensive), spending some time poking around produce stands to discover some new fruits and vegetables.

But enough about next week. I want to enjoy this week first. Here's what's on my list:

  • On Tuesday the girlies and are packing up and heading to Peterborough to visit some dear friends, the kind you only see once a year but it feels like you saw them yesterday. I am super excited for the great conversation I will be having this time tomorrow.
  • Deal with some student loan repayment business. Sigh.
  • Pack up some lunch and spend Thursday at the park.
  • Dig around for some good gluten-free muffin recipes (more on that soon).
  • Register the girlies for some activities this fall. We haven't really done extra-curricular activities before since life has just been too busy to shuttle kids back and forth between places after school, but this year, with me at home more, it seems the right time to start.  Alyce would like gymnastics and Shira has her eye on dance.
What's on your list this week? 

Be well!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

That time you write love poetry for antibiotics

I just woke up from a strep throat induced coma, and I feel so much better, so much more human, all because of the most delightful and magical antibiotics (and glorious sleep). I wanted to write my antibiotics a love poem. I would have written them a sonnet if I knew how to go about writing sonnets, but his will have to suffice:

Roses are red. 
Violets are blue.  
My throat had strep,
And then you came along and made the birds sing, the rainbows sparkle, and I could finally drink my coffee again, you gorgeous little pill. 

(Look at you reading poetry on a Sunday!)

Strep throat hits me hard, and by hard I mean a meteor hit me square in the neck and knocked me down for the past three days. I've always been vulnerable to strep so you'd think I'd be used to it by now. Nope. My throat starts to ache, my neck gets sore to touch, the fever hits, and I can't function like a human being. I know the symptoms so well I should have gone to the doctor Thursday morning when my instincts/fever told me it wasn't a common cold. But I HATE going to the doctor when they just tell you it's viral and go home and blah blah blah. Instead I wait until I'm in as much pain as I can handle (which is a lot, ahem, I birthed two babies) and then I finally crawl into my doctors office begging for penicillin and painkillers, which is how I spent my Friday. And then! By yesterday afternoon I was human again, having been nursed back to health with my mum's peach pie.

All of this is to say I've been too busy crying in my bed most of this week to get any writing done. Or much of anything at all. If I were to look over my Monday list from earlier in the week, most of my tasks are still waiting for me, like grading a ton of papers, prepping for homeschooling over the next few weeks, and showering. But that's ok, sick happens. 

How was your week? Fill me in and let me live vicariously through your adventures. 

Here's to a happy and healthy week to come.
Be well!

Monday, August 3, 2015

It's Monday!

Hello again! It's a holiday here in Canada, so this Monday kind of slipped away from me. But then an hour ago reality hit and it was time to make my to do list. But first, how was your weekend? The heat wave broke and we had an evening of glorious thunderstorms with a lightening show that went on for hours. We spent most of the weekend working on projects at home, lazing around watching movies, and then last night I went out for drinks with some fellow midwifery students (it was exactly what I needed). 

I'm really excited about this week. Do you want to know why?

The girlies will be in nature camp all week long.

It's like a vacation! I have four straight days to work, write, nap, and (cross your fingers that I actually do this) start my yoga practice! The summer has been a bit bumpy so far because it turns out I have children who love the structure of school. The splash pads have lost their sparkle, the library makes them yawn, and I can't even get them excited about baking with me anymore. We need a bit of a break and camp is the answer (and thank you universe for having a camp with two open spots for the week, a summer miracle here in Toronto). After their week at camp we are starting "homeschooling" for the rest of the summer, something they are very excited about. They have enjoyed tons of unstructured time already, so the last four weeks will be filled with projects, field trips, and maybe a science experiment or two. I'll have a break from my job for most of August, so while it will be a lot of planning work on my part, I'm hoping I will end up hearing less about how bored my children are. Because if I don't hear that again I'll be a happy woman. 

Here is my list for the week:
  • Finish grading my students' papers and calculate their final grades.
  • Prep for my class this coming September.
  • Work on my blogging course, which means playing around with photo editing and finally writing my About page!
  • Planning for homeschooling week one: the theme of this first week will be the human body, because I am an anatomy nerd.
  • Start my first week back at yoga, with classes on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.
  • Nap, because I can.
So that's my week. What does yours look like? I hope it's a wonderful one.

Be well.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Our week

Hello lovelies, how has your week been? We were planning on going camping this week but plans change (as they do), and my body was particularly sore this week, so we stuck around close to home. A trip to the dollar store landed Shira these spectacular swimming goggles which she has worn to Starbucks, in the shower, and while doing summer homework (both girls are missing school terribly and have taken to doing homework on a daily basis). In Canada we don't start school again until September which means five weeks left to go still! Fortunately, there are still plenty of adventures to be had while wearing swimming goggles.

Toronto enjoyed a heat wave this week, which drained much of our energy and patience. Or at least mine and Hille's. We ate a lot of ice cream.

We rented our apartment three years ago and this is the first year the pears on our backyard tree seem edible. Last year they were tiny and withered looking, but this summer they look perfect for eating and baking. I'm don't love pears in fruit crisps (too mushy) so I'm thinking of making a muffin. Any ideas?

Raise your hand if you love agendas as much as I do. Seriously, I was giddy this morning when I noticed that the calendar had changed to August, making it time to buy my new agenda. I found this one from the Rifle Paper Company after indecisively going back and forth between a few options. It is a splurge that I look forward to every year. I usually go with a simple Moleskin, but this year I needed some colour. Plus the first page had a quotation from Van Gogh that I loved: Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.

Dinner tonight was roast chicken with Gwyneth Paltrow's Mexican chopped salad and green goddess dressing. Laugh as you will at Gwyneth, I love her cookbooks, especially this one that I have taken out of the library four different times now. Dinner preparation was made all the better by bourbon and ginger beer cocktails.

Tell me, what have you done with yourself this week?

Be well!