Making the Most of the Worst

No more papers, no more books! No more teachers snotty looks! 

Actually none of my teachers gave me snotty looks. And although one term has come to an end, another term has begun so technically I should be singing NEW papers, NEW books, NEW teachers…this term will be very different however. Goodbye campus and hello internship! Oh and it is my FINAL TERM (insert happy dance here)!! I do enjoy school and I love learning but I am looking forward to becoming an actual practitioner. From now until I am officially graduated I  have the opportunity to pretend to be a practitioner – thank goodness because I’m tired of lecture halls, seminar rooms, and campus life in general and ready to get some practical experience.

This post isn’t supposed to be about my boring academic adventure though, it’s a celebration because after a long absence, I’m back! It has been months since I’ve posted but today I’m reappearing and I can proudly say that today I am a stronger version of me than I was before.

My absence was partly due to an overwhelming course-load at school but mostly due to an unfortunate, frustrating, emotional roller coaster ride of an attempt at a custody agreement between myself and my son’s father. It has been, to date, the hardest experience of my life. The worst. Not only have I been struggling emotionally but the ordeal has even made me physically ill – it’s amazing how interconnected our bodies are! However, it has also been such a learning experience for me. Not only have I learned so much about our legal system in Ontario/Canada, I’ve learned a great deal about myself. I’ve learned so much about my strengths and my weaknesses (yes there are a few!). I’ve also learned about what I contribute to situations, how I sometimes unintentionally make them worse, how I sometimes try to over-control things, and how I often foolishly see good in people when good sometimes does not exist. Although this situation is far from over and no agreement has been made, I do believe/hope the worst is behind me. I’ve been doing a lot of self-reflection on the entire experience and am realizing that through the many sleepless nights, the stress and worry, the frustration and tears, and the anger, I have grown and changed significantly. I see things, all things in life, through a different lens now. I believe the experience has made me a better person, a better mother, and also made me much more self-aware. Through all this, I feel even more motivated to continue along my path in life, to pursue my personal goals, and to provide the absolute best for my children because they deserve nothing less.

So there’s the happy ending to a downright awful situation, this almost sounds like a Project Optimism post! It isn’t a Monday but I’m counting it anyway, sometimes we have to bend the rules a little! 

PROJECT OPTIMISM is about having HOPE even when things appear impossible, it is about finding that silver lining regardless of how teeny tiny it may be, it’s about focusing on those little joys and letting them all add up and fill your cup.

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If you aren’t familiar with Project Optimism check out the uplifting posts by other’s, there’s an entire page of participating bloggers listed here  who are sure to help you turn your frowns upside down, even if just for a moment.

*If this isn’t quite enough optimism for you, be sure to sneak a peek at my past week’s posts. Find them all stored neat & tidy under Project Optimism in my drop down Category menu to the right.*  

“In our push to see women as equals, do we sometimes mistake “equal” for meaning “the same,” to the advantage of our daughters and with contempt for our sons?”

….wow! Such a great topic I just had to share! It is an issue I battle with in my house as well.
It is much easier for me to encourage my daughter to reach outside of her stereotypical roles than it is for me to allow my son to simply be a rowdy boy.

[writing] between friends

photo

Here is the immediate context in a long-term process: right before Christmas, a school shooting, killing children who were the age of my twin boys, sitting diligently in their classrooms like mine do every day. My quiet tears at the simplest moments in the following weeks, self-censored, because they do not know, don’t need to know, and feel responsible for their mother’s emotional health. Next, a letter to Santa, written in 7-year-old, erratic hand, “nerf gun and bullets” at the top of the list.  Then, a New York Times piece, hypothesizing, with some flaws, that as we usher in “The End of Men,” we will see an increase in white, young, male-inflicted violence as those creatures, previously at the top of the chain, bluster around without a way to be.

Finally, the Eureka! moment at the ice-skating rink: skating slowly and steadily with my toddler girl, around the…

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Will Do’s

Short term. Directive. Will Do’s.

The whole point to this is to focus on one thing per week. Each intention being a small step toward becoming the person I want to be, forming the habits I’d like to have, or eliminating the ones I already have but don’t need.

If you didn’t already hear about my failures & successes from last week check them out: here – for failures, and here – for success! In the end I succeeded with flying colours! Our zucchini muffins are such a super hit we’ve made more already! We’ve delivered some to our favourite neighbours who love zucchini and we’ve stocked our freezer with not only muffins but one loaf, dozens of mini loaves, and dozens of mini muffins. I mentioned that the recipe used up the last of our zucchini from the garden but luckily I was wrong! We had one more little guy hiding under the giant leaves of the zucchini plant and so much more baking happened today!

I’m still riding the high of this success and now I want more!

With the extra time I’ve got during these mere 3 weeks without classes I’ve decided to focus a little lot on myself. Health & fitness have always been of interest to me. From a young age I’ve been active and fairly fit. I danced with a highly competitive Irish Dancing school for nearly 10 years as well as playing soccer. Aside from organized sports I was always active and doing something.

After having children though, my activity level went down a few notches. Babies tend to limit your free time and even more than that, they made me feel guilty when I did take time to myself. There was always something I should be doing for them whether it was caring for them or folding laundry while they were napping. I really struggled to balance my own needs with their needs. If I did go for a run I’d feel guilty and turn around after a few kilometres because I’d convince myself that something else was more important.

After years of struggling to find this balance I’ve finally come to the conclusion: I am important! 

It has become clear that when I’m happier, my kids are happier. When I’m feeling better about myself I feel better about everything in my life. And when I’m active, I feel better about myself. I call this my positivity circle.

I’ve spent the past week being very active with my rugrats (hiking, kayaking, swimming, biking) but that isn’t enough for me. What I want is to be back to the fit & toned version of myself I used to be, or even better! So I’ve started back into my old home work out routines, and it feels great! I can already feel my muscles tightening back up again – I know there is a 6-pack under there! It has only been a few days but I already feel stronger which is such great motivation to keep going!

All too often I get on a roll and feel fantastic and then quit. It is so frustrating knowing how great I could be, feel, and look if only I’d put in the effort. But then when this type of thinking seeps in I start to wallow in self-pity and then I generally eat a lot of cookies. Suddenly my positivity circle turns into a negative vicious circle: feel bad about self, feel bad about other aspects of my life, be less active, feel worse. Then cranky Momma enters the picture and it’s bad for everyone!

I know it isn’t all about exercise though. In fact, I think that an even stronger influence on my health and fitness level (and mood) is my diet. By diet I don’t mean starving myself, counting calories, or any of that stuff. I simply mean what I eat. When I eat garbage I feel like garbage. When I eat a healthy,  as-close-to-natural as possible foods I feel much better! Does this happen to you? Take my mood if I eat a greasy burger (with bacon & cheese of course!) and fries OR if I was to eat salmon and veggies. Definitely happier with the latter.

So this week I’m doing some type of home workout every day along with whatever active stuff the kids and I get up to: biking, walking, spinning in circles until we’re dizzy…the usual 🙂 PLUS, along with the exercise aspect of it, I’ll be eating as healthy as possible and paying attention to what I eat rather than mindless snacking all day.

I’ll keep you updated on how I’m doing with this one. Wish me luck or even better JOIN ME! 🙂

I thought “Weekly Intention” was a little dull…..still the name of the category you’ll find each week’s intentions in but I’ve revamped the post’s title, what do you think?

The Squeaky Wheel

The squeaky wheel gets the grease

Ever heard this saying? Basically meaning that those who complain the loudest get the attention/service. Not always true in the case of me, my daughter, and her bicycle…

Once upon a time there was a 6 year old girl who had a bicycle. She loved this bike even though it wasn’t pink or purple or girly in any way whatsoever. She loved it even though it was second hand and rusted and far from shiny. She loved it for the freedom it provided her and because when she rode her bike, she was in complete control.

This is my Kate. She’s quite an amazing little thing for many reasons but this story focuses on her biking skills. She’s been on the coveted “two-wheeler” for nearly a year and has greatly increased her speed and endurance during this time. She’s able to go impressively far (like the 20km route we did today!) and can navigate hills, ruts, and sharp turns on the trails.

So what’s the issue *every story has got to have a conflict right?! In this case, it was the pedal.

From my view riding behind her I could see for awhile now that her pedal was not pivoting. So as a result, every time the pedal went around, she had to lift her foot off and then put it back to replace the intended action of the pedal spinning. Make sense? If not, go out and check out your pedal, imagine if it turned in the larger sense (to move your bike forward) but not in the smaller intended spin to allow the foot to stay on the pedal during a full circle…hopefully I’ve explained this well enough…back to my story…

Kate is not exactly a whiner but doesn’t let things go unnoticed. She pointed out many times that her pedal was not spinning and each time I gave her the same answer. I would remind her where the grease was and that she could spray it at any time just the same as she greases her chain.

Skip ahead approx. 3 months. As we are biking Kate again complains about her pedal in which I again respond with the directions to how she can fix it. She becomes very upset that I don’t just fix it for her or even remind her to grease it when we are home. According to this 6 year old it is soooooo unfair that no one can help her solve this problem. Then, because she’s brilliant, she decides to take matters into her own hands.

At that moment we were stopped at a stop light waiting for the lights to change. We just happened to be stopped right in front of a auto-repair shop. She asks if they would have grease there and if it would cost more than $4 for her to get some (this is how much money is in her wallet at the moment), of course I tell her there is only one way to find out!

We enter the shop and are greeted by a white haired, grease stained man with a very curious look on his face. Far from tall enough to be seen over the counter she begins to tell the man what is wrong with her bike (and how her mother has not fixed it and never reminds her to fix it herself!) and she explains how it slows her down and she can’t go as fast as she used to and how much harder it is going up hills and how it isn’t safe because if her foot is lifted off the pedal then it takes longer to push the pedal backwards to use her brakes because she doesn’t have a hand break because it broke so her mother simply cut the wire and now all she has are backwards pedalling kind of breaks…..this of course is all said to the man as one sentence and all in one breath.

His reply is that she is to bring the bike in once he opens the big door out front. After a quick spray with some WD-40 and a few chuckles from the other guys working in the garage the pedal is finally fixed. She offers her $4 but the man refuses.

As we left the garage and resumed our ride she was quiet. I asked how the pedal was working and without even acknowledging my question she quickly decided, out loud, that she needed to make that man a thank you card and deliver it to him ASAP before he thought she wasn’t thankful or before he forgot about her.

The moral of the story: the pedal might not have been squeaky (it did make an awful grinding noise when you tried to twirl it though) but the kid sure was squeaky about it. She complained and even cried on a few occasions.  Complaining wasn’t enough to get the pedal fixed though, I don’t believe that the squeaky wheel gets anything – maybe elsewhere in life but not in my house! Eventually Kate took matters into her own hands and got the job done. Not only that but she definitely swelled my heart (and head) a little with her gesture of gratitude. My heart because it’s just so darn sweet when kids are, well, sweet! And my head because that is my kid! I made her and I like to think I’ve played a lead role in teaching her to do things like send thank you cards!

Here’s what the card looked like, we’ll be delivering it tomorrow.

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Oh, The Places You’ll Go

Congratulations!
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.

– Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss, no one has ever said it quite like he. And he is absolutely right on this one. Oh, The Places You’ll Go is one of my favourite Dr. Seuss books but one I often forget about, until I read it again!  It doesn’t quite hold a presence in my house like Green Eggs and Ham but it is loved nonetheless.

Today reminds me of this book. -if you haven’t read it google it! In fact, just click here and enjoy!) Today I woke up with a game plan unlike our norm. We had no where to go, no obligations, no dates or times to adhere to, absolutely nothing! I have a feeling the type A, OCD side of me wouldn’t be comfortable with this regularly BUT since it is so rare it was quite enjoyed!

We made our first attempt at this week’s Weekly Intention with a muffin recipe I found on Pinterest that seemed waaaay too good to be true! The results – I’m actually not sure…I haven’t tried one yet! I’ll test one tomorrow and if they are worthy I’ll post about them, if not we’ll move onto attempt #2!

*UPDATE* This was actually written on Wednesday. Attempt #1 was a fail, as was #2 and #3….

After this, with all the opportunity & possibility my limited student/single mom budget would allow, we set out on an adventure! This would be my first ever attempt at REAL hiking. I say real because, well, the part of South Western Ontario I have lived my entire life in is pretty flat…we’ve got some hills but they roll along and form nothing noteworthy. We’ve done a lot of adventuring through the trails at the local conservation areas but nothing compared to this!

And this photo doesn’t even begin to describe the steep ridges & cliffs or the beauty of the natural environment we encountered during our trek along the Niagara Peninsula…but it’s better than nothing!

We started our trek at Balls Falls Conservation Area. The highlights there were two waterfalls but the highlight for me – the trails connected to the BRUCE TRAIL! Recall my Summer Fun To Do List, hiking the Bruce Trail was on there which means a big fat check mark – nothing feels better than checking something off a to do list!

Although the kids were quite happy to play in the Conservation Area’s washrooms, we eventually hit the trails.

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Here’s proof we took on the challenge of the Bruce – and proof my youngest munchkin is an adorable little goof!

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The stairs were out for maintenance but that didn’t stop us! His thumb may be up but his eyes show he was nervous! 

I won’t lie, the trek was tough, but hiking along the Niagara Peninsula was breathtaking!

It is hard to see from the picture but that was the trail we took to make our descent. What we found at the bottom made the trek well worth it….

The Twenty Mile Creek was full of mini waterfalls that captivated the kids.

I’ve got many other photos I could share but the sights we saw weren’t the highlight of the trip for me. The part that took my breath away was the time spent with my kids. It was just us, disconnected from the rest of the chaotic world we live in, completely immersed into the moment. Holding hands, watching out for each other, letting each other know when there was a hole, stump, root, etc. We had a chance to talk about real stuff, not just what they did at school or how their weekend with their Dad was. I like to talk to my kids about real stuff. I think sometimes they are a bit young but it is amazing how much they understand and they come up with great, real life examples that prove what I’m trying to teach them. We got to talk about how hard work pays off – then we climbed a tough ridge that led to a beautiful, breathtaking view and I got the best proof to back up our discussion! 

During our 4.5  hour hike it was just us and this is a rare and beautiful thing.

I am still bursting with pride that my little rugrats were able to rise to the challenge the trails held for us but even more so I am proud of who they are becoming.

Teeth & Fairies

Tonight marks the losing of tooth #6 for my daughter. Maybe 7. Either way, she lost a tooth and I had no change *Canadian remember so unless a tooth gets $5 we use change! 

So nickels & dimes it was until I finally reach our standard $1.

I should really know better, with 3 wiggly teeth all at once I should be prepared! And after our last lost tooth incident…

                Once upon a time, my daughter had no wiggly teeth. There appeared no need for keeping spare change on hand in the jar atop the fridge.

On an early summer evening this young daughter of mine decided to help her little brother open his new water bottle (which was not yet broken in!). The cap was tight but determined she was. After several failed attempts she chose to use her teeth although her mother often tells her to “Never use your teeth as tools” as her mother told her and her mother told her.

The blood came quick and the tooth was yanked from it’s roots. Tears quickly followed. The daughter was consoled yet reminded that, “that’s why we don’t use our teeth as tools!” Once the tooth fairy was mentioned all was better and the crisis was cleared up.

An excited child sleeping with her tooth under her pillow and a mother frantically searching for a the loonie. The house was dry. The purse, the spare change jar, the dresser where pockets were often emptied, even the car was broke! Then that amazing mother got an idea – the laundry room! There is a ledge in the laundry room beside the washer which often collects spare bottom of the washer change.

Bingo! A loonie. But while the mother was there, she figured she should get to work on the unimaginable mountain of laundry needing folding, washing, etc. Once the laundry was done mother decided to call it a night.

6:30am bedside alarm goes off. 6:45am mother’s internal alarm goes off! Mother jumps out of the shower and races to the laundry room 4 levels below (it’s a split level townhouse with 6 levels total = built in stairmaster!). Back up 3 levels to the daughters room she quickly realizes she is too late. The daughter sits with her tooth in hand, stricken look upon her face. Quick on her feet mother places the loonite just outside the bedroom quietly then enters the room throwing her arms up in the air with a loud “oh my goodness!” and a quick explanation about how the tooth fairy couldn’t have entered the room because the fan was on but the was a surprise in the hal, cleared everything up.

The moral of the story: Thank goodness for gullible kids! And always have spare change on hand!!!

*funny side note, I stumbled upon this cute story also about the tooth fairy slacking on the job!