Mom-ing

When the bottom falls out…

Picture this, you’re carrying an extremely heavy load, all tucked into a box. There are a million things in this box.  Somethings heavy, some as light as air.  Your box never changes size, it just gets fuller or empties as life persists.  You must carry this box from point A to B to C etc…now imagine the bottom of that box is beginning to get worn and ragged and is starting to fall apart. What do you do?

In the wake of so many local and beyond local tragedies and excessive loads that so many people I know (me included) are carrying, I felt compelled to write a post and share some thoughts on getting through those really rough times that life inevitably throws at us. Sometimes we are assaulted by life’s cruelties and some people especially seem to have to carry extremely heavy loads.

First and foremost you need to remember ‘you are not alone’.  You really aren’t.  Just like in the box scenario, if the bottom starts to fall out call for help.  Call anyone.  A friend, a relative, a helpline, a doctor…anyone.  You cannot carry that load alone.  It’s impossible, not failure.  Remember that above everything…’you are not alone and nor should you have to carry it alone’.  Just like “A joy shared is doubled,  A struggle shared is halved.” We as humans are not built to do this life alone.  We are meant to live, work, play, and love in packs/groups/tribes.  There are people and resources out there to get you and that load you’re carrying the help you need.  It may not be easy but trust me it’s worth it.     YOU are worth it.

  • Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868
  • Canadian Mental Health Association: 613-745-7750 (MB division: 204-982-6100)
  • Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention: 204-784-4073
  • Your Life Counts: 289-820-5777
  • Manitoba Suicide Line: 1-877-435-7170
  • Manitoba Mental Health Education Resource Centre: 1-855-942-6568

Sometimes in the midst of disaster/tragedy/struggle our minds go into complete overdrive and so begins the cycle of never-ending anxiety and often despair.  Through the years I’ve learned some very basic tools to get me through those really aggressive times, especially at night, when the mind snowballs and won’t shut off and let us sleep, this in turn making for even more anxious days ahead.  Simply put, you need to stop your mind and stop that pattern.  Lots of people use meditation and deep breathing.  I find that what even works more simply is to ‘stop and think of 5 things I can hear’…’stop and think of 5 things I can physically feel’.  It seems so juvenile and trivial but it nearly always works long enough to calm my mind, slow my breathing, and relax my body enough that I can sleep.  Everything seems easier in the light of day.  So when you’re laying there at night and the world rushes in and your box starts to get even heavier, shut it out and think of 5 things…

Once you can stop the cycle that your brain inevitably wants to take you through with anxiety you are able to think clearer and this is when you need to focus on a new mantra of less worry.  Self-talk in a positive way is so extremely important.  Remind yourself that a) you are not alone. b) you can get through this. c) you are worth it. d) it WILL get better. And breathe. REALLY breathe.  Fill your lungs slowly and release that air slowly.  Focus on one thing for one moment. And ask for help.  Please ask for help.  No matter how little or big your struggles are there is someone there to help.  No matter the task or request, someone is there to help.  There are medications, counselling and mental health therapies that DO work.  Keep searching until you find the help you need but don’t do it alone…you need to fix and strengthen the bottom of that load you’re carrying but there are tools/supplies/resources out there to help.

We have to talk about it.  We have to share our loads. We have to reach out and ask for help. We have to be kinder to ourselves. We have to take care of each other. We have to have faith in brighter days ahead.

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Mom-ing

Travelling with a Toddler…the good, the bad and the ugly!

Blessed.  I am so deeply blessed.  This winter I was lucky enough to get to escape the never-ending Manitoba winter and head south for a couple weeks with my hubby and two year old son.  We planned a 3 day (one way so 6 days travel total) road trip down to visit my parents in Texas and I knew that I needed to be extremely organized and ahead of the game in doing so!  Here’s what I did to get ready for an extremely long amount of quality time in the truck with my kidlet and what worked the best and what was the hardest hurdles!

First off, if you’re planning a trip with young kids (or even just with adults really) I cannot say enough good things about the Utility Totes from “thirty-one”.  They literally saved my life!  I have two of them which I packed to the max and placed on the backseat floor for easy access.  I bought a few plastic baskets from the dollar store to place inside of them to keep things sectioned off and organized.  One utility tote held snacks and the other activities for my youngster.  I was able to keep things super organized and in tact for the entire trip with this system!

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I also bought a canvas basket organizer to use for our diaper changing station necessities.  E isn’t potty-trained yet so I wanted to keep wipes, diapers, paper towel, hand sanitizer and hand lotion at my fingertips so that we could easily grab what we needed for bum changes at our fuel and ‘stretch’ stops!  If your child is still in diapers when you travel let me tell you, you have to change their bums a lot more frequently than you would at home…we learned that quickly…oy!

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After a lot of research looking for “the perfect” carseat lap desk I decided to make my own for E.  I sewed a small pillow case, stuffed it with batting and glued strips of velcro to it and to a cookie sheet. (I wanted to be able to remove the pillow for washing!). It worked so well.  It was firm enough to play tractors on, to color, to eat his meals and snacks and to read on.  Things I had read about a lot of different styles of lap desks online stated that they were too flimsy and that the children weren’t able to do any activities on.  This homemade version ended up being so much cheaper to make and worked perfectly!

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I bought a container at the dollar store that had a lid and a handle and threw a bunch of small plastic garbage bags in the bottom of.  We used this as our garbage can, removing the full bags to dispose at truck stops and then refreshing with a clean bag from the bottom.  This system was so simple yet so essential.  It kept the truck clean and organized!

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Onto Activities…I knew that I would need to have quite a few new and interesting items planned to peak and keep my little’s interest for the long trip.  We also have a tv and DVD player in our truck (hello millennials…) and we packed some Disney movies along with Paw Patrol and Curious George videos.

Some activities that I packed that were a hit were:

  • Search and Find Books…the best!
  • Tractor reference Books (including the ever popular Market Book and Auction Books)
  • Story Books
  • Coloring Books with Crayons and Markers..the ‘color wonder’ type a friend gave us were awesome!
  • Sticker Activity Books
  • Re-usable Sticker Boards (Melissa and Doug)
  • Small Tractors (I kept them in a clear ‘lidded’ container which I wrote which items we packed onto the lid so I knew what needed to go back into the box when cleaning up)
  • Whiteboard and Markers

Activites that I packed that were a miss for on the road but great for when we reached our destination:

  • Lego (really tho, what was I thinking for planning this for a car activity??!!)
  • Travel Games (Trouble, Pack of Cards, Dominoes)

I packed a couple small soft-sided coolers for the refrigerated items and had plastic plates (some with divided sections for E), plastic cutlery and one sharp knife to use to use for cutting up fruit etc.  The small snack cups with rubber, split lids came in so handy for passing snacks to E and for other things like holding markers.

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Snacks that we enjoyed on the road:

  • Protein balls
  • Mini muffins
  • Hummus and Veg
  • Crackers
  • Fruit Snacks
  • Gold fish crackers
  • Cookies
  • Jerky
  • Popcorn
  • Nuts
  • Licorice
  • Fruit, apples and grapes
  • Buns with Sausage or Chicken Salad
  • Cheese Sticks
  • Lots and Lots of Water Bottles (Frozen to keep the coolers cold and a large case left room temp.  We would refreeze the cooler packs in the hotel at night) Another thing that works GREAT for keeping your coolers cold is filling empty box-wine bladders with water (just press the spigot button and let water run into the bag) and then freezing them.  This genius idea was brought to us from my parents when we arrived in TX!

We also let E pick out a treat a few times when we stopped at gas-stations.  This was such an easy activity for him that made him really excited and passed the time before and after the stops in the truck.  He’d plan what he was gonna pick before we would stop and slowly devour his “treat” after! And let me just say, let your kid pick the ‘sour patch kids’ even though they are 100% sugar…the faces you get from your little one add hilarity for miles!!!

My little guy has a special blanket and loves his stuffed animals so were sure to pack a few of them for quiet time and if by chance he’d nap.  We also were sure to dress him in comfy clothes and halfway through the trip I even put a plush blanket behind his back in the carseat as he was getting red marks on his back.

He really was a champ and travelled great.  There were a few times where he was cranky from being trapped so long but we’d try to stop and do some stretches to avoid this.  I found that an 8hr drive day was the perfect amount of time (we did a couple much longer days which were hard on all of us).  My biggest advice is be organized.  Have things your child loves to do and get creative with road games (there’s tons of great ideas online for older kids too)…pointing out landmarks, special vehicles (like tractors if you have a farm-nut like us), lights and landscapes.  At two (nearly three) years old E was kept interested in his surroundings.  And when all else failed we would watch “Sing” for the 8th time!! And be flexible!  Your little one is on holidays too…so with that said, we let E have much more snacky food than he normally gets, he got to have juice boxes, special little treats and a happy meal or two from mcdonalds (or old mcdonalds as he calls it) and strict routine was kind of sent wayside (although we did stick to nap time once we arrived at our destination and tried to keep him on point with mealtime eating…bedtime on the other hand was a bit of a disaster!!)

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(Checking out the sunset with Noma and Bubba.)

I have to say travelling with a child is immensely gratifying.  I’ve been to TX a bunch of times but travelling with a little one means you are ‘forced’ to check out new locations and kid-friendly spots which ultimately bring out the kid in everyone.  We had an amazing vacation and I’m still reminiscing hard about the memories we made.  Here’s hoping this trip went well enough that hubby will want to take us back again soon (like next year soon??!!). Blessed.  Grateful.  Refreshed. And ready to tackle the rest of this Manitoba Winter! (Although spring is welcome ANYTIME!!)

 

Mom-ing

The Basics of going Back to the Basics…

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Exploring new places, getting in touch with nature, being outside, swimming, hiking, making bon-fires and cooking over them, basking in the sunshine, cuddling in the rain, and making lists, upon lists, upon lists.  I really do like camping and through the years I’ve been to a lot of places spending time with family and learning through adventure.  This summer I really wanted to explore our own province and make it My Manitoba Summer.  Getting out and exploring what your own country has to offer is really rewarding.  Camping can be a lot of work but it’s also so very nice to unplug and get back to basics.  There’s one thing I know for sure, organization makes it a holiday for everyone including mom!  Here’s a few of the hacks that I depend on!

  • Do as much meal prep as you can at home.  Wash all your fruits and veggies, marinade and then freeze your meat, portion things out so you don’t over pack and be sure to bring extra ziplock bags and tin foil for making little bags to cook. your food in, less clean up that way!
  • Store beach toys in crates that have holes in them so you can shake the sand out of them or better yet swish them clean in the lake.

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  • Bring along a plastic table cloth for your campsite’s picnic table and invest in some clips to keep the table cloth from blowing away. We also bring a plastic folding table to use under our awning for storing frequently used items.
  • Bring along a rope to use as a clothesline or I’ve tacked up some of those reusable 3M or rubbermaid hooks to the outside of our camper so our beach towels and lifejackets can be hung to dry.
  • Keep an emergency box with some form of duck tape, zip ties, a few frequently used tools like pliers, extra garbage bags, a few bungee cords, flashlights with batteries, bug spray, dry newspaper, matches and if you’re feeling extra zealous some firestarter lint pucks. (melt broken wax crayons and pour over dryer lint filled paper egg cartons.  Cut into egg cup sections and store in a ziplock bag.)
  • Pack extra towels…trust me.  This year when our hot water tank leaked inside our camper the extra towels I store in a cupboard came in extremely handy.
  • Get a dishpan for washing as well as rinsing dishes.  This is super handy to use with biodegradable earth friendly dish soap when you’re conserving your grey water storage.  Set up a dishwashing station outside your tent or camper and enlist the help of the sunshine to dry your dishes!
  • I make s’more kits.  We have yet to go through an entire bag of marshmallows on a trip so I portion some marshmallows and graham crackers out, store in ziplock bags and use up way less space that way. (Cheaper than the kits you can find at the stores now too!)

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  • Keep little ones (and old ones too for that matter!) busy with easy to store games such as dominoes, cards, cribbage, glow sticks, toys with carrying cases to store and carry them in, outdoor games like ladder golf, bocce ball, ball gloves and ball, coloring books and crayons or markers and notepaper for tic-tac-toe, word-guessing games etc.  I find this especially helpful for rainy days or for keeping your toddler busy before you head to the beach.
  • Bring a wagon! So useful!  Great for getting wood, filling up with everything you need for the beach, hitting the showers or for filling with kids for a walk around the bay!
  • Freeze your water bottles to use in place of ice to keep your coolers cold.  Large jugs work too and as the water melts you have fresh drinking water!
  • Weiner sticks and pie-irons are great tools if you don’t bring a BBQ or don’t want to cook over the fire in pans every night.  They take up very little space and there’s so many things you can cook in a pie-iron or on a stick! Also use multi-purpose cooking items.  One medium-large cast-iron pan can be used for so many things!
  • Store things in rubbermaid containers to keep them sealed from critters and the rain.  This is especially useful if you’re tenting.  The rubbermaid drawer cabinets on rollers are really handy as well! Use a couple bungee cords to keep the drawers from falling out while in transit.
  • Get together a master-list so that each year on your first voyage you know where to start when packing and getting ready! Laminate it even so you can just re-use it every year checking off the items you have packed.
  • Don’t forget a hat, sunscreen, bugspray, some type of first aid kit (ours included Benadryl this year in case of an allergy), lavender oil which is great for burns and bites, swimsuits, footwear for sunny as well as cold and wet weather, extra blankets that can also double as beach towels in a pinch, a shower caddy or bag that can withstand moisture or as was the case for us this year, millions of fish flies (you never know what surprises lay ahead in campground showers!), and an attitude of c’est la vie!

Get out and explore and make sure to keep it simple!  Let me know if you’ve got any hacks that need to be shared!  I love learning different forms of organizing!!!

 

Mom-ing

Ode To My Mother…

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Mother’s Day has brand new meaning for me since becoming a mother myself…I’ve always been grateful for my mom and it has been important to me to shower her with gifts and love and special moments on this day.  But since becoming a mom I have a completely different set of gratitude and love.

My mother has taught me so many things through the years and continues to do so.  I look to her for advice on raising my little guy as well as advice on a whole array of other things.  She is a wonderful role model, support system and friend.  She has taught me to be proud of my accomplishments as well as failures.  To dust myself off from situations that have been unsuccessful and to get back on the horse.  She has shown me that some of life’s most amazing adventures come from getting out of my comfort zone, and that I am in fact strong and brave enough to conquer so many things.

My mom is independant, wise beyond her years, giving, caring and loving.  She is crazy and wild and loves to try new things. She is out-going and seems to know exactly how to charm a room immediately upon entering it.  She is charismatic, open and engaged.  She makes people feel like they matter.  She listens and she hears.  I admire her extroverted personality and often imagine how she would handle a situation when I find my introverted self uncomfortable.  I often find myself asking her “but what would you do mom?” and truly appreciating her advice.  Thank God I’ve long since given up my brutal teenage attitude and have opened my eyes to the font of amazingness that is my mom…and thank God she continued with the unconditional love even through those horrific pubescent years!

My mom is multi-talented.  There’s not much that she can’t do…and do it with grace and poignancy too.  She loves to cook and has most definitely instilled in me my love for cooking.  She’s in tune with nature, has a greener thumb than most anyone and has shared that love with her children and now grandchild as well.  She’s artistic, creative and has fantastic taste.

  • My mom has taught me to have faith…I’m naturally cynical.
  • She has taught me to set goals, work hard, and celebrate the ‘wins’.
  • She has taught me to make a mean bruschetta.
  • My mom has taught me to appreciate each day…to look for the silver lining.
  • My mom has taught me to be forgiving.
  • She has taught me to take pride and take care of my things.
  • She has taught me perseverance and patience.
  • My mom has taught me how to correctly make a bed…square corners!
  • She has taught me to trust my instincts and stick up for myself.
  • She has taught me it’s ok to cry and has held me while I do.
  • My mom has taught me to be fair, to be kind, to be honest, to love without fear, to share, to give, to trust, to breathe, to relax, to cherish memories, to be loyal, to be understanding, to be myself, to be beautiful, to stand on my own two feet, to be strong and brave and good…my mother has taught me all of this by being this and I am so incredibly thankful for her every single day, not just Mother’s Day!!!

I love you mom…

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Mom-ing

When all else fails, phone a friend!

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The only piece advice I can give to anyone on weathering the storm that is sometimes motherhood (because I really have no idea what I’m doing on a daily basis), is to surround yourself with a heavy duty support system.  I’m talking a handful of girlfriends who have been where you are or who are just super intuitive to know what you need to hear (or drink!), your mother, your husband, your brothers, or whoever else in your life that you can be your truest self with. And hang on to those people, hang on for dear life.

Right now in our home we’re in the throes of major sleep transitions, monkey child is doing whatever he can to not stay in his bed, what used to be a 15 minute bedtime process is now bordering on 2.5 hours, crazy not fun.  I swear I’ve pulled out/greyed so much of my hair these last couple weeks. I’ve reached out to my support web numerous times and tried the majority of their tips/tricks but what has been even more helpful is the kind words cuz you know exactly what I’m talking about when I say the nighttime guilt fog is thick.  Just being reminded to be kind to yourself has allowed me to take a few deep breaths and soldier on.

Motherhood is tough (I can’t believe my mom did it three times), it’s an emotional and physical roller coaster.  It is so rewarding and so depleting all at the same time.  It hovers around hell and then shoots straight up to heaven.  It’s hard…and you can’t possibly do it alone.  Thank God I have the husband I do.  I’m not sure how he stays so patient with my outbursts when I’ve been driven to the end of my rope, when all forms of reasoning are so far gone.  One thing I know for sure is that it’s true what “they” say, the days can be long but the years are short.  I know this.  I remind myself of this.  BUT when you’re knee-deep in weeks of long days, it’s really hard to remember this or believe it.  This is when you call on that support system.  Trust me, they’ll be your saving grace, the rainbow in the storm.  And listen to them when they say “we’ll take E for the night, one bad night for us is nothing, I can nap all day tomorrow”, “you need to get out of the house, come for coffee, the boys can play”, “go hug your husband, you need him right now”, “trust your self, you know what E needs, you’re a good mom”.

And don’t do it alone…this one I struggle with.  I don’t want to be a failure, I don’t want to burden anyone, I don’t want to fall apart in front of anyone and I feel that this is my “job”.  I’m trying to remember that it’s ok to ask for help…Nobody can get through this life alone, Sometimes the greatest form of love is letting someone care for you…Let them. If I can pass on one key piece of advice (regardless of whether I listen to it myself 100% of the time) for any point in your life, not just mom-ing, it is this! I hang this “mantra” on my fridge to try and remind myself but lord help me, it’s very clear where E gets his stubbornness from!!! I am a work in progress.

And when all else fails, open up that bottle of wine.  I swear coffee and wine are kept in business solely by parents!  Keep your friends close, the wine chilled and your chin up.  (And how anxious are we all for green grass again, I know warmer weather will help anchor some positivity too!)

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