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A letter from a working parent.

A letter from a working parent.

It’s 10:15pm on December 5.  There are soon to be less than 20 days until Christmas and I am staring at my computer screen with dry, tired eyes just starting to work on our annual family photo book that we do as a Christmas present for my Dad and Step Mom. I’m honestly not even sure that I’ll get it done and ordered in time for Christmas this year but I’m just now finding the time to pull all of the pictures into an album so I certainly haven’t had the time to search out the date for ‘must ship by (blank) to receive in time for Christmas.’  At this point, our little family is operating full steam ahead on a ‘it will get done when it gets done’ philosophy.

Having recently returned to work from my second maternity leave, I am here to tell you that being a working parent is freaking hard.

When I returned to work after having my first-born, I was moderately excited about the idea of going back to work: more adult interaction, a different kind of mental stimulation, a work wardrobe, time with colleagues that have become friends, etc.  Of course, it was heart breaking to leave my wee boy in someone else’s care but we valued the experiences he would gain from being in a good childcare environment and I enjoyed my job in recreation.  More than anything, to be completely honest, it was bearable because I knew that it was only a matter of time before I would be going off on maternity leave with our second baby so there was a faint light at the end of the tunnel right from the get-go.  Almost exactly one year later, I was off again at the end of my second pregnancy and was giddy at the thought of having a full year ahead of me to be home with my boys.

Our transition to being a family of four was more challenging than I expected, but it didn’t take us long to find our stride.  The rest of the year was everything I had hoped it would be and, just as everyone said it would, it flew by.  Jude is a labour day baby, born September 5, so Super Dad and I agreed to take the summer off together with our three year old and soon-to-be one year old.  We spent our time playing at home, checking out local beaches and travelling throughout various parts of Eastern Canada.  The emphasis was low on structure or schedules and high on adventure and time with friends making it a memorable summer to say the least.  When September inevitably rolled around, we were ready to pack up our tents and join the ‘back to school’ brigade.

Having previously returned to work in July, going back in September felt like a breeze.  I packed backpacks for daycare, laid out my new ‘back to work’ outfit and looked forward to all the same things that I had previously enjoyed when returning to work.  Even day care drop off was easier knowing that the boys would go together and sure enough, there were no tears.

When I’m asked how it’s going being back to work, I always hear myself say that it’s been better than I expected and that we are all benefiting from the routine.  While this is true on so many levels, the weight of operating a household with two working parents eventually catches up to me and I find myself contemplating how to go about a drastic life change to find a better work-life balance.

If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you already know that our family loves and deeply values time spent adventuring together – from hiking, biking, beaching, and camping to playing in the yard, pulling vegetables and tending to our chickens.  I am three months back to work and have yet to figure out how we find the time for these things after an 8-hour workday and a two-hour commute.  This time of year being especially hard with the shortened daylight.

When I get home from work, Super Dad has already brought the boys home from daycare and started something for dinner.  We save any conversation about how our days went for later in the evening and do what we can to look at day care crafts and squeeze in a few minutes of play between dinner, bath, jammies and books.

Does a work-life balance even exist when your kids are this little?

I think one of the biggest differences for me this time around is that the light at the end of the tunnel is much more faint than when I had my sights set on baby number two…in fact, it’s retirement in 25 years.

I can imagine what some of you are thinking.  Quit your job!  Drop down to part-time work!  Take an extended leave!

These are all great suggestions and trust me when I tell you that I have weighed the pros and cons and pursued all the options but here’s the thing…

I have worked my butt off to get to where I am in my career, I like my job and for the first time in my professional life, I feel like I am absolutely in the right place at the right time.  I returned from my maternity leave to a new role in a new building and I am flourishing.  I’m building valuable relationships with my colleagues, I’m establishing a network of contacts throughout my department, I’m gaining confidence in my role as a manager and I’m in a place where I can see the difference that our work is doing in the community.

I think I’m less interested in finding a way to lessen my role as a working professional and more so in finding a way to have it all – or at least a better balance!

How do we working parents thrive in our careers, as parents, as spouses and as individuals?  It seems like a logical solution to ditch the housework, pick up take-out for dinner and postpone our workouts to next week in favour of working all day and playing with the kids in the evening but isn’t that why we’re becoming a generation with obesity and diabetes levels that are considered epidemics?  Not to mention that it’s an added challenge to get everyone out the door in the morning when bedtime snuggles replaced laundry on the ‘to-do list’ and there aren’t enough clean socks to go around.

If there was ever a time when life would allow you to have your cake and eat it too, this is when I would sign up for that option.

I would like to climb the corporate ladder, be home for all the major milestones, remain a best friend to my spouse and set aside some time for myself.  Does anyone have a cake recipe for this?

My greatest hope is that the modern day work environment will soon catch up to the reality that more and more households are operating with two working parents.  Families today need flexibility and the ability to modify their professional lives without having to commit to permanent change.  The option to do a gradual return to work after maternity leave, work one or more days from home or return for half days until the kids are in school.  Stepping out a little further, let’s let the 9-5 work week go the way of the dinosaurs and capitalize on true productivity, engaged employees and wellness in all areas of our lives.

 

Why I love to solo parent…sometimes.

Why I love to solo parent…sometimes.

This past weekend, Super Dad took off on a long weekend in Louisiana for a bachelor party leaving me to solo parent the boys for four nights.  I’ll admit, my initial reaction to the idea of being on my own for 12 meals, 4 daycare drop offs and pick ups, 4 bedtimes and countless tantrums was a little overwhelming.  I reassured myself that I could invite my Mom to come stay with us and it would just like any other day of having one adult per child.  As plans came together for Adam’s trip, I never did extend the invitation for another set of hands and I think it’s because deep down, I knew that I could handle it on my own and the closer we got to the weekend, the more inclined I was to spread my wings as a solo parent.

The weekend came and went in a flash and as it turns out, it was a welcomed change of pace.

I enjoyed running my own show.  Super Dad and I are on the same page about all of the big things – bedtime routines, disciplinary tactics etc. but when it comes to going about our day, we operate a little differently.  Adam is a task-oriented, productive, punctual person that feels at his best when he has checked off a long list of ‘to-do’s’ on a Saturday.  I, on the other hand, will poke away at tidying here and there throughout the day, usually take on one or two new recipes but a Saturday well spent to me is in the sandbox or on the swings at the park with the boys.  On the weekends that we are home as a family, Super Dad and I compliment each other well and our time ends up being a combination of work and play but it was refreshing to spend my time with the boys doing puzzles, playing hide-and-go seek and running around outside without feeling the need to balance our day with house work or yard work.

We invited whoever to come whenever for however long they could!  Adam and I are both socialites.  We are true believers in ‘the more the merrier’ and are often inviting friends or family to join us for whatever we have on the go.  A ‘Mom and tot’ playdate however is not exactly high of Super Dad’s social calendar.  I took this opportunity to invite people over throughout the weekend and we loved our time hosting and playing a la toddler.

I stepped up my housewife game.  If you know me, this won’t come as a surprise to you but I’ll go ahead and set the stage here in saying that I am not the tidy one in our family.  In fact, I have endearingly nicknamed my husband ‘Danny Tanner’ because he is forever working to keep our house clean and organized.  I, on the other hand, earned the nickname ‘trailer’ as a child because I leave a trail of things I have done or touched throughout the day and I’m afraid to say the nickname has followed me into my married life.  It’s not that I don’t value having a clean house but it’s not priority one for me.  Being on my own this weekend was like a challenge to keep things in order like Danny would and I found myself dealing with what we call ‘trouble spots’ that had been sitting there for months.  Danny and his young protégér were back to it when he got home but I’m hoping to keep my game face on for a while longer.

I took some time for myself.  This might have been my favourite part of solo parenting.  At the end of the day, after the boys were in bed and the house was in order, I got to sit back and truly enjoy some alone time.  Being a spouse and a parent can be emotionally draining because there is almost a constant need to engage physically or emotionally with someone else.  As two working parents, Adam and I use this time in the evenings to catch up on one another’s day and get through any banking or admin things that we’re working through.  It’s valuable time for our marriage but for a weekend, it felt really decadent to have that time to myself…and if you’re wondering, I made the most of it by eating my weight in ice cream and watching Girl Boss or re-runs of Heartland!

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.  When Adam left on Thursday morning, I wasn’t sure how often I would hear from him – if at all – over the weekend but we ended up talking more than we normally do.  It was fun to send him pictures and videos of what the boys were up to and to hear snippets of what New Orleans was like.  Super Dad even found ‘Little Blue Truck’ which Clyde didn’t actually think was all that impressive but Adam and I are considering it a parenting win!  Clyde went to bed on Sunday night so excited to wake up and come upstairs for a snuggle with Dad… I think it’s safe to say we were all ready for him to come home.

You may have noticed that I used the term ‘solo parent’ to describe my time alone with the boys this weekend.  While I enjoyed the experience for all of the reasons above, it crossed my mind a few times that it was a small insight into the world of a single parent and ladies and gents, my hat is off to you.  I was exhausted by the end of the day and so looking forward to Adam’s return on Monday.  There is no doubt that it takes a village!

One last thing that kept me going through the weekend was that my turn is coming in just a few weeks.  A friend and I are driving to Toronto for two nights shopping and the hotel life.  Is anyone else planning to visit the One of a Kind Show?!  Hopefully Super Dad enjoys solo parenting as much as I did!

The aftermath of Halloween

The aftermath of Halloween

Last week, I shared about our Halloween tradition with the Switch Witch and while I got mostly positive feedback, it invoked some questions and commentary that got me thinking a little deeper about moderation, self regulation and finding good uses for the ‘great candy haul.’

Towards the end of last week’s post I admitted that Adam and I would most likely throw away any and all of the Halloween candy that the boys collected.  I was hesitant to write it knowing that it wouldn’t be the popular opinion but I strive to present an honest reflection of our life on this blog and the honest truth was that we would do as we have done in past years and ‘can the candy.’  Within hours of publishing, I had people reaching out with suggestions of things we could do with our candy and it got me thinking about the options to donate it constructively – constructively meaning not putting it out at work for kids that have a haul of candy at home and colleagues that aspire to eat better and exercise more.  I did a Google search and came across some pretty neat opportunities across the country!

If you live on the West coast, you can drop off your candy with this Calgary dentist for it to be turned into biofuel feedstock!  Those of you in Halifax can bring your candy here and have it sent out to our troops!

Those of us in Ottawa with candy to spare can bring it to Citigate Dental this Saturday and they will be donating it to a shelter with children that didn’t get to go trick-or-treating.

Thank you to everyone that reached out to me with your suggestions.  We stuck with the ‘Switch Witch’ concept this year but when Clyde asked me where the Switch Witch takes all of his candy, I was left at a loss for words… Next year we will encourage the boys to choose a place they would like to donate their candy!

…and speaking of candy.  Can I just say that this was by far my favourite year of trick-or-treating?  Clyde, at nearly 3.5 years old, truly understood the concept for the first time and it was as if he had found his purpose in life.

We live in the country where kids trick-or-treat by driving from house to house so we asked the grandparents that live in town if we could meet at their house after work/daycare for a crockpot dinner and head out together to the densely populated neighborhood near them.  The streets seemed really quiet when we started so we walked down the street from their house, rounded the corner and found a trick-or-treaters haven.  The kids were literally running back and forth across the street and from house to house.   Without a moments hesitation, Clyde left my side in a full sprint to join the gaggle of kids in costume and made his way to the first door he could get to.  ‘Trick or treat!’  he said proudly.  Followed immediately by ‘Thank you!  Happy trick or treat…I mean, Happy Halloween!’ and he was off again to the next house.

Super Dad and Grandpa pushed Jude in the stroller while Grandma and I maintained a light jog to keep up with Clyde for the evening.  The small, foam bags from the dollar store were being filled up in record time and brought to the stroller to be dumped.  Note to self: next year, he will be ready for the pillow case.

My heart was bursting with pride to see him holding his own amongst the big kids and speaking confidently with the adults that answered the door when he knocked.

We were back to Grandma and Grandpa’s house by 7:30pm to dump and sort the candy then it was time for pajamas and home to bed.

I was grinning from ear to ear on the drive home thinking about how this year marks the first of the next 10+ years of trick-or-treating with that boys that will be so. much. fun.

On the topic of self regulation and treats in moderation, I want to clarify that we are not striving to raise ‘sugar free kids.’  Anyone that knows me or read my post about motivation knows that I have a bowl of ice cream every night and that I love treats.  The major difference being that I can choose to eat well throughout the day knowing that I will have a dessert in the evening.  Our kids are bombarded with opportunities to consume excessive amounts of sugar everyday via juice, cereal, flavoured yogurt, packaged snacks – the list goes on and on.  Our priority is to help them choose whole foods and opt for treats that are homemade or a recipe that we did together so we can use ingredients like whole wheat flours, oats and maple syrup instead of refined sugars, dye’s or ingredients we can’t pronounce.

Our desire to implement the ‘Switch Witch’ is not an attempt to eliminate the opportunity for our kids to eat candy but it is a way to emphasize the fun and joy of trick-or-treating instead of Halloween being all about the candy.  Trick-or-treating itself is a great concept, in my opinion.  It promotes creativity, stimulates conversations between neighbours and is a night spent with our kids walking outside with friends and family!  We all enjoyed sorting the candy at the end of the night and sharing a few treats together and then we reinforced our standard message that candies are yummy and fun for a treat but that they don’t help us to grow big and strong.  Clyde was happy to help package up all of the treats for the Switch Witch and the next day we all enjoyed sitting down to play with their new dump trucks and Hot Wheel cars!

I hope that you and your family had a fun and safe year of trick-or-treating!  We will be excited to run the streets of Kanata again next year!

Halloween with the Switch Witch

Halloween with the Switch Witch

Let me start by saying that I am one of ‘those’ parents that cares deeply about what their kids eat…so please, enter (or read on) if you dare.

I’m getting better as Clyde gets older but if someone hands him a juice box when I’m not around, it all but sends me into cardiac arrest when I eventually see him drinking from it.  I realize (deep down) that the occasional juice box won’t do him any harm but it has more to do with the overwhelming amount of opportunity that we (as a society) are offered and encouraged to reach for sugar.

With this in mind, you can imagine that I struggle with the way that we (again, as a society) choose to celebrate all special occasions with sugar but Halloween in particular is a doozie.  Maybe someone can fill me in on the history of trick-or-treating but at what point did it seem like a good idea to give our kids enough candy in one night to last them until Christmas – at which time they will get enough chocolate to last them until Valentine’s Day…and so on, and so forth.

I once heard this analogy about Halloween and I thought it was so true and funny:

We tell our kids not to talk to strangers and then one day, we send them door to door with a bag and everywhere they go, they get candy!

Don’t worry, I’m not going to rain on Halloween’s parade entirely.  I enjoy dressing up my kids in their costumes and watching them waddle up the driveway to shout out ‘TRICK OR TREAT!’  I have (mostly) fond memories of doing this myself many moons ago and getting home to dump my pillowcase and sort my candy.

Full disclosure:  I once dressed up as gum under a table and every year was the worst trick-or-treater – rarely lasting more than a few houses… but that’s neither here nor there now.

Super Dad and I fully intend to carry on the tradition of taking our boys trick out treating.  We will bring them home with pillow cases of candy and gladly ‘tax’ them a chocolate bar or two while helping sort their loot.  After that, the candy will disappear.  We have decided that the boys will each get to pick one piece of candy (or chocolate, or chips) per year of age to eat that night or save and eat at their leisure.  The rest will be left out on Halloween night and replaced with a toy from the Switch Witch!

The Switch Witch was a concept I heard about from a friend before we had our boys and I think it is genius.

I’m imagining as they get older, it will become increasingly difficult to entice them into trading their candy for a toy so we’re going to make an effort to make sure the Switch Witch leaves an something epic on Halloween night.

Last year, when Paw Patrol was all the rage, Clyde woke up to find a Marshall fire truck and was pretty stoked.  This year, I’m planning on a set of emergency vehicles or diggers that are loud and obnoxious or his first set of Hot Wheels.  He told me this week that he would like the Switch Witch to leave him puppets with a fox or raccoon head but I have no idea where that came from so we’ll see how his answer changes over the next 10 days.

As for the candy, we will probably throw it away to be perfectly honest because we’re boring like that but I’m open to suggestions as to what to do with it that has some value!

How do you handle the influx of treats at Halloween?

To work or not to work?

To work or not to work?

In the days leading up to my return to work, I had a friend make a joke that really resonated with me.  We were messaging back and forth about how I would make it through my first day and how my family would adjust to the change and then she wrote: “When was it that women fought for the right to work?”

I laughed but the thought has really stuck with me and changed my perspective entirely about going back to work.

In an instant, I went from wallowing about not staying home with my boys to feeling empowered about having the opportunity to hold a challenging and satisfying career of my own.

This isn’t by any means a knock against stay-at-home parents.

It’s simply a reminder of how fortunate we are to have the choice – to work, to stay home or to balance a bit of both.

This past Friday marked my first “month-a-versary” of having been back to work full-time.  Just like with everything else these days, the weeks flew by and I’m not sure I can say with full confidence that we have our feet under us yet – but we’re getting there!

This being my second time back to work from maternity leave, a few things felt a little easier.  Namely dropping Jude at daycare knowing he would be with his big brother all day was a breeze.

Otherwise, I am referring back to my own “survival guide” if you will.  So many of these tips remain true for me today as a working parent…

1. Love your job.  Coming back to work this fall, I had the opportunity to start in a new role at a new Community Centre.  The learning curve has been pretty steep – on top of adjusting to a new routine at home – but in less than one month, I got to bring my kiddos along to a weekend event in the community where I work and we all loved it!

2. Love your childcare arrangements.  If I can’t be with my boys all day, everyday, it’s important to me that they be in an environment that adds value to their day.  Our boys spend their time with the sweetest family at a French home daycare.  They bring home crafts and Clyde tells me stories about playing with his friends.  They are practicing a second language and spend much of their time playing outside.  When I told Clyde in September that Jude would be joining him at daycare, he was so excited and to see them run into the house together warms my heart.

3.  Make plans to socialize after bedtime.  In the last year, we have established a monthly ‘guys night’ and ‘ladies night’ with our friends.  We meet up once a month after bedtime on a weekday for drinks or a late dinner and catch up!  It’s become something that I really look forward to and takes the pressure off of getting together without the kids during precious weekend time.

4.  Let brunch be your best friend.  I have written many times about my love for breakfast outings with kids.  Whether we’re at a restaurant or making pancakes at home, it is one of my favourite times to socialize with the kiddos.

5. Quality over quantity.  I am a firm believe in the value of playing with your kids and when I get home from work, everything waits until after bedtime so I can make the most of every minute with the boys.

Perhaps step number 6 should be to remind myself, on the hard days, that having the choice to work was worth fighting for.

Fast forward six weeks: life update!

Fast forward six weeks: life update!

hold.  the.  phone.  Has it really been over a month since I’ve last written?  I’ll admit I had to go back to the blog to see what my last entry was but it immediately felt like it was just last week that I was sitting on the back deck writing about our trip to the East coast.  In what feels like a blink of an eye, six weeks have gone by and we have been through so much change.

For starters, I cut my hair.  Like really, cut my hair.  Yikes!  A hair cut is always a shock but there’s something about a Mom bob that feels so good.  Who’s with me?

In more serious news…I’m back to work now!  I started back at my full-time job in recreation after the labour day weekend.  I was more ready than I realized to get up, get dressed and get out the door in the morning but we are all still adjusting to the transition.

Before getting back to a more ‘traditional’ routine, we were able to squeeze in a few more things into our unforgettable first summer as a family of four.

Just one week after getting home from Nova Scotia, we loaded up the truck once more with our camping gear for another 10-day tour – this time of Southern Ontario.

We joined my Dad and Step Mom for a visit in Welland, Ontario where my Dad grew up and my Aunt, Uncle and cousins live.  Clyde got to swim and ride bikes with his cousin – second cousin?  First cousin, once removed?  My cousin’s son…for anyone that understands how that works.  We drove into Niagara to see the falls and enjoyed some long overdue family time.

From there, we continued on with my Dad and Step Mom to join them in Toronto for a few days.  My Dad was staying in a hotel on business and made room for our family to tag along.  We lounged in the lobby for continental breakfasts, walked down the hall to the hotel pool and snuck back to the lobby once the kids were asleep for an ‘adults only’ Haagen Daaz.  We briefly left the comforts of hotel living to peruse the Yorkdale mall and to visit a friend from home and her two boys.  We made sure to enjoy our last sleep in the hotel knowing we were leaving the next morning for one more camping trip of the summer.

From Toronto, we carried on to Gateway Camping in Wasaga beach.  Super Dad’s sister and her family live just 20 minutes from Wasaga so the boys got to spend time with their cousins everyday.  I’m wishing this heat wave were in now had come through a month ago but we still made the best of our time by the beach.

We stopped in to see some more family in Whitby on the way home to Ottawa.  My Mom met us there and I stayed behind to join her at the Bruno Mars concert in Toronto!  We all made it back to Ottawa and this time with two of my older cousins in tow!

The last week of our summer flew by.  We unpacked, prepped meals, stained the deck, harvested the garden, shopped for fall clothes, planned Jude’s birthday party… oh yes, and bought a condo that required a full renovation…because, why not!  Honestly.

Super Dad is easily the handiest and most hard working person I know.  He, with the help of family and friends, built the house that we live in now.  Together, he and I are very interested in maintaining rental properties and stumbled on a great investment opportunity in a building we know and like!  Our hope was that it would close mid-August leaving us time to renovate before starting back to work but no such luck.  We closed on September 1st with an ambitious goal of renovating and renting by October 1st so needless to say, this month has been busy.

We are so incredibly fortunate to have grandparents nearby that are willing to help out in any capacity – whether it be childcare or building Ikea kitchen cabinets – and even family that will come from out of town with their work clothes to lay hard wood.  We are a tired family but so thrilled to be on track to meet our goal.  Before and after pictures of the condo to come!

Until then, I will leave you with these… some pictures from our sweet Jude’s first birthday party.  I’ve said it before and I will say it a thousand times over – it was the most wonderful year spent with this sweet boy.  He is gentle, funny, curious and so full of love.

Thank you for coming back to visit after six weeks of silence… I am slowly but surely getting my feet back under me and am thrilled to be back writing again.  See you all next week xo

Meet the [blogger]: The Yellow Canoe

Meet the [blogger]: The Yellow Canoe

I don’t know about you, but I always wanted to be the kind of parent who’s stories were often met with a, “that’s crazy”or a stunned silence. Before having children, my husband and I were both avid travellers, and active in our recreational time. He grew up practicing kickboxing, I played rugby. He did a biking tour of Europe solo and I rode on my University Equestrian team. We both loved camping and hiking and he would soon introduce me to his passion, canoeing. We had both spent time working in different parts of the world and we spent our honeymoon travelling around Central America for 35 days. We knew that when we had children we wanted to add them to our lifestyle not change it to make them fit. As teachers we have the luxury of regular breaks and a long summer vacation which we fill with as many experiences as is humanly possible.

I started blogging after having my second child. We regularly shared stories of our adventures with friends and colleagues and a few friends started encouraging me to write our stories and share them online. I have always dreamed of being a writer but felt extremely nervous to take the plunge and invite other people, friends and strangers, to read my work. Writing has alway felt deeply personal to me and I wasn’t sure how I would handle negative feedback or worse, no feedback at all. But when my daughter was born and our family travel and adventure plans continued to grow I made myself start writing. I have always wanted to raise brave, compassionate, independent children and I knew I would have to lead the way. With a year of maternity leave to look forward to I had the time and the ability I just needed the nerve.

I gave myself time every Monday morning to write. I worked on my novel and when I got stuck I blogged. I wanted to share our family’s adventures with other families like ours. I wanted to swap stories with people who were already exploring the world and the wild with their little ones and encourage other people who were eager to try some adventuring with their kids but weren’t sure how to start or whether there would be support for their decision. I also wanted something to hold me accountable to my kids, something external to push me to say yes to crazy two week roadtrips to Alaska, or flying the entire family to Asia, or back-country canoeing with infants. Everytime I write an entry I am reminded why we choose to make travel and outdoor adventure a top priority.

The Yellow Canoe focusses mostly on our family adventures, from outdoor pursuits, to international travel, to resorts to stay-cations and local treasures. I try to share advice on safety, enjoyability and travel parenting tips through the narrative of our journeys. I believe so strongly in the power of travel of all sorts to strengthen children’s ability to think critically, creatively and compassionately, to be able to recognize problems and care enough to find solutions, to expand vocabulary and unite families through shared experiences. I was excited when Kelly, at “Reckies Raising Kids” asked me to guest blog. I feel honestly thrilled that my small readership is expanding and I am able to share our stories and maybe inspire another family to get out there and have epic family adventures, safely and most of the time sanely.

Visit me at ‘The Yellow Canoe’ for stories of an everyday family doing their best to fill their lives and lives of thier children with wonder!

Meet the [blogger] launch + zucchini pancakes!

Meet the [blogger] launch + zucchini pancakes!

We are home…for one week!

Last week, we split our time away between our favourite cottage at Pigeon Lake Resort and with of our favourite families in my childhood hometown, Whitby.  We got home Sunday afternoon in time for me to race over to my baseball game and for Super Dad to go skydiving with friends.  Never a dull moment for an O’Rourke!

The madness continues as we spend this week unpacking, washing and repacking for a two week camping and road trip out to Nova Scotia.  We are counting the sleeps with Clyde in anticipation of our upcoming adventure and while we are all stretched a little thin in preparation, we are all very excited about what lies ahead.

When we’re home in between trips this summer, we try to soak up as much time with the grandparents as we can.  Yesterday morning, Grandma and Grandpa rolled in on their motorcycle to surprise the boys for breakfast.  I whipped up one of our favourite summer recipes and we sat together smiling and laughing while we all ate peacefully.  Read: the adults exchanged a few words with one another between toddler meltdowns and there weren’t enough pancakes to go around…but HEY!  such is this beautifully chaotic stage of life and we enjoyed every minute of it.

If you have ever grown zucchini in your garden – or know someone that does – you have probably been swimming in this delicious vegetable at one time or another.  We love zucchini grilled on the bbq or sliced like noodles but the recipe we use on repeat all summer long is these Zucchini Bread Pancakes.  It may seem odd to be shredding zucchini first thing in the morning but don’t knock em’ t’ill you try em’ – and when you try em’ and love em’, dig up some carrots and try these pancakes next!

While we’re travelling to Canada’s East coast next week, I’ll be launching the start of my ‘Meet the [blogger]’ series!  In this series of guest posts, I’ll be introducing other amazing bloggers that are also writing about raising their families with a love of the outdoors, adventure, recreation and travel.

Stop by next Wednesday morning to meet Alison from The Yellow Canoe!

 

28 things I learned while writing 28 posts in 28 days

28 things I learned while writing 28 posts in 28 days

IMG_9726.JPGOn February 1, I wrote my first ever blog post and set out to write a daily post for the remainder of the month.  I am proud to have accomplished that goal and to be writing this, my 28th blog post on February 28.  As a first time writer, the learning curve was steep and I know that I still have so much more to gain than to share.  Nevertheless, for anyone else considering such a feat, below is a glimpse at 28 things I learned while writing 28 posts in 28 days.

1. Know your why. Above all else, be prepared to answer this question time and time again: why are you writing everyday?  Most often it will be other people doing the asking but once in a while, usually while starting at a blank computer screen, you will ask yourself the same thing.  Know the reasons why you’ve set out on this path and let those reasons motivate and encourage you along the way.

2. Set yourself a goal.  Leading up to my first post, I was struggling with how to get started.  Finally, I gave myself a start date and the goal of writing 28 posts in 28 days and was off to the races!

3. Plan ahead.  Sometimes I would get overwhelmed by the idea of writing every day and not having enough quality content.  It was a great relief to have a list with dates and blog topics written out for the next few days.

4. Write about what you know and what you love.  They say it’s easy to tell the truth and the same applies for writing.  When you write from a place of experience, the words flow much more freely.

5. Just start writing.  If you’re finding yourself staring at a blank screen, remove the pressure of having to start at the beginning and just start writing bits and pieces of what’s on your mind about the topic.  Slowly but surely, you’ll start to see your post coming together.

6. Write in batches when you can.  Relieving the pressure of writing one day in advance makes the writing process much more enjoyable.  Furthermore, when a post I was working on didn’t go as planned, it was a huge help to have a “filler” post ready to buy myself some time.

7. Write posts in a series or with a theme.  This was mutually beneficial for me and the reader.  It kept me from writing marathon posts on topics that I’m excited about (product reviews and baby wearing) and the reader is more likely to enjoy the full post when it doesn’t take them all day to read it.

8. Remove all distractions when writing.  On the days that this was particularly difficult, I would turn off my phone and the wifi on my computer so that I had nothing left to do but stay focused on what I was writing.  Writing without distractions is faster and results in a higher quality end result.

9. Write during your alone time.  I quickly realized that there is a long list of tasks that I can accomplish while chatting or parenting but writing is not one of them.  Nowadays, anytime I find myself alone, I write.  Laundry, cooking, cleaning etc. can all be done with my family buzzing around.

10. Set aside time to write.  With that said ^^, as a wife and mom to a 2.5 year old and 6 month old, alone time doesn’t spontaneously happen very often.  I have learned to set aside specific time in my day to sit down and write – it’s more efficient and a load off my mind knowing that my post is done.

11. Get to the point.  This was one of the first learning curves for me.  I am chatty by nature and enjoy writing in great detail.  I still find myself reading over my drafts and deleting full sentences that aren’t necessary.

12. Proofread.  I still can’t believe how often I find mistakes in my drafts on the third or fourth time reading it through.  Leave yourself time to review!

13.  Ask for help.  My family has been invaluable in this process of writing my first 28 posts in 28 days.  They have listened, proofread, offered suggestions and encouraged me along the way.  Fresh eyes and ears go a long way!

14. Read it out loud.  Whether it’s to yourself or to someone else, reading your draft out loud is an integral part of the proofreading process.  It allows you to step into your reader’s shoes and ensure that everything flows as you intended.

15. Take lots of pictures.  We all know the saying ‘a picture is worth a thousand words.’  Adding pictures to your post makes it enjoyable for your reader but also helps to illustrate your topic without having to write it out word for word.

16. Be picky.  My favourite posts are the one’s that I took the time to read over with a fine tooth comb.

17. Share your posts.  It’s hard work to write a daily post!  Use various social media platforms to let your readers know that new content is up on your blog.  Be sure to include a link to your site with your post.

18. Ask your friends and family for patience.  Writing a daily post isn’t easy and requires a lot of alone time.  Let your friends and family know what you’re working towards and ask for a little extra patience during your stretch of daily posts.

19. Take a break when you need it.  After all, this is something you’re choosing to do and should be fun!  Take a break when you need it and your draft will be waiting for you when you’re ready to write again.

20. Make notes all the time.  Writing a daily post requires a large amount of high quality content.  As soon as a concept or a sentence crosses your mind that would be a good fit for a current or future post, make a note of it for reference.

21. See the big picture.  Writing a daily post can be daunting.  Take a step back to look at the content you’ve already published and relish in the big picture of your ‘why.’

22. Partner with other people.  One of my first posts was a product review and giveaway with a friend at Gooseandco Boutique!  It was so much fun to write about and we were able to cross promote.

23. Hemmed and hawed.  Just a fun fact we learned while proof reading!  We all thought it was “hummed and hawed” but the correct spelling is “hemmed.”  The things you learn!

24. Save your work.  There is nothing worse than having to re-write.  Learn from one of my first mistakes and save your work regularly.

25. Work hard.  Making a commitment to write a daily post is a lot of work.  Be prepared to work hard to achieve your goal!

26. Keep yourself accountable.  So far, writing this blog has been a bit of a lonely endeavour.  I know the time will come where I can write more efficiently and collaborate with other bloggers but for my first 28 posts, it was a lot of me holding myself accountable to my goal – especially when it was 11pm and all I wanted to do was go to bed but tomorrow’s post wasn’t quite ready. #justdoit

27. Cut yourself some slack.  I assure you that the success of your blog will not hinge on one post.  Holding yourself to a high standard is a great practice but perfection is unrealistic.  If something isn’t coming together quite the way you envisioned, it’s ok!  Complete the post to the best of your ability and move on to the next one.

28. Enjoy what you’re doing.  It thrills me to say that at the end of writing 28 posts in 28 days, I still find great joy in sitting down to write.

The next goal for me at Reckies Raising Kids is to spend some time learning from others.  I will be writing on a regular basis throughout the week but also devoting some time to connect with bloggers writing on similar topics.  Comment below if you’re setting a goal for yourself in the month of March!