Monday, March 12, 2018

how to curb a 24-hour news addiction (kinda)

i am in the process of half-heartedly trying to curb one of my most life-consuming bad habits: i am massively addicted to the 24-hour news cycle.

i read online A LOT. like, always. much too much. and most especially too much about the bad things happening in the world (i'm looking at you, united states.) it's like this itch i can't ever scratch and any spare moment i have is spent scouring the depths of my own personal echo chamber to read any and all trending news hurling toward me.

it's exhausting, but more importantly, it's totally incapacitating. obviously it makes me worried and stressed and irrationally (or maybe totally rationally) scared. it takes me out of being fully present and engaged with whatever is happening around me, and fills my brain with so much useless crap. it's also all so much, that i feel paralyzed to ever take action- each bad thing worthy of my energy is trumped by the next even more bad thing.

that said, i don't think that quitting ALL media is the answer. i have tried in the past, and was ultimately left feeling uninformed and apathetic. but in an effort to stop consuming 100% bad news 100% of the time, i have been shifting my usual outlets over to podcasts, books, and non-trump related online reading. bite size pieces, instead of constant scarfing.


i recently read an article titled 'how to read less news but be more informed, according to a futurist' - one of the tips they suggest is to consciously aiming for a wide context of information by choosing quality over quantity. in other words, triangulate between breadth and depth. the more information is available, the less we tend to digest, so it makes sense to consume less and better data. an easy way to do this is by following reliable, thoughtful, forward-looking publications and journalists online and let them do the heavy lifting, finding the most interesting info for us.

and for me, canadaland does exactly that. 

canadaland is a crowdfunded podcast with a focus on media criticism and CANADIAN media reporting. the stories they break are super interesting and often ones i had, until now, only heard about peripherally. getting to dig deeper into news that literally takes place in my own backyard has been incredibly satisfying.

something canadaland's host, jesse brown, said that really resonated with me is that by comparison, canada is so small - we simply don't have the resources, person-power, or ad dollars to create as much news/noise as the united states. and for that reason, many of us don't know what's actually going on around here. having far fewer avenues to acquire the information we need, we instead latch on to the giant shiny shitshow that is shoved down our throats by our neighbours to the south. 

consciously choosing to consume canadian content, canadian media, and canadian politics has been a welcome shift - not only from a feelgood standpoint of knowing i am supporting fellow canadians doing meaningful work for their fellow canadians, but also in the conservation of the wasted outpouring of the energy i used to reserve for criticizing things happening beyond my boarders - an act that literally got me nowhere in addition to taking my attention away from important conversations happening in and about canada. there is something wholly empowering about pouring energy and thought into issues that you have the ability to get involved with, advocate for, and even change- that flow of energy (instead of a stifled build of anger) feels so good!  

EPISODES TO LISTEN TO RIGHT NOW (a few of my faves)...

it was illegal to print their names: alberta's lost children

since the late 1990s nearly 800 children in alberta government care have died. veteran edmonton journal columnist Paula Simons has been shining a light on this crisis since the start. (warning: this episode speaks candidly about child physical and sexual abuse and death. it's SO important, but proceed with caution if this type of thing may be triggering or effect you more deeply.)

robert jago: decolonizing canada in his spare time
after ending the campaigns of several tory candidates with his muckraking during the 2015 federal election, macleans dubbed robert jago, “the most dangerous blogger in canada”. jago has quickly risen as an incisive, evocative voice in canadian media. he’s a regular contributor to the walrus and CANADALAND — but he says he doesn’t plan on giving up his day job anytime soon. so. who is this guy? one of the most interesting and passionate interviews i have ever listened to.

my awkward date with sarah polley
growing up, road to avonlea was one of my favourite shows, so its no surprise that i adore everything sarah polley touches. hearing her eloquently and factually discuss hard issues like domestic abuse, sexual harassment and assault, and the culture that fuels it, although incredibly depressing is also incredibly important. 

daniel dale the toronto star's daniel dale has become one of the most-watched journalists in washington in part by simply enumerating donald trump's lies. this interveiw offers a perfect mix of laughter and dumfoundedness- it also served as the perfect crutch for me as i began my self-weening off US media.

Monday, February 5, 2018

tofino

our wonderful friends, katie and bob, invited us to ring in the new year with them in tofino. neither jeff or i had ever been to tofino before, so we pretty much jumped out of our seats to make it happen.

as the whole world knows, tofino is a pretty incredible place. the photos we took are some of my most favourite ever, but i still don't think they do they do much justice in capturing the pure amazingness of the island. thanks katie, bob, and arlo for always letting us tag along on your adventures and giving us so many wonderful memories to cherish in the process. 


Monday, December 25, 2017

merry christmas!

from our family to yours - wishing each of you the warmerst wishes for a holiday season abundant with love and light. 2017 was so incredibly sweet to us- we are all looking forward to more of the same as we usher in the new year.

from the bottom of my heart, thank you (truly) for your endless support of this little blog of mine- it means the world and i am forever grateful for those of you that take the time to pop by and read.

have an incredible christmas.

xx

 

Monday, December 4, 2017

my favourite holiday traditions

last week, my friend bob asked me to write an article for his website, vancouver is awesome, sharing about our family's tradition of cutting down our own christmas tree. i was of course delighted to contribute (you can read the article here) but it also got me thinking about some of our other favourite things this time of year.


i think it's fair to say i am massively sentimental - i love ritual and covet treasures passed down from loved ones. i love to recreate stand-out moments from my childhood and find ways to meld them together with new traditions that are meaningful to jeff and i. i love it all, especially around the holidays, and so i figured i would share a few of our favourites here.


CUTTING DOWN OUR OWN CHRISTMAS TREE || since moving to vancouver 5 years ago, we have made a tradition of driving out toward squamish to cut down a christmas tree. we go to the same spot every time (even though the selection isn't that great) and head into a nearby town for hot chocolate afterward. this is by far one of my most favourite seasonal events and something i always look forward to as december draws near. of course it's a bit more effort than driving to a tree lot or pulling an artificial tree our of storage, but the memories and hilarious stories year after year far outweigh all of that (you can read more about our past tree-cutting adventures here and here as well as my post for vancouver is awesome here)


TIBB'S EVE || unless you are from newfoundland, you've probably never heard of tibb's eve. in short tibb's eve is a celebration held on december 23 originating on the south coast of newfoundland. it's a night to get together with friends, have a few (or many) drinks, celebrate, and officially kick off christmas. since we moved to vanouver, we have celebrated tibb's eve each year with our dear friends the kronbauers- coming together on christmas eve eve to drink fancy cocktails, eat a table full of delicious food, and exchange small gifts with one another. it's such an awesome way to lead into christmas, and the perfect excuse to get some extra time in with friends during an otherwise hectic season. (i love this post by oh happy day on how to make the perfect cheese platter...)


NEW PAJAMA'S || growing up, christmas eve was ALWAYS about getting together with all our cousins, being read a christmas story or two, and my grandparents handing out new pajamas to each of us. this stands out as one of the most special memories i have, and something we have done for finn each year since he was born. the nostalgia is strong, but also, whats better than spending christmas day in your cozy new pajamas? nothing, right?

CINNAMON BUNS ON CHRISTMAS MORNING || as far back as i can remember, we have always woken up to the smell of cinnamon buns on christmas morning- a tasty treat to tide us over until breakfast, and something delicious to enjoy as we sat around and opened gifts together. i don't think i have ever celebrated a christmas without cinnamon buns (jeff and i once drove to 4 different grocery stores in fredericton on christmas eve trying to track some down). this recipe from my bff steph's mom has been my go-to favourite for the last couple years - they work well to make the night before and refridgerate, then pop them into the oven when you wake up on christmas morning.


VINYL CAFE CHRISTMAS STORIES || the world is a slightly less beautiful place since the death of stewart mclean, but we are so thankful that the vinyl cafe stories live on. for us, christmas would not be complete without a few dave and morely stories - the perfect accompaniment on a winter drive to the mountains, a slow sunday morning with coffee, or a cozy evening in with candles and the people you love dearly. you can download a ton of stewart's books, recorded audio albums, or individual stories from the itunes store, including all of his holiday albums, or tune into the cbc on various dates throughout december to hear his final two holiday recordings being broadcast for the very first time. and if you have never listened to the vinyl cafe before- you're welcome.  

BAKING || my grandmas most delicious and cherished recipes - almond roca, whipped shortbread, and salted butter caramels. each year i think i will add something new to the rotation, but nothing has stuck - these three are pure perfection. if you only make one thing this year, let it be almond roca- i promise you wont regret it.


What are some of your favourite holiday traditions? 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

a meaningful advent

if you are looking for advent calendar ideas that are more than just chocolate or trinkets, it's possible i may have compiled a near perfect list of ideas.

each year, we do some variation of a christmas advent for finn. they have varied in degree of elaborateness, but the common theme is always spending quality time together as a family, making happy memories, and giving back as much as we can to the people in our community that we love or to those that could use a little bit extra this time of year.

this years advent is made up of bits and pieces sifted and pulled from a bazillion lists and blog posts floating around the internet, my favourites compiled into a slightly ambitious, but beautifully meaningful list of projects and activities for our family to work on this season.

feel free to use this list in whatever way works for you - copy and paste it in its entirety (i currently have it lined up so that some of the bigger/ more time consuming projects are on the weekend) or pick a project or two that resonates and enjoy~



A MEANINGFUL ADVENT

1- Gather all our Christmas books and pick up a few new-to-us ones from the library- Snuggle up and read together as a family. Make a list of our favourites.

2 - Pick a gift request off the Kingsgate mall tree and then go shop for that special gift.
(This is specific to Vancouver but chances are, wherever you live, there are absolutely local charities in need of toys or gifts for children in your community. Just do a quick google search if you aren't sure...)

3 - Cut down our Christmas tree and go out for hot chocolate. Afterward, come home to decorate.

4 - Pick our holiday charity to donate to. See if there is any money in your piggy bank that you can contribute.

5 - Write a few special notes of gratitude to sneak to friends and teachers to brighten their day.

6 - Hand-make an ornament for the tree.

7 - Take a trip to the grocery store to purchase a few items for the food bank. Look online beforehand to see what they are most in need of.

8 - Bake bread to have as a special treat. Make an extra loaf to give to neighbours.

9 - Find out what the SPCA needs for their animals and collect/ donate a few items.

10 - Make mini rosemary wreaths for our bedroom doors. Make an extra one to give to your teacher.

11 - Have a Christmas music dance party. Share our favourite Christmas songs.

12 - Think of someone special that you can perform a random act of kindness for.

13 - Discover a new family tradition.
(I have this AWESOME book that has a ton of incredible ideas for new family traditions any time of year.)

14 - Go for a walk to collect pinecones and greenery to bring a little bit of nature indoors.

15 - Shop for a special family Christmas ornament.

16 - Pajama, movie and popcorn day - pick our favourite Christmas movies and get cozy.

17 -  Take a walk around the neighbourhood and look at Christmas lights - leave a thank you note in the mailbox of some of our favourites.

18 - Have a picnic dinner under the Christmas tree- talk about our favourite and most sentimental ornaments.

19 - Bake cookies (and share some with friends).

20 - Make a thank you card and a few treats for our mail carrier.

21 - Make and deliver something special to Michelle at the skateboard shop and the librarians at our local library.
(These are people that are special to us, but you can pick someone that you interact with regularly and do something to make their day brighter)

22 - Make a tasty treat for the birds.
(so many ideas - from super easy to more complex - found here)

23 - Call far-away relatives and sing Christmas carols over the phone.

24 - Make cookies for Santa and beeswax candles for Christmas morning. + New Christmas PJ's
(I got a kit similar to this one to make some simple beeswax candles that we can use throughout the holidays) 

You can download a printable PDF copy of the above list HERE

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Christmas in Vancouver 2017

below is an updated list of events and activities happening around vancouver for the holidays.
(you can see the original 2016 version of this list here.) there are of course a million other things going on- these are just the ones that piqued my interest or have been enjoyed in previous years. 

here's hoping you can find something new to enjoy this holiday season!



|| FIXED DATES ||
Vancouver Christmas Tree Lighting | Friday, December 1, 5pm-7pm
Vancouver Art Gallery - 750 Hornby Street | Free (Buy a bulb donation in support of the Vancouver International Children’s Festival)

Toque Craft Fair | December 1 – 3 | Friday 6-10pm, Saturday + Sunday 11am-5pm
Western Front, 303 E 8th Ave | Admission: By donation to Western Front

Aberthau Winter Pottery Sale | Saturday, December 2 from 10am – 4pm 
West Point Grey Community Centre, 4397 W 2nd Ave | Admission: Free  

Santa Claus Parade | Sunday, December 3 - 12pm  - 5pm
Georgia at Broughton, E on Georgia, S on Howe. Ending Howe + Smithe
FREE – Donation (monetary or non-perishable) for the food bank.

CP Rail Holiday Train | Sunday, December 17 - 4:20pm Port Moody | 6:00pm Port Coquitlam
PM - 300 Ioco Road | PC 2125 Kingsway Ave | FREE – Donation (monetary or non-perishable) for the food bank


|| VARIOUS DATES ||
Vancouver Christmas Market | Nov 22 – Dec 24- 11am - 9pm daily
Jack Poole Plaza (New Location) | Adults $10 | Seniors $9 | Youth (Kids 7-12) $5 | Kids 6 and under Free

Bright Nights Stanley Park Christmas Train | Nov 30- Jan 6 - 3pm - 10pm daily
Stanley Park | Adults $12 | Seniors $9 | Youth $9 | Child $8

Christmas Fly over Canada | Nov 23- Jan 7 from 10am – 9pm daily
Adults $20.75 | Seniors $17.91 | Child $14.13 (buy tickets online -10% off)

Grouse Mountains Peak of Christmas | Nov 24 – Jan7
Lights, Snow, Santa’s Workshop, Crafts, Tobogganing, Slay rides and Ice Skating
Family rate $89.95 (2 adults, 2 kids) | Adults $43.95 | Seniors $39.95 | Kids $15.95

Festival of Lights at VanDusen Gardens | Dec 1 – Jan 7 from 4:30pm – 9pm
VanDusen Botanical Garden | Adults $18 | Seniors $14 | Youth $14 | Child $11

Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge |  Nov 23 - Jan 28 (4pm onward)
Adults $42.95 | Seniors $38.95 | Youth $26.95 | Children $14.95 (Kids under 6 are free) - If you are a BC resident, admission provides you with a free annual pass so you can go back endlessly for the next 12 months.

Collage Collage Family Craft Night | Family Craft Night - Tuesdays and Thursdays - Nov 28 - December 21 | Family Print Making - Mondays - December 4th- 18th


|| FREE ||
(Make a day of it, walk around downtown and do the whole list…)
Robson Square Ice Skating | Dec 1 – Feb 28, 9am-9pm | Free (Skate Rentals $4 Cash only)
Festival of Trees at Four Seasons | Nov 30 – Jan 3 | Free (Donations for BCCHF)
Gingerbread Lane at Hyatt Regency | Dec 1 - 27 | Free (Donations to Make a Wish)
Woodwards Window Display | 999 Canada Place (Nov 23 - Dec 31, 8am - 11pm daily) | Free
St Paul’s Hospital Lights of Hope | 1081 Burrard Street (Nov 19 onward) | Free (Donations to St. Paul's)

Monday, October 30, 2017

is one enough?

'will you have more children?'

a question i am asked often by friends, family, acquaintances, the occasional stranger. sometimes accompanied by a timid 'should i be asking this?' look or a twinge of sadness on their face - as though having only one child is a massive burden for us to bare. and unlike some that are upset or uncomfortable with the invasiveness of perhaps a personal question, it's not one i ever mind talking about. i simply wish i knew the answer.


4 summers ago, we lost roo - at 19 weeks into my pregnancy, his heart stopped beating and i had a late-term miscarriage. two years later, we lost eli through a pre-term stillbirth at 25 weeks. typing that out still makes my entire body go numb, and although i want to believe that could never happen again, life has repeatedly proven to us that nothing is guaranteed. fear and anxiety around the idea of another pregnancy are of course abundant, but (thankfully) not the only driving force in our decision making.

the flip side of that is right now, i can genuinely say we love our life. it's easy to see the merits of keeping things just as they are. finn is now 7 (and a half!), in school full-time, substantially more rational, entertaining, and self-sufficient, and jeff and i can slowly see bits of our pre-kid life creeping back in. i love that we can pour 100% of our time, energy, resources, and love into just him- there is no worry about fairness or sharing or equality, and we have been able to experience so much that we might not otherwise have been able to do with more kids in the mix.


in 1907, the president of the american psychological association said “being an only child is a disease in itself.” a statement that now seems brutally harsh and entirely untrue, but also helps to explain some of the worry and bias directed at single children families. rewind to just 40 years ago and the average american family had four children. twenty years ago, that number dropped to two. and most recently, in 2016, that numbers again declined, now resting at 1.86.

for some, having fewer children is an intentional and calculated choice; for others, the decision was made for them. either way, the list of reasons shepherding the decline is abundant - increased cost of living, heightened consciousness around the environmental impact of having children, people waiting to have kids later in life, the rise of infertility, or simply not wanting to bring more people into a world that is by all accounts a bit of a raging dumpster fire... just to name a few.

but even with a pocket full of really good reasons and the growing prevalence of single children families, the stigma, though not quite as cruel as 100 years ago, is still quite strong. the belief that only children are weird, isolated, unsociable, maladjusted, unable to share, lonely, or spend too much time with adults is common. the number of times i have been asked about any one of the above concerns is many.


our experience has been vastly different from those perceptions though- we find finn to be very sociable because he has spent a lot of time around adults, and typically, adults like to engage kids in conversation. he is more often than not more willing to share (or push a friend's younger sibling on a swing or give away a toy he knows a buddy would really love) because he doesn't have to do it all that often. the expectation of him to share things when he doesn't want to has never been there, so to do it from time to time doesn't feel like that big of a deal to him. we also go out of our way include friends in our plans - inviting them along for outings or adventures or planning family trips together- it makes finn happy to get to have a buddy in tow, and we get more time to talk amongst adults when the kids are having fun together. we can also put finn in both piano AND baseball because we don't have to foot the bill for another kid to do the same- lonely and isolated he is not.

none of this is to say that larger families aren't also super wonderful or that kids with siblings aren't also incredible and well rounded. they are- they ALL are. and that's the point. the choices we make when planning a family are not easy ones and are almost never done lightly. but all we can do is what feels right for our family, and allow others to do the same.


i asked some of my bestest friends, also mama's to single children, to share why having one child felt right for them. i hope that these stories can add to a new, more positive narrative around single child families and continue to contribute to the celebration of families of every size and kind. (also, if you are a parent to a single child and want to add your voice to this post, please get in touch!)

as for our little family, we still aren't sure what the future holds, but surrendering control and shifting my mindset to a place of genuine gratitude for the family i do have - both earthside and in spirit - has been fully liberating.

xx

--

LYSA HARTMAN || MOM TO KAI
We went back and forth on whether or not we wanted to have children. I grew up in a small family where there weren't a lot of kids around so having a family was never one of my be-all end-all goals.

At the time we started discussing having a family, my husband was having a hard time - not knowing if he wanted to bring a child into (pardon my French) a bit of a fucked up world. My argument to that was that this is the time, more than ever, for good people to be having children and raising them to be awesome humans - it's what the world needs more of. After raising that point, my husband agreed entirely and we decided we would have one child.

For us, we knew that given our current situation (finances, travel, size of our home, age, future goals, etc) that one child would be the perfect addition to our family. I feel like I also had to be honest with myself about how I wanted to mother - how well I handle life stressors and how I thought I could manage all of those things with more than one child. I'm not saying that moms with more than one child aren't great moms AT ALL, it's just that I knew that to continue to be the best version of myself and raise my child like I wanted to that I would succeed best with one. It's possible I sold myself a little short with this mentality, but often all we have to go by is our gut so that's what we did. I focus all my time and energy into being the best damn Mom to Kai that I can while still maintaining focus on my relationship and, most importantly, myself. I have a bad habit of putting myself last but with a family of 3, I feel like I can balance all of these things relatively well (though some days are harder than others!)

We spend copious amounts of time in a very small VW Westfalia exploring nature and the great outdoors, we have traveled to several countries, we live in a 700 square foot home and we have been able to stay home with Kai during the precious early years. All things which were very important to us in raising a child and that we felt would be best accomplished by having one. I often say that in another life I would love to have 5 children but given where I am at currently in this life, I know that having one child is best. And it just so happens the most perfect little boy any Mom could ever ask for chose me as his Mama so I am over the moon every day about the decision we made for OUR family and I know that you will make the best decision for yours!

(you can follow Lysa and her little family's awesome VW adventures over their instagram - WestyTribe)



KATIE CUBITT || MOM TO ARLO
Having just one child was something my husband and I had come to agree upon even before we started trying to conceive. My feelings were largely based on my own personal experience growing up as an only child. It was a positive experience for me and I don't recall ever wishing I had a sibling. My husband's feelings on the subject were partly based on a concern about overpopulation. I suppose he also never felt strongly about providing our then future child with a sibling; because although he has a sister who's just one year older than him they were never all that close. Who says siblings are necessary for a full and happy childhood anyways?

When I got pregnant with our son we figured that my husband would get a vasectomy after the birth, but we decided to wait 3 years just in case we changed our minds. I felt that if we were going to have another baby I wouldn't want there to be more than a 3 or 4 year age gap. Well, 3 years passed and one child still felt just right for us. Not once did we ever feel like our family was incomplete. And to be honest, I can't say I've ever felt that "baby fever" that I've heard so many other moms talk about when they encounter someone else's little baby. I'm also happy to report that, at almost 9 years old, our son has never expressed the desire to have a sibling of his own.

On top of all this, a factor that was never really part of our initial decision, but one that has come to light over the years is MONEY! We love to travel and we do a fair bit of it. On multiple occasions, the thought has trickled into my mind that, "if we had another child this would not be happening." I feel like Arlo's life is so enriched by the experiences we are able to provide him. I don't doubt that having a sibling is also an enriching experience, but it's a very different kind of experience. I don't believe there is a real right or wrong here. It's all very personal and it's about what feels right or wrong for you. I can say with confidence that it really feels like we made the right decision for all 3 of us.

(katie shares some of the most beautiful photos of her incredible adventures over on instagram - follow along HERE)