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)

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

falling

I've been feeling a bit untethered this past week- frazzled, overwhelmed, panicked, not present, generally anxious. I couldn't put my finger on it, but tonight, sitting alone in a quiet house while the boys were out, the long list of loose ends and 'not sure what to expects' outshone the rest of my thoughts.


One of my intentions for 2017 was to push myself beyond my usual comfort zone. Try things I might otherwise shy away from or avoid- not always, but sometimes. I have found that over the last 5 years, staying home and running my own small business has allowed my introvertness to flourish. For better or worse, I haven't needed to leave the house to work along side anyone, meet new people or 'network' (god, I hate that word!) so mostly I didn't. But along with that slow slip into quietness came massive bouts of anxiety when situations surfaced where I did need to go out into the world. The thought of attending a meeting with people I didn't know well, or helping facilitate a workshop, or even just going to a potluck at Finn's school was enough to push me into full-blown, stomach aching, head reeling, over thinking, anxiety mode.

So, slowly I have been trying to move beyond that default. In April, I flew to Anaheim with some colleagues to attend a tradeshow and help with the logistics of a workshop they were hosting. I won't lie, I spent two full sessions with my therapist talking about my anxiety and coping tactics I could use and those three days in California were INTENSE for me, but in the end, I did it! And I thrived! And I didn't vomit! All huge wins in my book. I don't want to do it again anytime soon, but I know if I had to, I could and it wouldn't be the absolute worst thing I have pushed myself through.

But strangely enough, past successes aren't enough to put my mind at ease now. The feat of that moment isn't enough to stop the wasted energy and worry and making myself sick that continues to accompany most new things going on.



I recently accepted a casual, on-call position with the Vancouver School Board- the prospect of which is of course super exciting, but the unstructuredness of being on-call coupled with going wherever they need me on a moments notice is definitely outside the parameters of my existing comfort zone. How will my new life and existing life coexist? Can they? I want to be able to continue running my business along side my new work with the VSB, but not being totally sure how all these moving pieces will fit together is unnerving and distracting. I know time will tell, and I know nothing is permanent- If it doesn't work, we recalibrate and move on, but for now, the worry flows.

I also registered myself for a graphic design course at Emily Carr. It starts in a couple weeks and is something I have wanted to do for a long time- My hope is that it will expand my skill-set, boost my confidence in that area, and allow me to do more design work (which I really love to do), but again, the worry and uncertainty creeps in. What if I suck? Or fail? Or can't handle the workload? Or don't have any good creative ideas of my own (that's a big one for me...)


I know that right now I need to get back to being present and focused of the immediate. I need to stop worrying about things beyond my control that may or may not be happening down the road. I know self-care, mindfulness, and mediation is what I NEED and will ultimately be the only things that gets me through this funk. Deep down I know none of this will be anywhere near as stressful or bad as I've built it up to be in my head. And like I said, all this change is so genuinely welcome- changes I have been wishing and hoping for for quite some time. Sometimes it takes dumping out your guts to remember that.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

summertime

for all of august, we spent time travelling around, visiting family and friends in alberta, new brunswick, nova scotia and pei. as is always the case, we had the most incredible time.

one of the highlights for me (though there were many) was getting to visit the anne of green gables house in pei - something i have literally been dreaming about since i was 12 years old and obsessed with the books. and just as i imagened, it was completely magical.