Saturday, 28 May 2011

Weekend Reading


Don't forget to enter the giveaway for a chance to win a $25 gift certificate to the Etsy shop of your choice! Comments close Wednesday at 11:59pm PST.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Giveaway day!

In celebration of a few blogging milestones, I have dedicated this past week to highlighting my top three local kid-friendly activities and online Canadian stores. Now I want to thank you - all of you - for your community, support, and feedback. What better way to do that than with a giveaway?

In gratitude, I have to give away a $25 gift certificate to the Etsy shop of your choice.

Sadly, Etsy has yet to offer site-wide gift certificates, so the winner will need to choose a shop, let me know which one, and I will arrange your gift certificate with the individual shop owner. (Come on, Etsy, get on that gift certificate thing you've been promising for the past few years!)

To enter, leave a comment on this post with a link to an Etsy shop. Any shop at all - your own, your friend's, your favourite, a random one you pull off the front page - any shop at all!

For additional entries, leave a SEPARATE COMMENT for each of the following (single comments will be treated as single entries!):
  1. "Like" The Hippie Housewife on our Facebook page!
  2. Follow The Hippie Housewife via Google Friend Connect below (comment if you already do!).
  3. Subscribe to The Hippie Housewife via a feed reader (comment if you already have!).
  4. Tweet, post, or blog about this giveaway (one entry per link).

Comments will close on Wednesday, June 1, at 11:59pm PST, with the winner announced the following day.

Good luck!

Thursday, 26 May 2011

My top three Canadian online stores

In honour of being part of the Vancouver mom-blogger community, I am dedicating this week to highlighting some local and Canadian businesses. On Tuesday I shared my top three local kid-friendly activities, and today I will be highlighting my top three Canadian online businesses. We'll finish the week off tomorrow with a giveaway!

Well.ca

Well.ca is Canada's largest online health and beauty store. I recently discovered their website while trying to find a place that sold a particular brand of shampoo and conditioner. Having been unable to find it locally, I was pleased to come across a Canadian online store that had it in stock.


What is one of the most cost-prohibitive parts of online shopping in Canada? That's right - the shipping. So imagine my surprise when I learned that Well.ca offers free shipping to all locations in Canada! Their 60-day no hassle return policy guarantees free return shipping as well.

At the time I placed my order, Well.ca offered free shipping on all orders, with no minimum purchase. Their website currently offers, however, free shipping with a $20 minimum order (or a CDN$99 minimum order for free shipping to all locations in the United States). According to their Facebook page, the $20 minimum was a temporary test, and free shipping on all orders should be back in place by now. Unable to find any shipping rates for under $20 orders, I went ahead last night and attempted to order $15 worth of products. The shipping continued to stay free right up to the point where I would have had to pay (at which point I cancelled the order), so although I can't say for certain, it would appear that their policy continues to be free shipping on all orders with no minimum purchase.

But $20 minimum or not, it's certainly no stretch to find $20 worth of necessities from Well.ca! The online store offers far more than your typical health and beauty shop. Their categories range from the expected (Beauty, Medicine Cabinet, Skin Care) to the unexpected (Specialty Foods, Toys & Games, Office & School Supplies). They include a wide range of Canadian products and are adding new brands every week.

My items from Well.ca (shampoo, conditioner, and a little special treat for a rough day) arrived at my door a few days after placing my order. They were well packaged and included, of all things, a hand-written thank you note! It's that sort of personal touch that turns me into a repeat customer.

New customer to Well.ca? Use the coupon code TAKE10OFF40 to receive $10 off a minimum $40 order. This code expire July 24, 2011.

Ape2Zebra.ca

Ape 2 Zebra is an online toy store that offers the best eductional, creative and imaginative toys from around the world. They aim to search out products that are "unique, safe, smart, whimsical, happy and natural". From their website:

Ape to Zebra Toys specializes in Natural Toys, Wooden Toys and educational toys that allow babies and children to explore creative, free play without boundaries. Our baby toys and toddler toys are safe for children to explore with all their senses (including their mouths!) and our educational toys will entertain and educate preschoolers to teens. We have a wide selection of pretend play toys, train sets, building blocks and construction toys. Our wooden toys and natural Waldorf toys are heirloom quality toys, some of them hand made in Germany.

Based in Campbellville, Ontario, Ape 2 Zebra ships worldwide and offers free shipping with minimum purchase (threshold depends on location).

I first ordered from Ape 2 Zebra when purchasing a (late) Christmas present for the boys. I was impressed with their wide selection, fast shipping, and excellent customer service.


There is no shortage of toys to browse through on their website. Narrow your search by age, manufacturer, country, type of toy, and more. Add items to their online wishlist for future reference or to send to family when they ask for gift ideas.

Ape2Zebra is the one-stop shop for high-quality natural toys and unique gifts!

Heartsy (Etsy, EtsyKids)

Heartsy features exclusive daily deals on handmade items from a wide range of Etsy stores. It's like Groupon for Etsy. What could be better??

Oh, I know! $5 off your first deal. Sign up using my referral link and receive a $5 credit to your Heartsy account.


I'll confess - I'm cheating here. Although Heartsy isn't officially a Canadian company, they do offer deals from Etsy artists around the world. And handmade goods from around the world are second only to handmade goods created locally! Ah, Etsy, how I love thee.

After you create an account with Heartsy, they will send you a daily email with several exclusive Etsy deals. No spam, no endless sponsor emails, nothing like that - just one daily email full of great offers. Each offer has a limited number of vouchers, so if something interests you, don't sit on it for too long! Some of the vouchers are gone in a matter of minutes, while others still have vouchers left for purchase the following day.

Thanks to Heartsy, I recently scored an awesome deal on hand-dyed superwash yarn from Sunrise Fiber Co. $8 for $20 worth of yummy yarn? Yes, please!

Overwhelmed by the sheer volume of children's items on Etsy? Need some suggestions for a unique handmade baby gift? Check out EtsyKids. EtsyKids is a group of Etsy sellers who gather the best kid-related Etsy finds into one big A to Z Shopping Guide. The shopping guide is updated quarterly, with fresh new items added each season.


I hope you enjoyed the reviews and found something new to check out. Please do share your favourite online store in the comments below!

Disclaimer: All reviews are unsolicited and uncompensated, just my honest-to-goodness favourite stores online.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Kid-friendly activities in Vancouver

In honour of being part of the Vancouver mom-blogger community, I plan to use this week to highlight some local and Canadian businesses. Today I'll be sharing my top three local kid-friendly activities, and on Thursday I will highlight my top three Canadian online businesses. Then we'll finish the week off with a giveaway!

Burnaby Village Museum and Farmers Market

A new favourite for us, our discovery of Burnaby Village Museum was a happy accident thanks to its newest undertaking. The village is now host to the Burnaby Farmers Market, previously located in the parking lot of City Hall, each Saturday from 9am to 2pm.

The farmers market is a weekly event for us, a chance to browse the outdoor shops while picking up our produce and sometimes a special treat. It was a nice surprise to discover that not only was the farmers market now being held at the village, but gate admission to the village is free for the 2011 season in celebration of the village carousel's 40th anniversary.

Yes, the village carousel - but more on that later.

After browsing the vendors at the farmers market, we headed into the village. From their website:

Stroll down the streets of a 1920s village exploring at your own pace. The village is a combination of heritage and replica buildings on a 10-acre site that represents a typical tram-stop community along the B.C. Electric Railway. Period costumed townsfolk welcome visitors and give demonstrations in the homes, businesses and shops. Popular stops include the blacksmith, the print shop, the garden at the farmhouse and the General Store.

It really was as delightful as it sounds. The boy enjoyed seeing all the "old things", as he called them. The motorbike, telephone, car, and gas pumps were his highlights, while I enjoyed the browsing the General Store and watching the blacksmith at work. We stopped for a nice lunch at the ice cream parlour and found a couple new treasures at the gift shop.

Browsing done, we made our way to the carousel. A ride on the restored 1912 C.W. Parker Carousel is $2.25 a head, and well worth it. The horses, the music, and the ride itself were a treat for both of us. When it was over, we picked up a carousel-shaped chocolate to enjoy on the walk back to the car.


We enjoyed our visit so much that we headed back for the Victoria Day celebrations held yesterday. We watched the parade, applauded the maypole dancers, listened to the bagpipes (or "dirt bags", as the boy mistakenly called them) and waved to "Queen Victoria". And, of course, we finished off the afternoon with another ride on the carousel.


With something for everyone to enjoy, the village would be an ideal way to spend a warm afternoon. There is plenty of green space for picnicking if you want to bring your own lunch instead of dining at the ice cream parlour. Parking, while free, can be a bit hard to come by during peak hours - but then where isn't that the case in the Greater Vancouver Area?

You can find the locations of Vancouver's Farmers Markets on their website. Make it a weekly adventure and check out each of them!

Community Centers

Community centers too often remain an untapped resource for families. With locations throughout Vancouver, Burnaby, and the rest of the GVA, there's always something going on.

A favourite rainy day activity for us is to attend one of the play gyms many of the community centers offer. The play gyms are filled with balls, large foam building blocks, slides, ride-on toys, and sometimes even trampolines. This large-muscle play is a perfect way to run off some energy when the weather keeps us indoors.

One of our newest favourites is the Kerrisdale Play Palace at the Kerrisdale Cyclone Taylor Arena. The Play Palace boasts two inflatable bouncy castles, an inflatable obstacle course, a large inflatable slide, ride-on toys, ping pong, and a toddler area, along with an indoor picnic area for snack time. Admission is more than reasonable, and the younger kids benefit from a daily "under six years only" time.


Our weekly Attachment Parenting/young homelearners playgroup meets (for free!) at one of the community centers. Access to a locked cupboard, outdoor space, and sometimes the gym makes this an ideal place for a weekly get-together. Join an existing group or see about starting one of your own!

The community centers offer a variety of classes as well. With swimming lessons, arts & crafts, dance, sports, and more, there's something for all ages and interests. Find a nearby community center, browse their schedule, and see what interests you!

Maplewood Farm

Maplewood Farm was the first kid-friendly activity we fell in love with when we moved here, and it remains our favourite dry-weather destination today. Located in North Vancouver, the farm is home to over 200 domestic animals and birds. From their website:

Maplewood Farm strives to provide a unique experience, incorporating enjoyment, education and a recollection of the rural heritage of this pastoral 5 acre setting.

While we always end our visit with a nice long hands-on visit to the goat pen, the farm has plenty of other things to see and do. Check out the hand milking demonstration daily at 1:15, featuring Lulu the jersey cow. Coo over the baby sheep each spring. Admire the Belgian draft horses and the Sicilian miniature donkeys. Don't forget to bring along some fresh fruits and veggies to feed to the rabbits!


There are washrooms and a large picnic area on site. Admission to the farm is very affordable, making this an excellent way to spend a sunny afternoon. If you plan to go often, consider investing in a family membership. A membership makes an excellent birthday or Christmas gift (thank you, Oma!).

Maplewood Farm will be holding their 31st Annual Sheep Fair Festival this Sunday, May 29th, from 10am to 4pm. Watch the Border Collies herd around the sheep flock at 10:30 am and 12:30 pm. The shearing itself can be observed at 11am and 1pm. Baaad Anna’s will be hosting demonstrations of Spinning and Dyeing and will be offering workshops on Finger Knitting and Felting. Maybe we'll see you there!


I hope you enjoyed the reviews and found something new to check out. Please do share your favourite local hangout in the comments below!

Disclaimer: All reviews are unsolicited and uncompensated, just my honest-to-goodness favourite places to take the kids.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Milestones

Last week was filled with exciting blogging milestones!

Did you know The Hippie Housewife has a Facebook page? We passed 200 likes last week! RSS readers also passed the 200 mark, while Google Friends reached 100. It's always neat to see those numbers turn over.

Last week I also attended my first blogging event! As one of the 2011 Top 30 Fabulous Vancouver Mom Bloggers, I was invited to a celebration to meet the other top bloggers from both this year and last.

For a shy introvert like me, this sort of thing tends to be a bit panic-inducing. While Michelle was casually Facebooking about nettles a mere half hour before I was supposed to pick her up, I had spent the three hours leading up to the event madly trying to put together some sort of non-mommy outfit that might be acceptable for an evening out, trying to get my hair to settle down in a pretty non-mommy style, and trying to get myself showered, shaved, and presentable with two wild boys underfoot.

Oh, the stress.

It didn't help that, just minutes before walking out the door, I turned to my husband and said, "I feel ridiculous. Do I look ridiculous?"

There's only one right answer to that, am I right, ladies?

Apparently not.

"Not really," was his distracted reply.

(In his defense, he's since apologized at least three times, assuring me that I looked lovely and blaming his distraction on a voice mail he was in the middle of checking at the time. I'm considering forgiving him. Maybe next week.)

Anyway, I managed to show up to Michelle's on time, with a freshly vacuumed car because the previous version was really quite embarrassing. I'd blame it on the kids and the pretzels and pitas they'd been eating in the car recently, but I'd be lying if I didn't also acknowledge the Starbucks straw wrappers and empty chocolate wrappers on the floor as being all mine.

We arrived at the event shortly after it begun. I tried not to clutch Michelle like the lifeline she was (a million thanks for letting me pick you up so I didn't have to arrive alone!), grabbing the first wine glass offered to me and clutching that instead.

I soon had to release my glass for a quick picture, bringing back all my least favourite childhood memories. "You'll smile and look happy whether you like it or not! Chin up! Smile bigger! RELAX!!!" Oh camera, how I despise thee.

Pictures over and security blanket wine glass once again in hand, I headed into the crowd for the dreaded mingling. I enjoyed a fun conversation with the adorable Monika. I got to meet Janice, who is the sort of person I'd love to sit down with over a cup of coffee (if, you know, I drank coffee). I said a quick hello to the lovely Sarah (again!).

And I clutched my wine glass.

All in all, it wasn't a bad evening. The most exciting part of all? Arriving home to two sleeping children. Will wonders never cease.

Anyway! What better way to celebrate these milestones than a giveaway?? I will be doing just that on Friday. In honour of being part of the Vancouver mom-blogger community, I plan to use this week to highlight some local and Canadian businesses. Tomorrow I'll be sharing my top three local kid-friendly activities, and on Thursday I'll be sharing my top three Canadian online businesses. Then we'll finish the week off with a giveaway!

See you tomorrow!

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Invasion

We love our cozy little suite. I've loved it since the moment I first stepped through the door, after searching for weeks and finding nothing that even approached the level of acceptable.

But if anything's going to drive me out of here, it's the abundance of insects and spiders freeloading their way through life in our home.

First it was the horrifying silverfish discovery. I didn't sleep for days the first time I came across one. Almost repacked the boxes and moved us out of here that very night. These things are little space aliens from hell, with their freaky bodies and their amazing ability to scurry out of sight as soon as the light turns on.


Photo credit: Mathesont


Then it was the fall spiders. Spiders big enough that they gave my calm-down-it's-just-a-silly-spider husband the willies. Big fat black spiders that pop when you squish them, insanely fast brown spiders that dart across the room when discovered, and enough long-legged skinny spiders to fill up a vacuum (hey, you laugh, but it works).


Photo credit: Arthur Chapman


And now our newest freeloaders - ants.


Photo credit: Peri Apex


The silverfish and spiders, to their credit, do their best to stay out of the way. The silverfish only come out at night and the spiders hide out of sight, just waiting to jump out and give me a heart attack when I pick up a shirt or a blanket off the floor.

But not the ants. No, the ants are all, in your FACE, yo! In your FACE! We're gonna get in your cupboards next, yo! That's right! We're gonna get in aaaaall your food!

Cocky little bastards.

So the vacuum has taken up residence in the kitchen (it works, I tell you), and I've placed some ant traps in various corners of the kitchen and dining room. Funny how all my natural ideals go out the window as soon as my kitchen gets taken over by ants. I tried though, I really did! Wandered all over the disgustingly massive mall looking for a place to buy diatomaceous earth. Finally found a place and picked some up today. It'll be pulling double duty getting rid of both the remaining ants and the silverfish.

Now if only the silverfish ate ants. It might have been the freaky little space demons' only chance to redeem themselves.

Weekend Reading

Saturday, 21 May 2011

If it really was the end

Like so many others, I've been somewhat entertained by the idea of a predicted rapture happening today. I've laughed at the suggestion to leave sets of clothes on lawns and sidewalks. I've wondered at the intensity of the personality that could convince others of the truth in such a prediction. Mostly, I've just shrugged the whole thing off as another cult's crazy antics.

But I've also wondered, what if it really was the end? Not in the "hmm, maybe they're right" sense (because of course they aren't), but in the mindful sense of "how would I want to spend my last day on earth?"

And if I'm not living that way already...why not?

If I knew today was my last chance, I'd worry less about the state of my house and more about the state of my relationships.

I'd say "yes" to far more of my children's requests, instead of "soon", "not now", or "no".

I'd enjoy the feel of the sunshine, the smell of the ocean, the sounds of the forest.

I'd extend forgiveness rather than harbouring grudges and self-destructive anger.

I'd phone my loved ones to tell them what they meant to me.

I'd speak words of encouragement, appreciation, and love rather than harsh words of criticism and impatience.

Instead of squirreling things away for "someday", I'd break out the best dishes, use my favourite supplies, eat that hidden chocolate, and enjoy today without worrying about tomorrow.

Am I living this way? Sometimes.

Is tomorrow ever guaranteed? Never.

Can I be more mindful in living this way every day? Nothing is lost by trying.

One more step on my journey towards an intentional life.

How would you live if today was your last?

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Collision

Ready...

Set...

Crash!!!

Monday, 16 May 2011

Attachment Parenting: A father's role

Today in our Attachment Parenting Series, we will be discussing the role of fathers. If you have written a post on fatherhood as it relates to Attachment Parenting, please do share it with us in the comments below!


Introduction

Fathers play a vital role in Attachment Parenting (AP).*

When the mother is the primary caregiver, she will naturally be the one to spend the greatest amount of time in contact with the baby. In the early weeks, the mother will be the one to do most of the parenting of the infant simply by virtue of the amount of time a baby spends at the breast. However, it is because of this higher contact between mother and child (when the mother is the primary caregiver) that the father should be highly involved in parenting during the time he does spend at home.

An involved father serves a two-fold purpose: he will bring his own unique offering to the child, and he will help prevent the mother from burning out.

* For simplicity’s sake, I refer to the “husband”, “father”, and “marriage”. Please expand this to fit any form of long-term partnership that involves parenting a child, where one parent stays home with the child as the primary caregiver. The unique needs of attachment parenting as a single parent require their own focus, one which I am not qualified to provide.

Unique offering

The father brings his own unique offering to his child. With the exception of physically breastfeeding the baby, the father can be involved in all areas of raising his child. This close involvement will allow a young baby to become accustomed to the father’s distinct smell, sound, and feel, providing the baby with a second strong attachment relationship. As the child grows, he or she will continue to benefit from this close relationship and from the unique offerings brought by each parent.

Preventing burnout

The father’s involvement is of particular importance when taking an AP approach to parenting because it is far too easy for a mother to become burned out when left to meet all of the child's needs alone. Although it is common for the baby to naturally prefer the mother in the early months, the father plays a central role in creating a supportive environment, helping to nurture the child by supporting the mother. A father’s involvement includes both emotional support and practical involvement.

Emotional support

When a father is supportive rather than critical, he frees the mother to share her burdens rather than bottling them up. Because AP mothers often find themselves swimming against the parenting current, they are frequently reluctant to discuss parenting struggles for fear of having the blame placed on their choice to approach parenting in an AP manner. A mother who does not face the same criticism at home will be better able to confide in her husband and seek support from him when needed.

Emotional support can take many forms, including:
  • public unity
  • verbal encouragement
  • involvement in decision-making
  • assistance with meal prep and housework
  • encouraging a tired mother to meet her own need for self-care, and
  • working with the mother to make changes when necessary.

This emotional support should begin before the baby is born with the father’s involvement in the pregnancy. In addition to the above, this involvement may include accompanying the mother to prenatal visits, talking to the baby in the womb, assisting in preparing the nursery, and encouraging the mother through labour and delivery.

Practical involvement

Although a father cannot breastfeed the child, he can support the breastfeeding relationship not only emotionally, but in practical ways as well. Does the nursing mother need a glass of water or a book? Are there meals that need to be cooked or older children that need to be interacted with?

Babywearing is an especially useful tool for fathers, encouraging a strong father-child bond as the baby becomes accustomed to the father’s unique walk, movement, heartbeat, smell, and voice. The father can wear the baby around the house, take the baby for a walk, or rock the baby to sleep.

A father can be involved in nighttime parenting as well. For the bed-sharing family, this involvement may be more supportive than practical, as sleep disruptions are minimal when the stirring baby needs only to find comfort in a nearby parent or latch on to nurse back to sleep. When the child is sleeping in his or her own space, the father can bring the baby to the mother to nurse when needed, change the baby’s diaper if necessary, and settle the baby back to sleep.

Finally, a father can be involved in the daily care of the baby and the home. This includes housekeeping, diaper changes, baths, meal prep and cleanup, bedtime routine, entertaining, comforting, and responding to the baby’s cries.

Benefits

A father’s close involvement with his child will benefit each family member individually as well as the family as a whole.

Benefits to the father

In addition to the rewards any mutually loving relationship brings, the father will benefit from the strong attachment that develops through his close involvement with his child. As connection grows, the parent/child relationship becomes increasingly natural and instinctive. The resulting mutual trust and sensitivity is the basis of the parent/child relationship and the foundation upon which future discipline will rely.

Every interaction with the baby allows the father to better read and respond to his child’s cues. The better the father knows his child and the more the child trusts the father, the easier discipline will be as the child grows. The father will also be better equipped to care for the child in the absence of the mother.

Benefits to the mother

With the assistance of an involved, nurturing father, the mother will:
  • be more rested and calm
  • be better able to meet her own needs
  • be less likely to develop postpartum depression
  • feel confident in her husband’s abilities to care for his child, and
  • benefit emotionally from the support and encouragement of her husband.

Benefits to the child

The child will benefit from having a second strong attachment relationship. Each parent offers something unique to their relationship with the child, and the child benefits from both. Having a close relationship with both parents better enables the child to grow to be a healthy, well-adjusted adult. The positive interaction with and example set by an involved father will be beneficial to the child as he or she grows.

Mothers and fathers relate to their children differently, approach discipline differently, and interact with their children differently. When the underlying approach to parenting is one of unity, these differences will balance and complement each other. The child will thrive on the unique input each parent brings into their life.

Encouraging the reluctant father

Because of the frequent contact and close proximity between mother and child, the AP mother quickly becomes adept at reading the child's cues. This can shake the confidence of a father at first. He needs to be given the opportunity to bond and learn to read his child's cues as well. AP is particularly beneficial to the father in these circumstances because it allows him to develop the deepest connection with his child in the limited time he has.

To encourage the reluctant father:
  • promote early bonding through holding and comforting
  • provide opportunities for him to learn to read his child’s cues
  • allow him to develop his own unique way of meeting the child’s needs
  • offer suggestions if needed without hovering or nitpicking (“You could try…”)
  • purchase a gender-neutral baby carrier (the Ergo is a popular “male-approved” choice)
  • provide resources for the father to develop a deeper understanding of Attachment Parenting

Summary

The father has an important role to play in Attachment Parenting, bringing his own unique offering to the child while helping to prevent the mother from burning out.

A father’s involvement includes both emotional support and practical involvement. Emotional support may include understanding, encouragement, unity, involvement in decision-making, and assistance in making changes when necessary. Practical involvement may include supporting the breastfeeding relationship, babywearing, co-sleeping, taking part in nighttime parenting, and assisting in the daily care of the baby and the home.

Attachment Parenting will allow the father to bond with his child more quickly and will give him useful tools to support the mother emotionally while assisting in the practical aspects of parenting. In addition to the benefits this offers to the mother and child, it enables the father to grow into a confident and involved parent.


Recommended Reading:

Fathers by Dr. Sears
Becoming a Father: How to Nurture and Enjoy Your Family by Dr. William Sears
Father's First Steps: 25 Things Every New Dad Should Know by Dr. Robert Sears

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Weekend Reading

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Peace in this moment

Regret. Worry. Those twin terrors that pull us in opposite directions, past and future, and yet both work together to draw us away from the present. What good can come from either?

Why did I say that? Why did I neglect to do that?

What if I fail my children? What if I mess up my marriage?

Why?

What if?


Too many days have I spent wallowing in regret over the past or consumed by worry over the future. An intentional life demands that I live fully here, fully now, accepting the present moment for what it is.

I am neither in the past nor yet in the future. I am in this moment and it is all that I have right now. What can I do to bring peace in this moment? What can I do to encourage, comfort, or extend kindness? How can I fill this moment with joy - or find the joy already present in it?

What can I do in this moment to live the life I desire to live? to be the person I desire to be?

Rather than dwelling on past regrets, can I...
  • seek healing?
  • find gratitude?
  • repent and move on?
  • apologize to someone?
  • engage with my children?
  • perform an act of kindness?

Instead of worrying about the future, can I...
  • make a plan?
  • take action?
  • begin a project?
  • invest in a relationship?
  • focus fully on what I am doing?
  • engage all of my senses in the moment?

A life spent living from one moment to the next cannot co-exist with a life of past regrets or future worries. My journey towards a more intentional life has forced me to choose between the two, and I choose the former. I choose a life of presence and gratitude over regret and worry, and it is good.

Breathe. Embrace the moment.

And then move on to the next one.

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will worry about itself.
Each day has enough trouble of its own."
Matthew 6:34

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Saturday, 7 May 2011

The Saturday Evening Blog Post


It's time again for the Saturday Evening Blog Post, hosted by Elizabeth Esther. Elizabeth collects the "best of" posts on the first Saturday of every month, an opportunity for bloggers to gather and share their favourite post from the previous month.

From April, I've chosen A God Who Sings. If you've written something you'd like to share this month, swing by her blog and add your link!

Weekend Reading

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Mothering as an introvert

I've had these thoughts in the back of my mind for weeks now, and today - well, today just feels like the perfect day to let it all out.

Today, when I had to (horrors!) unexpectedly interact with new people.

Today, when my older boy talked non-stop from the time he woke up until the time his eyes finally, blessedly, drifted shut.

Today, when my younger boy had a sudden need to be in physical contact with me at all possible moments.

Today, when my husband worked until the kids' bedtime, leaving me to spend the entire day cooking, cleaning, running errands, being social, and answering the preschooler's endless questions.

Today. Just one of those days. One of those perfect days for reflecting on motherhood as an introvert.


Some days I just don't know how to do it. I want to lash out at everyone, what about ME? Can I just have one hour with no one talking to me, touching me, or needing something from me? Where I can do what I want instead of what needs to be done - where I can write instead of clean, or knit instead of cook? Where I'm not being constantly dragged out of my thoughts and back into the needs of everyone else?

During one such desperate escape last month, I left the kids with their dad and fairly ran out the door with no particular destination in mind. I ended up at a strip mall with thoughts of heading to Starbucks to get in some quiet writing time. As I passed a hair salon, I did a double-take: "walk-ins welcome". I needed my hair cut in a bad way (the perils of moving to a new city and being too introverted to bother finding a new hairdresser). Before I knew what I was doing, I found myself at the front counter asking if they had an opening. They did.

I settled into the chair and the hairdresser began spritzing and fussing with my long thick hair. "Looks like you had an inverted cut last time? Do you want that left in?" I declined, too embarrassed to admit that my last hair cut had been a self-done hack job over the side of the bathtub. She got to work on my requested style, and I was immediately reminded of exactly why it had taken me so long to find a new hairdresser - the dreaded Small Talk.

Question, answer, awkward pause. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Stop! I wanted to shout. I left my kids at home to get away from the endless questions!

(At least she did a fabulous job on my hair.)

Such is the life of an introvert. It can be hard to manage in a culture that seems designed for the extroverts among us. It isn't generally considered polite to avoid small talk with strangers or acquaintances - and yet, for the introvert, such interactions can be exhausting, sapping our last reserves of outward-focused energy. Crowds and malls can be overstimulating. We're expected to be social, to go out and "loosen up, have some fun!", when quite honestly "fun" for us might be staying home with a good book. We have to endure the infuriating teasing attempts to draw us out of our "shell", which apparently means "get you to talk as much as the rest of us are talking". For those of us who don't wear our emotions on our face, we receive endless "cheer up and smile!" comments from complete strangers.

(Am I really supposed to walk around with a big silly grin on my face all the time? Really?? I was happy until some random person told me to cheer up and smile. Now I'm just annoyed and ticked off.)

Introversion feels like a constant struggle between reaching out to create community and drawing in to protect/replenish my energy reserves. Rather than a large group of acquaintances, I desire a smaller number of deeper, more intimate cherished friendships - a process in which I am doubly disadvantaged by my inherent shyness. Because of this, I am careful in choosing which relationships to invest in, looking for people I can relate to, have something in common with, and enjoy being around.

As an introvert, I've had to learn how to enforce boundaries for my own mental health - boundaries with strangers, acquaintances, friends, family, and even myself. I've had to learn to say no (and mean it), to be cautious with the amount of things I take on, and to jealously guard my quiet time.

It wasn't until I became a mother, however, that I really needed to develop and depend on these skills. Motherhood leaves little room for drawing inward or finding time alone to recharge. The constant interaction, sacrifice, and meeting of needs can be exhausting even for extroverts; the additional challenges for introverts can feel insurmountable at times. I found these parenting-related strategies keep the near-breaking point days to a minimum for me:

  • Insist on daily quiet time. After the older boy gave up naps, we continued with a daily quiet time instead. As I was pregnant at the time, I desperately needed the downtime.

    At the beginning, quiet time consisted of the two of us climbing into my bed. He was allowed to bring two cars and a stack of books, and he was free to play with those cars, read, or sleep during the quiet time, while I either read or slept. He was not allowed to get out of bed until quiet time was over.

    Now that he's older, his quiet time is spent in his room instead. He may do as he likes (play, read, sleep) as long as he stays in his room. Some days I put on a CD for him and he is allowed to come out when the CD is over; other days I give him an alarm clock and either set it to go off or tell him he may come out "when the first number is a 2".

  • Fill their cup. "Fake it 'til you make it." Sometimes I find myself trapped in the cycle of being overwhelmed, pulling away from the kids, and having them become even more clingy and demanding as a result. The harder I pull away, the harder they push for my attention. Although it feels counter-intuitive, the best way to break this cycle is to spend time focused on them. By meeting their needs first, they are better able to then allow me the time I need for myself.

  • Carve out regular "me time". Mama-guilt makes this one a challenge, but I'm learning to let go of the idea that "good moms don't" - good moms don't need time away from their children; good moms don't go out alone for no particular reason; good moms don't leave their husbands to parent alone because, after all, they've had a long week too.

    Sometimes this "me time" is as simple as closing the door to the bedroom and asking to not be disturbed for the next hour. Sometimes it's a walk to my favourite teahouse, or a drive to Starbucks with my laptop, or a trip to the store all by myself.

    My biggest "me time" fail? Joining a weekly knitting group. Great idea in theory, until I realized I was coming home more exhausted than when I'd left. It finally occurred to me that the whole purpose of my "me time" was to be alone and recharge, not to put myself in one more energy-draining social situation!

  • Get outside. It's magical. Homebody that I am, I can't deny the energizing refreshment of a walk through the forest trails. The open space and fresh air are calming, and it's always a relief to leave behind the steady temptation of access to the online world. With all the distractions of nature, the kids become less demanding, allowing me to regroup enough to get through the rest of the evening.

Ahh...nearly two blissfully quiet hours of typing, and I'm now feeling myself again. Time to sleep in order to be sure I still have that regained energy tomorrow morning - because if there's any temptation an introvert regularly faces, it's staying up too late, reluctant to give up the extra alone time!

Are you an introvert? How do you balance the demands of motherhood with time alone to recharge?

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Monday, 2 May 2011

Is Jesus greater than our differences?


Once upon a time, there was a girl who thought that if it was conservative, it was right (and of course everyone else was wrong).

Then that girl grew up.

It was hard to let go of the simplicity in that black-and-white world, but what a delight to discover grey! And not only grey, but red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple - such a beautifully bright and colourful world!

But alas, her former black-and-white world remained heavily populated, and the two worlds often bumped up against each other. Things weren't always peachy in her new colourful world either. Always too liberal for some, too conservative for others, she struggled to find belonging and community amongst all the colour.

In time she came to realize that a good part of this struggle was because she was searching for her double, someone who agreed with her in every way. It was just another form of black-and-white, only now she was looking for just that right shade of blue-green-purple.

And so the story goes. That girl is me, that struggle is mine. Maybe you, my sister or brother, have a similar story, or maybe yours is very different, but I'm sure of one thing: we're all headed in the same direction. Always the journey onward, always the two-steps-forward-one-step-back, always the growth that frees us to find community in the least expected places.

I'm still waiting for my happily ever after, but maybe we can find a bit of that wholeness here on earth in the meantime. How? By uniting in our one similarity - Jesus.

This unity isn't one more stab at black-and-white uniformity. It's a unity that acknowledges and honours the sincerity in each of us. We can love each other through our disagreements. We can embrace kindness, serve one another, and assume the best in each other's intents.

So you're a Calvinist and she's a Catholic and he's gay, but we all love Jesus. Can Jesus be greater than all the rest? Can even that one similarity outweigh our many differences? Is Jesus bigger than our disagreements?

I like to think so.

What about you?



This post was written for inclusion in the Rally to Restore Unity. What can our unity do? Maybe it can bring clean water to those who need it. Donate at the Rally to Restore Unity Charity: Water campaign.