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The Present

Yesterday I talked about the early days today I’m going to share a little bit about the present.

It’s fun to look back and reminisce on days gone by. I had a great time looking through the old pictures to add them to my post. As I was sorting through them all we shared stories, we laughed, we smiled. We had a great time and we both said we’d love to go back and re-live some of those moments.

Truth is, that I wouldn’t give up what we have now to go back.

Our life now is pretty amazing. We have loved on each other hard, we’ve struggled through some dark days together, we’ve had plenty of adventures, and we’ve got two awesome kids. The thing is, it’s not over!

We are having such an awesome time now introducing our kids to the things we love. It’s so fun.

It’s amazing to watch Curtis be a Daddy. He is the apple of E’s eye and those two are a perfect pair. He loves L with all his heart and she rewards him every time he comes home with a very enthusiastic squealing of  “da da da da da da” it makes my heart melt.

I have to say, my man, he’s awesome. The two of us we really are partners. We both pull equal but different loads in our home. He’s a great provider, he is a hands on Dad. He loves chocolate chip cookies so much that he has taken over that department because I couldn’t keep up with the demand. 🙂

Our life is so fun. We have something real, something special, and something that we both want to foster and grow.

We’ve grown together, really we’ve become adults together. We’ve changed over the years, we’ve matured, we’ve learned.

Here’s the thing, we’re not done. So while the last 12 years have been amazing, I love our now, and I am excited for our future.

I hope that some day down the road we’re that little old couple that everyone thinks is so sweet because they’re so in love.

 

Photo Credit: Jennifer Foik Photography

The Early Days

We’ve been talking a lot about dreams, plans, and hopes for the future at our place lately as we try to figure out what the next “adventure” will be in the McHale household. It’s been reminding me a lot of the early days of our marriage. I thought I’d take a minute and share with you some of our back story.

We got married pretty young, I was barely 21, he was 23. A lot of people thought we were CRAZY. We weren’t crazy but we were young, in love, and naive. We couldn’t imagine doing anything in life apart from each other.

Curtis and I have always been adventure seekers. Our relationship has cycled through many adventure sports. We’ve guided backcountry canoe trips together and apart. We’ve paddled over waterfalls in our kayaks. We’ve been on kayaking trips in Mexico, hiking trips all over the mountains around here and we’ve done a ton of rock climbing too. We’re always seeking the next adventure. It’s very normal for us and we enjoy it most when we’re together.

Oh man did we have fun (and we still do).

All I can do is smile when I think about the first summer that we were married. We worked as canoe guides. We lived in a tent for the most part – we still have that tent and it still feels like home when we sleep in it.

When we weren’t in the tent we had a room off the camp office that we stayed in about two nights a week. There was no electricity, no running water, and no showers.  Our room had propane lights in it so if we were hanging out in there with the lights on we had to leave the door open. It’s true. Maybe we were a little crazy.

Here’s the thing I would do it again in a second!

When we moved west after that summer we came out for a guiding job for me. I had never had a “real” job because I had been a student my whole life and it seemed like a good paycheque. I still have no idea how we managed to pay the bills and stay afloat that first year. Maybe our naivety kept us going.

Putting our stuff into our first apartment was eye opening. The storage room was piled hip deep with outdoor gear and we had nothing else. No furniture, no bedding, no table/chairs. We slept on an air mattress for months and for YEARS our end tables and night stands were two milk crates stacked on top of each other and covered with a sheet.

I remember hosting Thanksgiving and asking our friends to bring something to share as well as their own place setting because we had NOTHING. 2 plates, 2 bowls, and 4 spoons/knives/forks etc. I remember doing our wedding registry and hardly putting anything on it because I had no idea what we needed and who wants that stuff anyway? Seriously dishes, casseroles, table cloths, towels, bleh.

Yep that was us. We would so much rather paddle a canoe, stand on a mountain top, sleep in a tent, and eat Mac “N” Cheese out of our camp pots than sleep in a house, own a whole lot of furniture and feel stuck there.

To a large extent we still feel that way. Sure our life is a little (or maybe a lot) more financially comfortable and our home is a bit more stable, but I’d still rather buy a new tent and take our kids out into the backcountry than buy new furniture.

As we’ve been talking about dreams lately and where we want to go from here we’ve been revisiting some of our dreams from our early days and realizing that now with our family they are within reach. Sure we’ll have to travel slower, Curtis and I will have to carry more, but our kids are SO able to explore the backcountry with us, and it’s exciting.

It kind of feels like we’re getting back to our roots. Since we’ve had kids our life has slowed down, but we’ve also come to have only one work schedule to work around. We’re getting out way more than we did in our years of both of us working full time jobs. The pace is slower, but the journey is still awesome and you see things from a much different perspective when you have little people around.

It’s fun to look back and talk about where we’ve come from where we are and where we want to go. I would encourage you to do it too!

 

When your spouse goes away…

Ok, continuing on in this weeks marriage vein, here’s my question: When your spouse goes away do you miss them?

I’m not talking about missing the extra set of hands to help with the kids, wash the dishes or do the laundry (although sometimes those things are nice). I’m talking about the emotional, physical and intellectual connection that you have with them when they’re around.

Sounds simple enough and the resounding answer here is YES. Curtis is missed by ALL around here when he’s not home. Desperately so.

Last weekend Curtis went away to the men’s retreat with the men from our church. I have to tell you I really missed him. A LOT.

I think we noticed it even more this time because not only was he away but he was out of cell range too.

Often when Curtis goes away to a conference or something we’re in pretty constant contact with each other. Really because of the nature of his business we’re in constant contact almost all the time.

I send him texts about our day, what we’re up to, funny things the kids have done, or pleas for sanity when they’re driving me bonkers :).

Because he’s his own boss he can set his own hours and respond accordingly.

Sometimes he’ll ask me not to bug him  because he’s working on a technical project (which is fine) he’ll get back to me later. He also works from 6 am to noon or 1 pm. He’s home by 1pm most days, 2pm at the latest.

All this to say that when he’s not around his presence is missed. I love having our afternoons together. We take the kids to the park, sit on the couch and have coffee, do household chores, and cook dinner together. We’re together A LOT and we like it that way.

We know that we’re really spoiled in this respect and so thankful that he’s able to schedule his day in whatever way works best for our family.

Having him away over the weekend and not even being able to text was a very different experience. I missed our connection to each other and felt really lonely at times.

We filled our time well. Really we had a very busy weekend with swimming, friends and open houses but still. These are things that I’m still often chatting with him about even if he’s away somewhere.

Another thing that’s really normal for us when he’s away is to Skype or FaceTime after the kids are in bed. It’s a great way to see each other, catch up on the day, and just be aware of what’s going on in each of our lives while we’re apart. With him out of cell range we can’t do that. (I call my parents instead, I’m sure they LOVE it when Curtis is away.)

It’s always fun to watch movies he wouldn’t want to watch with me, chat with my Mom a little bit extra (sorry Mom), and spend loads of extra time with friends without feeling guilty about leaving him behind, but we’re always very happy when he gets home.

To celebrate his return yesterday we actually drove out to camp to pick him up then spent the day at the beach. The kids were in heaven, and I love getting to watch them be loved on by their Daddy. It’s pretty special.

Here’s to my awesome man! I’m glad he enjoyed himself got some R&R and got to strengthen his relationships with the men in our church, but I’m SO happy he’s home. I miss him when he’s away. We were made to be together and we like it that way!

Myself, Roxy & Curtis at the trailhead

Time on the Mountain

Our long weekend was crazy! We had swimming, fundraisers, church, shopping, and parties to fill our time, but Curtis and I managed to eek out a little date time alone on the mountain too.

As I mentioned in a previous post we’ve recently decided that we need to try and get out together a little more often so that we get a bit of a break and some much needed time alone together to reconnect.

Curtis took the lead this time and arranged for a sitter on Sunday afternoon. We decided we would go for a trail “run”.

Up Vedder Mountain we went.

I’ve been up there numerous times but I don’t think I’ve ever been all the way to the top. When you’re taking kids along you kind of go at their pace. Sometimes that pace is SLOW. It’s more about the journey then the destination.

When it’s two adults going things are a bit quicker. As I said Curtis and I were “running” which was really more like a fast hike, running sections here and there. We managed to make the 10km round trip in about an hour and a half. Slowed down mostly by the dog.

It was so fun to get out, enjoy something together that we seldom get to do alone, and chat.

I think Roxy enjoyed the trip too. She often gets overshadowed by the kids when we go as a family and our little hike probably felt a lot like the good ol’ days for her.

It was a little nostalgic for us too to be out together in the woods. We’ve always enjoyed being in the outdoors together so for us it feels a little like we’re getting back to our roots. We both feel most at rest when we’re outside and the conversation flows easily!

How about you? Did you manage to squeeze in a bit of time alone with your special someone this weekend? I hope so!

2015 Summer Fun List

Last summer we made a Summer Fun List – a list of ideas of things we could do locally during the summer.

It included everything from finding a new local playground, to camping trips, to dinners out, and trips to the zoo.

It was a HUGE success. We didn’t get to everything on the list but we did a lot, and any time we weren’t sure of what we wanted to do we would consult the list. The kids and I did more of it than Curtis, but he joined us for a good many things and it kept us busy all summer long.

Our Summer Fun List was so successful last year that we’re going to do it again. Some things are repeats, some are new, some are free, and some will cost a bit of money. We won’t get to everything and that’s ok. The point is to have some ideas so that when we have a free day to go exploring we don’t waste it trying to come up with something fun!

So here it is:

  • Visit the Fairy Park (Redwood Park in Surrey)
  • Visit the Historic Burnaby Villiage – ride the carousel!
  • Go to the Vancouver Aquarium ( I already have passes I got through air miles, so this is hopefully a given!)
  • Visit the Zoo (again I have a family pass I got through air miles so this should be easy)
  • Hike all of Vedder – we visited the “first hole” this winter but would like to get to the top.
  • Go to Party in the Park
  • Have Pizza at Cultus Lake
  • Plant a vegetable garden
  • Hike Elk Mountain
  • Go on a family camping trip
  • Make S’mores
  • Have a beach day with Daddy in White Rock
  • Find a new game to play at Party in the Park
  • Go to the beach at Hicks Lake
  • Pick Strawberries
  • Pick Blueberries (E specifically wants to do this in a friend’s yard but we’ll have to see)
  • Find a new park in Chilliwack
  • Go to the Water slides
  • Take a family bike ride and have a picnic
  • Write a letter to my favourite cousin Megan ( watch out Meg you have a letter from a 4 year old in your future!)
  • Visit Bridal Falls
  • Go out for Ice Cream
  • Play Mini Golf
  • Go Canoeing
  • Have a beach day at Cultus Lake with our friends
  • Have friends over for Friday Night Pizza
  • Make Blueberry Muffins
  • Pick Vegetables
  • Build a Sandcastle
  • Go to a new Splash Park
  • Run through the sprinkler (we don’t have one but we should be able to do this somewhere!)
  • Go on a Mommy & E only run
  • Find a NEW splash park
  • Visit Othello Tunnels
  • Go on a train ride (if anyone knows how I can make this one happen I am open to suggestions!)
  • Visit the Kilby Store
  • Enjoy a Harrison Lake beach day
  • Take a trip to Birchwood Dairy
  • Go on a family backpacking trip
  • Visit Queens Park in New Westminster
  • Go to VBS

This is our list so far! Feel free to steal ideas, and if you have any great ideas for summer fun then let me know! We’ll add them on 🙂

Date, What’s a Date?

Maybe you’ve been there maybe you haven’t, but that moment when you sit down next to your spouse and say “Hi my name is Cynthia, what’s yours?” should really never happen.

You know what I mean. You get busy – in the literal running around after kids, doing skating, preschool, doctors appointments, work, & friends kind of way.

All of a sudden you sit on the couch next to your spouse and you feel like you haven’t talked to them in months. You need to get to know each other again.

Curtis and I experienced this just a few weeks ago.

We were feeling lonely and disconnected from each other. We were starving for some time alone together out of our house without our kids or other people. We wanted to hang out.

We started talking about a date. We realized the last date we had planned was way back in early December and we had cancelled it because the kids were sick. We intended to reschedule over the holidays of course. Prior to that we couldn’t recall the last time we had been out together. It might have been October when my parents were here to visit. It was April. This needed to change.

We had to refresh our memories. We were unsure of what this thing society calls a date really was. We decided to redefine it.

We realized that what often deterred us from going out was cost. I’m not complaining I’m just stating the truth. When it came right down to it and it was time to put a date on the budget page we often chose to spend our money differently. We had a hard time justifying it.

It was time to re-prioritize.

It’s funny I always think of a date in the traditional as seen on TV kind of date – dinner, movie, some other extravagant event, evening, late nights etc. The reality of this is that I’m not a dinner and a movie kind of girl and he’s not a dinner and a movie kind of guy. If that’s what we want we can stay home and enjoy from the comfort of our couch.

When we actually talked about the things that we enjoy doing together, the best times we’ve had and when we’ve connected the best it’s always been when we’re outside.

Having this conversation was one of the best things we could have done because we realized that to us a “date” is a hiking trip, a run, a paddle, a bike ride or some other outdoor endeavour. None of those things cost us any more than the babysitters time.

All of a sudden a whole new world opened up to us.

So. We went out. Our first date in an unnamed amount of time was a bike ride. It was SOOOOOOOO GOOOOOOD! I can’t even express it.

Relaxing together doing something that we both enjoy was amazing. We tagged a coffee on to the end cause really, who can survive without coffee?! And we went home after 3 hours feeling reconnected and refreshed ready for anything the munchkins could throw at us.

That afternoon was such a good reminder to us that we need to make each other a priority. It’s so easy to brush each other off when other things come up but really we committed our lives to each other. When the kids are gone – and one day they will be – Curtis will still be here.

I don’t want to look up in 15-20 years and realize I have a roommate not a partner. That I am living with a stranger.

I want to be that couple who still loves each other dearly after 50 years. Still holds hands as we walk along the beach. Still proclaims that the other is our best friend.

Being that couple takes a lot of effort. To us it means prioritizing the other. Not pushing each other off when something else comes up. The best thing we can do for each other and for our kids is work at our relationship. Make our marriage a priority. For us right now, that means dating. For you maybe it’s something else.

So, we date. Next weekend we’re going on a trail run. I can’t wait!

 

Morning Madness

It’s no secret that I’m not a morning person. I have a hard time functioning at a basic level for quite some time after I wake in the morning, and until I’ve had a coffee it’s really next to impossible.

Why is it then that the time of day that I am least capable of functioning well is always the most hectic.

As I am sitting here this afternoon writing this for you I am thinking about the morning madness that we will experience tomorrow getting ready to get out the door.

I do as much as I can the night before to make sure that the morning runs smoothly.

We pick the kids clothes, I program the coffee maker (this is new but very effective since most of my kitchen conundrums occur while making coffee and due to the fact that I haven’t had any). If E has preschool I try to make her snack, and get out my running clothes so I can run while she’s at school.

And still we struggle to get out the door on time without frustration, prodding, and tantrums.

One of my kids is not a morning person. Strangely she is an early riser. At least three days last week she was up at 5:30. And yet, try to encourage her to get ready and she will LOSE IT. She wants to wear her jammies, lounge around, eat when she feels like it, and not be pushed in the morning.

So how do I balance this with our need to get out the door at a certain time?

When we have no morning commitments I can let both kids do the morning at their own pace which is great. However for one it truthfully doesn’t matter if it’s 6:30 or 10:30 getting the ball rolling is grounds for an apocalyptic style battle.

I feel like we’ve tried everything to make this process better to no avail. Every morning we go through the same kind of madness. It always comes down to the last five seconds before we go out the door and I hear myself starting to loose my patience as I ask for the millionth time to find shoes, get coats, and head to the car.

Part of me gets it. I don’t want to be rushed or told what I have to do and when either. So ok, I get it. It’s morning, leave me alone and don’t talk to me. Let me do my thing and I’ll be ready when I’m ready.

I’m just not sure what to do when ready when I’m ready is like 7pm and it’s time for bed again.

We’ve tried it all. Incentives, bribes, going with the flow, seeking the kids input into how they want the morning to go, and still we struggle.

So tell me friends is this just the way mornings go with kids? Do I need to accept that getting out the door is going to be a struggle and go with it? Or can this get better?

What do you do to make mornings go more smoothly? What does your routine look like? Do you have one kid that just isn’t a morning person? How do you deal with that child making it hard for the whole house to get ready to get out the door?

Let me know, I would LOVE to hear your ideas. Maybe there will be some gem that will help make things run more smoothly here!

Dare to dream

What do you dream about? Curtis and I have been talking a lot about our “dreams” lately.

What do we want? What kind of lifestyle do we ultimately want to live? Are we happy? If we could do ANYTHING what would it be? Is it what we’re doing now?

These are all things that we’ve been talking about lately. Why you ask?

Well partly because our house is for sale. We’re excited to be selling but not sure what we’re going to do after. We’re planning on staying where we are but for a number of reasons we’re not necessarily buying another house right away.

Being 100% debt free – even for a short period of time – will be AMAZING. I can’t wait!

It’s got us dreaming.

Eventually we’ve want to buy another house and right now we intend for that house to be here in Chilliwack, but not right away.

We’ve been going back to the days early on in our marriage when we had all kinds of dreams about the things we hoped to do with our lives. We’ve been talking about the experiences we want to offer our kids. We have some pretty big dreams.

We’ve also been talking a lot about what I want to do. I know this may sound funny, but for some reason being a stay at home mom is kind of like being a newly graduated high school student. I am regularly asked what I want to do when my kids go to school (much like the high school student is asked what they want to do when they grow up). Right now my answer is I don’t know.

So I’ve been dreaming. Trying to figure out what I want to do. Do I want to pursue another career path? What would that look like? I know I want to be home after school for the kids so that someone is here, so what kind of job would I be looking at? What would I like to pursue, what interests me, how much time do I want to invest? I have a few years to figure it out but it’s something that we’ve been talking about a lot.

It’s fun to dream. It’s brought Curtis and I closer and it gets contagious. To dare to dream is something that so many people are afraid to do which I think is so funny because really what are you hurting in entertaining a dream?

For us sometimes those dreams get us through.

Things get tough and we feel like we’re just slogging along so we start dreaming. We spend some of our spare time throwing around ideas. It helps keep us going and it makes life a lot more fun!

So what about you, do you dare to dream? Do you dream big? Do you find it encouraging? I hope so. If you haven’t had any big dreams in a while I would encourage you to spend some time dreaming!

Retiring our beloved teapot on the trail - a local tradition on this hike

Fun with Friends!

We had SO MUCH FUN with friends today. This has been the best days of summer so far and I hope there are many more like it to come!

Summer has been a bit slow starting for us we’ve been having a hard time finding a good groove. It seems that we keep missing friends, or they’re away, or we’re committed to something else.

Today I think we found our groove.  I sent a friend a text last week asking if she wanted to go for a hike up a local hill that’s very kid friendly and hit the beach afterwards.

Retiring our beloved teapot on the trail - a local tradition on this hike

Retiring our beloved teapot on the trail – a local tradition on this hike

Last summer we went hiking and/or to the beach with her and her kids at least once a week, but life changes and thus far this summer we just haven’t been able to swing it.

Today we had the joy of hiking with her and her kids in the morning. It was a “short” hike but so good for our kids to all be together again. (The distance isn’t far but when you have three littles walking and one being carried time and distance don’t necessarily correspond.)

E falls in the middle of her two littles and LOVES her older daughter – like idol status. She was SO excited to get to run alongside her friend and try to keep up. Plus she had a new backpack that she’s breaking in for a hiking trip later in the summer with Daddy.  L slept or coo’d happily in the baby carrier all the way and all the littles did great.

 

E and her friend

E and her friend

After our hike we all headed to the beach to meet another friend and her kids for the afternoon.  Between the three of us there were eight kids at the beach. Everyone played well together and it was one of those days that you’re loathe to see end. Seriously none of us wanted to pack up and go home.

E made a major accomplishment today, she figured out the basic technique of swimming. This is HUGE for her. While she’s never been shy about the splash pad, pools and especially beaches make her VERY nervous. She’s been in the same FIRST level at swimming lessons ALL WINTER. She loves going but is timid and rarely lets go of her instructor.

We’ve been at the beach two other times so far this summer, the first she didn’t go in past her knees. Then she was holding my hand and SCREAMING (I forced her in to wash the sand off before leaving. I know I’m a horrible mother).

Last week when we were there as a family she wouldn’t go in unless one of us was holding her, and refused to go further than chest deep water. She did eventually relax and at least enjoy it.

I didn’t expect her to embrace swimming so soon after the last two trips. I figured we were in for another summer of playing in the and by the shore in ankle deep water (this is FINE with me, I just want her to be safe and comfortable around water not necessarily an all star swimmer).

Today right away she wanted me to take her in.

SWIMMING! I know it's shallow but I promise she wasn't pushing off the bottom :)

SWIMMING! I know it’s shallow but I promise she wasn’t pushing off the bottom 🙂

Maybe it was seeing her friends jumping off the dock and swimming around on their own. Maybe it’s the crazy heat wave we’ve been having. Maybe it’s the frequency of swimming right now (lessons once a week and at least one trip a week to the beach) or a combination of the three. Who knows.

If I know anything about my girl it’s that she’ll DO IT when SHE wants to. Not one second before and no time later than she decides is ok either.

Today she actually held my shoulders and let me swim her out to the end of the dock. She also let me hold her in the swimming position in shallow water. I was impressed just by those things.

It’s like it just clicked for her. All of a sudden she understood how she should be positioned and how she needed to move her arms and legs. I had to go in to shore to feed L, but she still wanted to swim. So in knee deep water she figured it out. SO FUN.

It was so fun to watch because she would swim the length of the swimming area in knee deep water, then get out, run back to where she started and do it again. It never occurred to her that she could turn around and swim back.

She repeated the cycle for about an hour and a half and I had to pry her out of the water to go home. She was so proud of herself, and I am a proud mama tonight too. I love that kid!

Best things ever today: her contagious giggles as she RAN down the hiking trail after her friends, and the equally elated giggling that came with figuring out how to swim.

We ended our day today by taking Curtis to the garden we’ve been “keeping” at a friends place. – I say this very loosely because I have a hard time growing grass in our yard, and tonight I realized that I can no longer distinguish some of the weeds from the plants that are supposed to be there – oops.

It was a perfect summer’s day.  After so much fun with friends, I’m sad to see this day end. It was jam packed with hiking, swimming, gardening, playing and visiting yet it didn’t feel crazy rushed or busy.  This is exactly what summer days should be. To top it off, my house is pretty clean – we haven’t been here all day!

Hope you had a great day too, and that there are many more sunny summer days to come 🙂