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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!

 

Kiboshed by the Kiddies

Ok, so I was going to follow along in my marriage theme today however that was kiboshed by my kiddies.

More accurately by E’s blankie.

Yes you read that right. E’s blankie took up my “free” time today.

This you see is Eden’s blankie:

E's Blankie - pre-repair

E’s Blankie – pre-repair

If any of you have children with a blankie attachment you will understand that this is a HUGE problem. Like devastating, earth shattering, world stopping and, most dreadfully sleep ending.

I made this blanket for E before she was born. I actually made a number of blankets for her before she was born, this is the one she became attached to.

She’s been sleeping bum in the air face mashed in this blanket since she was about 7 months old.

When I noticed that one of the strands of yarn had broken and begun to unravel I asked E for permission (because you don’t mess with the blankie) to repair it.

This is what it looks like now:

E's Blankie with a temporary repair

E’s Blankie with a temporary repair

I intend to get more “matching” yarn (I say it like that because it’s so faded and dingy that getting new yarn in the original colour is not really going to match) to make a new square to sew over top but when we went to Walmart today to purchase said yarn they no longer had the right colour.

In some ways this follows my marriage theme because as much as Curtis and I try to make our relationship the priority sometimes the kids rule the roost.

In this particular case fixing this blankie and keeping it in good shape is a much better use of my time in the long term to keep everyone around here happy. Sometimes you have to sacrifice in the short term to make a worthwhile long term investment!

 

Is it Extraordinary?

Our anniversary is coming up on the weekend so to celebrate in my own weird way I’m going to be writing posts this week about our marriage and relationship. Before I get too far though I want to ask you: Is your marriage Extraordinary? Think on that as you read through my posts this week.

Now before I go too far I want to share with you a resource (that caused me to ask this question in the first place) that Curtis and I have come across recently. It’s the ONE Extraordinary Marriage podcast.

I’m not sure where we found this, I think it was something that was being discussed in one of the other podcasts that we listen to, but WOW. What an amazing marriage resource.

This couple sits down weekly and openly discusses their marriage for all to hear. They air their personal business, they talk through issues that they’re having and they offer suggestions as to how to get over hurdles in your own marriage in a straightforward manner.

They don’t beat around the bush either. I have never before come across a Christian couple (or any couple for that matter) that so openly shares about ALL aspects of marriage. They talk about kids, family, sex, conflict and conflict resolution, parenting, priorities, dreams, you name it they address it.

The thing that I think has resonated the most with both of us is that regardless of your beliefs the relational information they’re offering holds true. They’re open, they’re honest, they share very personal details about their lives, and yet they aren’t doing it for show. They’re not being dirty, or porny, or oversharing, just truthful and to the point.

When we stumbled across this podcast I would say that we were maintaining the status quo here. We were working together to get things done but it was all work and no play for us. We were discussing the parenting, the business, the chores etc. but we weren’t connecting with each other in a meaningful way and we were both missing each other.

I think that most couples with kids got through that at some point in their relationship. It’s easy to push your relationship aside for the sake of the kids because they’re busy, they’re fun, they’re fabulous, but they can also be exhausting and by the time they’re in bed you’re both just done.

So we started listening to the ONE podcast and have since gone back and started from the beginning – its that good. They have about 275 episodes now and we went back to episode one. We’re both listening at our own pace but we’re bringing things to the table as we come across something that resonates with us.

It had had a HUGE impact on our marriage. We’ve become closer, we’ve both been happier, and we’re way more connected. We’ve been working on re-prioritizing our lives so that we can put our marriage ahead of the myriad of other things that are part of our lives right now. It makes sense doesn’t it? I’ve committed to spend my LIFE with him till death do us part and as such I want it to be a damn good life. When the kids are gone he’ll still be here, and I want to know who this person I’m doing life with is.

So if things are awesome, if things are OK, if things are status quo, or if things really such in your marriage right now I encourage you to check out ONE. Listen to the podcast, read the blog. Spend some time prioritizing your spouse. It’s worth it!

 

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 🙂

Consistent Parenting – sigh

We’ve been having good days around here for the most part but E seems to be going through a phase of explosive tantrums.

Life will be just going along and everything is fine and then the smallest thing will set her off and BOOM it’s epic.

I’ve been at a bit of a loss as to how to cope.

This is not behaviour that we accept in our house and so this kind of epic tantrum results in her being removed from the situation (usually to her room, sometimes to ours).

But let me tell you, it’s hard. I sometimes think parenting is the definition of insanity – you know, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

Across the board parenting experts will say that consistent parenting is important. And we try. Sometimes however I want to smack those parenting experts with their own book and ask them if they have ever actually been in the situation with their own child.

It’s funny though how sometimes a few days of consistency in the face of a behavioural issue will resolve the issue never to be seen again, and sometimes it takes time. A lot of time.

Something we’ve learned here recently and have really been working on is that our own response will either fan the flames, or douse them. If we respond equally as explosively then the situation will escalate. If we can react calmly without showing our own frustration at the event then the situation diffuses pretty quickly.

There are a few things that I have found encouraging lately. One, is that I’ve been hearing from friends that they’re going through the same things with their 4 year olds – it’s so nice to know that we’re not alone!

Another is that on a podcast I listen to the couple talks openly about their own 4 year old and the struggles they have with her from time to time. They frequently mention the explosive tantrums. What I always find as a good reminder is that they talk about her like she’s a baby – like she’s little.

My kids are little. L at 15 months needs very little discipline as of yet E at 4 needs more firm guidance but she is still little. I forget this. I remember her as a wee baby and she is so much bigger now than she was then. I’ve seen the progression from babe in arms to independent child and I often think of her as so big and mature.  When you spend your days with little people it’s easy to forget that they are little because it becomes the norm!

My point is that being reminded that they are little, young, immature, helps me to remember that I can’t have big behavioural expectations. They feel emotions in big ways, but they have no way of regulating them. It’s our job to teach them.

E especially is little miss drama. She feels everything to the MAX – love, excitement, happiness, fear, anger, and everything in between. 90% of the time she’s happy, sweet and tons of fun. She is an awesome, loving, kind, big hearted kid. She is an excellent big sister, because while she’s not overly motherly, she LOVES her sister. Deeply. She  plays with her, is generally patient, and at least tries (but doesn’t often succeed) to be gentle.

This also means that frustration, anger, and disappointment come out in big ways. Always at the most inconvenient and embarrassing moments (because why not). It is my job as her parent to lovingly and consistently teach her how to manage her emotions. How to show them appropriately.

It’s so easy to tell her to calm down, stop crying, or get over it. But that’s not really the point. The point is to teach her how to recognize the emotion and respond appropriately. After all you and I feel all these things too, it’s a normal part of being human!

I still haven’t come up with the amazing perfect parenting strategy for managing these behaviours, we try to be consistent but we’re also always trying new things. So if any of you have a great tip for diffusing a major tantrum please share I am open to suggestions.

The importance of ME!

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I learned a valuable lesson about myself today but let me start by explaining how I got there.

L is sick. again. Again. AGAIN! This is a recurring pattern in our house. She is often sick AGAIN before she’s really better. Needless to say it’s been a long winter.

I got up this morning, dressed for a run, got the kids up, E ready for school and realized that instead of running with L in the stroller during preschool as I often do, I would be spending the morning trying to figure this out. I was bummed but you do what you need to for your kids, right.

I spent 5 hours in Emerg this weekend with her and I don’t question or doubt the treatment that we received there it was excellent. I left feeling confident that my baby was on the up and up. Yesterday she seemed fine. Today, not so much.

So, my morning run was spent calling the health unit (because I was wondering if this was a reaction to her 12mo shots), calling the nurses hotline – not sure why I bothered I have never found them to be remotely helpful but that’s a whole nother rant. Then calling our Dr’s office to see if they can squeeze her in – again. They rock and know me by name.

Sadly by the time this was done my opportunity to run with the single stroller was GONE. My stress level had also exploded through the roof and I found myself for the first time in all of this truly feeling like I had reached my limit. I wanted to cry and I think that those around me were just lucky that no one pushed the right button because seriously, I would have flipped.

I was still dressed to run at preschool pick up but I had not yet run.

I spent the afternoon being pretty short with E, holding a baby that was exhausted, sick, and very fussy, and feeling my anxiety level rising. But I was still dressed to run.

I took L to her Dr’s apt. Dropped her swab off at the lab, picked up some lettuce, and came home for dinner. But I was still dressed to run.

At some point this afternoon Curtis suggested that I go for my run after the kids were in bed. They’re in bed early enough and we now have light long enough that this was a totally viable option AND I could run ALONE no stroller. This may not sound like a big deal to you but seriously can’t tell you when I last went out without a stroller.

It would be a shorter run than I had planned but it would still be a run and I was on it.

So, kids in bed, I’m still dressed in my running clothes from the AM and I walk out the door for a short run.

Ahhhh! Heaven!

I should have done it earlier. I came home totally refreshed, in a good mood, having processed my day and ready to fly.

It was such a good reminder to me that I am important. That my time to process is important. That I need to prioritize me and my run.

You see I have this aversion to running with our double stroller. It’s nice. In fact it’s a beautiful stroller but packed with both kids it’s about 100 pounds. So when my opportunity to run with the single stroller and a sleeping baby was written off this morning by things out of my control I wrote off my run.

What I realized tonight when I came home was that if I had sucked up my aversion to the double stroller and gone out after preschool with the kids we probably all could have had a better day. I would have been WAY less stressed. My anxiety level would have greatly decreased if not disappeared AND both my kids love running with me. I would have been a much more fun Mom for E, way less snappy and a lot more motivated.

So, here’s to the reminder of the importance of ME. Of my time, of my run. I need it, we all need it. Taking the time out to do something that refreshes you as a Mom is SO important. Your family will thank you for it.

Oh, and the scenery was BEAUTIFUL. Painfully so. Can’t complain about that either.

Tomorrow morning I will remind myself of this and load both kids up to go. Everyone will be happier 🙂

Vedder Mountain – “The First Hole”

We’ve been itching to get out for a while but winter has been surprisingly busy, and add a few colds/illnesses into it and we just haven’t been able to get out much.

 

Last weekend we finally had a little break in the busyness of this life and made a point of getting out. E has been asking for a while if we can go up Vedder Mountain. Curtis has told her how pretty the views are from the lookouts and the top and she needed her curiosity satisfied.

 

E & I early in the journey

E & I early in the journey

Sunday morning we packed everything up into the car, dog included, went to church, then headed into the hills. It was raining a little but what’s a bit of rain? The kids certainly don’t care so why should we?

 

It’s funny because for as busy as Vedder is with mountain bikers and dirt bikers the hiking trail is very quiet. I’ve been up there a few times, and Curtis makes a fairly regular trip up and we have yet to encounter other hikers.

 

We knew at the outset that we wouldn’t make it too far as we had only the afternoon hours to our disposal and we wanted to be home in time for dinner, baths and the many other things that occupy a young family’s evening on a weeknight. Our goal was to make it to the first lookout, or the “first hole” as E would call it.

 

We’ve all taken a bit of a hiatus from our outdoor pursuits this winter, between sick kids and weekend commitments it’s been hard to fit it in, and the few times we’ve been out I’ve had a really hard time keeping L warm regardless of how I bundle her. This trip was no different except that it was dry enough for her to walk a bit, and so my baby took her inaugural hiking steps. Hopefully there will be many more to come 🙂

 

Baby's first hiking steps

Baby’s first hiking steps

I thought the weather was warm enough that with some layering she would stay cozy in our Osprey Poco Premium baby carrier, and while her body stayed nice and toasty her little hands and feet got quite cold. Her absolute refusal to wear mitts doesn’t help with this either.  She didn’t complain (she never does, she has blessed us hugely by always being a happy baby) but it is a constant concern to this Mama when I think my baby is cold.

 

Despite the rain, and worries that L was too cold the hike was lovely and did us all well.  I love this hike because although it’s not full of gorgeous mountain vistas the forest is BEAUTIFUL, and the well placed lookouts are rewarding.

 

The forest feels like an enchanted forest that you’d read about in a fairy tale. Lush, thick, the trees and ground are covered in rich green moss, and it feels like you should be watching fairies dance amid the trees as you trek along.

 

Enjoying the Enchanted Forest

Enjoying the Enchanted Forest

We reached our goal of the First Hole, enjoyed a snack and a beautiful view of the Valley that we live in and headed back down hill.

Family Snack Time! Even Roxy was in there sneaking stray cheerios and apple bits ;)

Family Snack Time! Even Roxy was in there sneaking stray cheerios and apple bits 😉

To keep our hike down interesting I spent the first bit of it running from trail marker to trail marker and completing whatever challenge E named when we got there – burpees, push ups, jumping jacks, high knees, etc. This was great fun for everyone and we all laughed quite hard at my efforts on the uneven trail. It would have been an awesome exercise all the way down if the dang trail markers weren’t about every 30 feet. I had soon completed as many challenges as I could and we were seeking alternate entertainment.

 

The feeling of  walking through and enchanted forest served us well the rest of the way down as the grumbles set in. We spent the remainder of the hike looking for “fairy houses” (read neat little nooks and cranny’s at the base of trees and other such places where a small little fairy might make a cozy dwelling place). This actually served as an excellent form of entertainment and put an instant end to the grumbling. I need to remember this trick for the future and use it again :).

Curtis & Kids enjoying the day

Curtis & Kids enjoying the day

All in all we had an awesome time and all came home talking about when we could go out again. I’ve broken down and ordered another bunting suit to hopefully succeed in keeping L warm on future trips this spring and our family will continue on this crazy journey of being active and outdoorsy with our kids. A true love of the outdoors is one of the most important things that I hope to teach our little ones as they grow.