5.27.2017

Untitled (version 4.0)

Untitled
(because what title do I give it?)

This is my fourth attempt 
at writing this blog post.
The three other drafts
sit uncompleted.
I haven't even taken a second
look at them since I started writing them.

I stopped for various reasons.
One was too descriptive 
and I felt awkward and shameful
for potentially exposing 
so much of myself to the world.
The second time my sentences
were disjointed and didn't flow.
The words weren't coming to me naturally 
and it felt all wrong.

The third time was about a month ago.
I set out to really publish it that time.
My intentions were pure.
Share enough to be authentic and real,
but not enough to completely expose me,
or my husband.
Yet once again I couldn't finish.
The emotions took me by storm
and I ended up sitting with my fingers
poised on the keyboard,
tears freely flowing.
I couldn't write.
I couldn't think.
I just felt so sad.

To be honest,
I really want to write this post.
I almost gave up.
I want to write it.
The words aren't coming easily.
I want to write it.
I really do.

I want to tell the world
just how horrific that day was.
Part of me wants to be descriptive,
gruesome even, to share the details
of what happened with you.
To break the stigma,
to be open and vulnerable.
It seems that women are 
heroic for opening up themselves
so fully when they share this kind of raw emotion.

But I just can't.
I'm not a hero, I guess.

I want to write it.

Instead I will simply say this:
On June 1st of last year,
Spencer and I sat in a tiny room
in the emergency ward of our local hospital.
He sat in a chair next to me holding my hand, 
calling my mom,
staring at the bizarre mural on the wall,
while I was having contractions.
My body was miscarrying our precious baby.

The details of that day will haunt me forever, probably.
I really don't feel like I need to share them here.
I can be really honest, authentic and vulnerable 
when I need to be.
I will share my story with those who need to hear it.
The stories that were shared with me 
did in fact help me when it was my turn.
A few people who were raw and open
about their own miscarriages helped me.
I want to be that for someone too.
But not here.
Not on this blog.
Not on an open forum like this.

It is part of our story.
This baby left a mark
on our family,
immediate and extended,
and he or she is very much apart of me
like my other babies are.
You won't find me shying away
from talking about this little one.
My kids don't either,
and I love that.

Part of me really does want to go into
depth about our searing pain.
What those raw and horrific moments were like.
What I was doing, what I was feeling,
how supportive my husband, my mom, my mother-in-law
and my family was during that time. 
The friends who cried with me,
gave me space, chocolate and hugs.
The story is vast, painful and close to my heart.

The day is coming...
another milestone.
At first I marked it by days.
One day, two days, three...
then each Wednesday that passed marked another week.
And those weeks became months.
And now,
we start to mark the years.
Year 1 without Vanilla Bean.

My heart is breaking.
I don't want another baby.
I want
THAT
baby.


5.23.2017

What Is In This?

As I am now well into my 30s
(I am 31 and a half!)
I am paying more and more attention 
to what I am bringing into my home
(see previous post on minimalism),
but also what goes into and onto my body.

Yikes. It is actually kinda scary.
Like everything, there are extremes.
While I would love to be able to
make all my own clothes, linens,
etc... well that's just not realistic.
I would also love to say that I am 
only going to buy anything that's made in 
Vancouver/British Columbia/Canada
without the use of dyes or bleaches...
 that's not really feasible either.

So I am not going to fully jump
onto this bandwagon, 
but I am gonna hitch a ride for part of it.
Taking a look at the ingredients on
our face creams, make up removers
and body wash is a great start for me.
I have slowly starting eliminating anything with the world
"fragrance".
This is one word in a list of ingredients
that is actually potentially listing over 300 harmful chemicals.
Companies are allowed to use this one word
to describe a potion they have created for their distinct smell.
It is like how Coca Cola and Kentucky Fried Chicken
have their secret recipes.
If these companies had to list every chemical in their fragrance,
they are at risk with other companies being able to potentially recreate 
and then rip-off their distinct smell.
So, they are protected by this word fragrance.
(ref. Stink the movie.)

The thing is...
this fragrance can contain some pretty harmful chemicals.
Some which have even been banned 
and are not allowed to be used anymore.
Um - what?! 
So we are brushing our teeth,
lathering our skin,
and washing our face with some nasty stuff.

Some of the ways I have cut out
some of these products is by 
reading labels.
Just like we do with our food.
If it says fragrance, it doesn't come home if at all possible.
I also cross reference it with Beautycounter's THE NEVER LIST.
It is pretty difficult to do!
It seems like so many things have fragrances in them.
One area I am having a hard time letting go is with my perfume.
Ever since I was a teenager I have loved perfume.
I don't own multiple bottles, 
but I do enjoy having one precious scent for special occasions.
I haven't decided if I will be able to give that one up yet.
The other one is candles. 
It is so hard to find a delicious smelling candle
that doesn't use fragrance oil.
These may end up being my two exceptions.

You may be wondering if I went
through my house like a tornado with a garbage bag
ridding everything containing fragrance;
similar to my minimalist rampage.
The answer is no.
I also don't like waste if it can be avoided.
As I am running out of certain products,
I am trying my best to replace them with
all natural ones.

Our little village recently 
is home to a new bath store called Hygge.
I am in love.
The owner is so warm and lovely
and she is on the hunt for as-local-as-possible
all-natural bath products.
She is doing an excellent job!
While some things in the shop do contain fragrance,
it is so amazing to be able to go somewhere that sells 
some of my favourite products and not worry that it is full of junk.
I also love shopping local.

A few weeks ago
I hosted a Beautycounter party
with the hopes of educating myself further,
and also sharing it with my friends.
There are some great local makers out there
that sell some amazing products.
But a few bigger name brands are 
selling quality goods as well.

Here are 11 of my favourite products so far:



1. Nelson Naturals toothpaste in Spearmint 
(I want to try charcoal next!)

2. Beautycounter sunscreen 
(currently only available on their US site)

3. Sapadilla hand soap (I am excited to try their laundry soap and dish soap too.)

4. Beautycounter charcoal cleansing bar

5. Beautycounter Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer 
(If you want SPF, again its only available in the US right now.)

6. K'Pure Natural Body Care Get Closer deodorant. 
(I made the switch last year after finding large lumps under my arms. 
Never going back. 1 large jar lasted me about 6 months. Love this stuff!)

Soothing and hydrating, energizing and calming.

8. K'Pure Natural Body Care Clean Up Dead Sea Mud Masque

9. Bebe DeLuxe Coconut Milk Bath
Like it stays on the label, no nasties. Great for babies, but mamas will enjoy it too.

10. Salt Spring Soap Works shampoo bar in Rosemary Mint
(I really love how this lathers my hair with such a small amount. I have also almost completely rid my eczema on my scalp! My head used to be so itchy and dry, and now it is almost cleared completely! It also makes my hair so smooth and soft. I want to try the conditioner next.)

11. Dr. Bronner's Liquid Castile Soap in Peppermint. 
(We have been using this as a body wash, although I know it serves many purposes, for a long time now. It is the soap that Spencer uses daily, and I love how it makes my skin tingle! It leaves me feeling really clean and fresh. Be careful not to get it in your eyes!)

There you have it.
 I hope this helps.
I want to leave this post by encouraging you to start looking at your labels.
On your food too, but also on your skin care.
If you can, head over to this site and watch the Stink movie.
Beautycounter (linked above) has some good resources on their website as well.
Be careful what you Google, it isn't all reliable, but ask questions
and start searching for your own answers.
The switch doesn't have to be drastic, or all at once,
just like minimalism.
Good luck!

5.15.2017

Mother's Day

Yesterday was Mother's Day.
I was woken up when Jane fell off her chair in the dining room.
It was 8am - pure bliss!
Jane was okay, I think.
I never got out of bed to check. 
Shortly after Claire, Jane and Spencer
woke me up with coffee from Stir,
half a croissant, half a cinnamon bun and half a muffin.
 I had the first two. 
After showering me with a spa gift certificate (thank you honey),
and a lovely homemade card handwritten by Claire
I took a hot bath with bubbles and read my book,
drinking my coffee HOT.
Such a treat and a fantastic way to start the day.

The afternoon was spent lazily wandering along
the waterfront of Vancouver.
Taking in the sights, the smells, 
the warm sunshine and watching the girls chase pigeons,
run through muddy puddles and pick flowers.
(Some wild, others not.)

Very exciting way to go downtown - the train was fun. Claire really likes to try and blend in as a city girl.


Finding ways to play games no matter where we are. Hide and seek in a small garden, or tag by the Drop.


We enjoyed watching the planes take off and land in the water.

We ended our time in the city with dinner at
a favourite date night location to share with the girls.
It was the perfect day.


Today was the Mother's Day tea at Claire's school.
They sang us songs, made placemats, flower jars, a craft and a great card.
We had special treats and they served us juice.
There wasn't a dry eye in the place, even the teachers cried! 
Such sweet children. I felt so loved.




This was a poem Claire's teacher read. All the moms were laughing because it is so true.

My favourite part - I am 50 pounds and 30 feet tall. Yup, sounds about right. 

My mom helps me get my lunch ready.
My mom looks the prettiest when goes out for dates.
My mom makes the best food.
My mom is good at cooking contests. (Love that one!) 

It's true that Mother's Day is important and worth celebrating.
As a mom I often end the day very tired,
and I have been everything from a human Kleenex,
punching bag, sometimes even a toilet, definitely a garbage can.
First aid, referee, chef and chauffeur.
The list of things that I, along with millions of other mothers around the world,
do is very long.
And I wouldn't trade it for anything in the whole entire world.
I love being their mother.
It is truly my calling.
It makes these long days where I feel unappreciated, used and abused
worth it when those grubby little hands hold my face and kiss me.
Or hearing them say they love me "the whole world and back-a-the-moon."
Being their mom is simply the best.

But the reason I am writing this blog post
isn't to brag about my amazing day
or that I have the world's best kids.
It is to turn it back to the One who orchestrated it all.
The One who set the wheels into motion
to plan it all so perfectly. 
He was the One who placed each of my babies into my womb.
Who decided Spencer and I to be the parents to the sweet little girls.
Who knit them carefully within me,
gave me the courage and strength to endure
pregnancy and childbirth.
After months (and months and months) of trying for our second,
the heartbreak that goes along with that,
He gifted us with our Jane in of course, His perfect timing.

Then there is their daddy.
My husband.
He deserved big thanks too.
Almost perfect, completely reliable, dependable,
tried and true.
He has been by my side every step of the way.
I am the mother I am because of him.
He supports me in so many ways
and I am proud to say he shares parenting duties with me.
He genuinely wants to be the dad that is around,
helpful and I am so proud that my girls
have a role model of a man that participates 
in the home and raising them.
Raising strong women is a big job for dads
just as much as moms and he is amazing at it.
(Photos by Claire!)

Thank you
to my family for a wonderful day.
I am so blessed! 

2.01.2017

Back At It

Hello again family and friends!
It has been almost 13 months since my last blog post.
I had put this blog to the side for a time being
in the hopes that disconnecting
would help me reconnect.

I don't know what else to say
except that I believe that was a great decision for me. 
2016 was an incredibly difficult year.
I won't go into details in this post,
but there was a lifetime of loss and grief all packed into 12 months.
Or so it seemed, anyway.

Letting go of this blog also gave me the space
to pursue other passions.
One of them being working alongside
Eran at the Good Mother Project.
This has been on a volunteer basis and has
been incredibly rewarding.
It opened up doors for me to share
my own Post-partum journey and 
walk alongside other women in their own 
journey of being a mother, 
and yet not losing a sense of themselves as individuals.

In June, at what I would consider to be the height of intense grief,
I began to purge. 
Somehow it helped me process and work through my pain.
One afternoon, I grabbed a garbage bag and just began filling it with stuff.
I started in the toy room and filled the bag to the brim with
toys that hadn't been played with in ages.
I filled more garbage bags with just that,
garbage.
It felt amazing to clear out the space physically
as I also cleared out space mentally.
I spent that time thinking and praying.

A short time later I went through my closet.
And then through our household items.
Since June I have cleared out at least 
one garbage bag full of stuff.
There were things I had that 
we moved to Portland and back again 
and still hadn't been used.

The process of clearing out unwanted or unused things
felt so good to me.
Soon, by November, I noticed something.

Not only was our physical space becoming less cluttered,
I realized how much stuff we can really live without.
How much we had been hanging on to for no reason at all.
Once I let go of the guilt of hanging on to certain items
(you know, oh but so-and-so gave me this and they would be so sad if I gave it away).
Or saying no when people offered me hand-me-downs I know we/I wouldn't use,
I freed myself up to really start narrowing down our material possessions.

Soon I realized that there was a name for what I had 
been doing the last 5+ months.
Minimalism.
Minimalism isn't what you may think.
It isn't having one chair, one lamp and an end table in a room.
It isn't having absolutely nothing on your kitchen counter,
or a fridge free of your kids' art work.
No, it isn't having all white walls displaying one simple piece of art.

It is simply removing clutter.
It is removing all of the STUFF.
All of the distractions that are keeping us from living a full and meaningful life!

Having two small children 
I never imagined that I would start having more free time.
That I would crawl out from under piles of laundry
or dirty dishes.
But guess what?
I am doing it.
I am nowhere near where I want to be,
but I am starting to see the light
and let me tell you, 
it is beautiful.

Adopting a minimalistic lifestyle has made room for so many positive things in my life.

1) My kids. 
We play! We roll around on the bed and giggle.
 We sit on the floor playing Barbies. We have ukulele concerts, we make and play with play doh, we paint, we colour and we play games.
It is so incredibly freeing to sit for an hour playing Sorry with my 5 year old and not have a gnawing feeling that I should be doing 10 other things. 
No guilt. 
We make tea, we sit and we play. That is it.
I can go for a walk with my 2 year old and
listen to her nonsensical chatter about nothing and everything.
 I can smile and laugh because I am really tuning into what she is saying.
I appreciate her silly sentences because I am listening to her.
I am not thinking about the list of to-dos waiting for me at home. 
I lay in bed with them at bed time and read and talk without thinking about all the laundry I have to do afterwards. It is a beautiful gift.

2) My marriage.
Through everything we experienced last year,
making time for my husband has been my #1 priority for 2017.
I am so thankful that throughout last year he made it a priority for the two of 
us to get out alone and connect.
Once again, freeing up time has allowed for us to continue this.
The evenings used to be a time for me to clean up the kitchen and do laundry.
I'd fall onto the couch or into bed exhausted because
I hadn't allowed myself to rest after the kids went to bed.
Or, if I did, I couldn't do so guilt free because there were dirty dishes
waiting for me the next morning.
No more. 
Now we watch shows together, without me distracted while finishing a chore.
Or we make tea and play cribbage together.
We can talk uninterrupted and give one another our full attention.
Once I had kids, I never thought this was something I'd get back until they moved out.

3) Me time.
Carving out time for myself has become easier.
This is still typically the one that can take the back burner the easiest.
But with everything I learned during my post-partum anxiety period,
I also know its very important, so I try to make it happen.
Being a mom is a full-time job.
Whether you stay at home or go to work and come home,
there are no breaks. 
Working around the clock is exhausting,
and I have learned to schedule in time for myself,
just like I would if I was at a real job.
Setting Jane up with an activity while I 
sneak into the living room to read my book for 10 minutes gives me
just what I need to keep up with my active 2 year old for another few hours.
Often times when Claire gets home from school,
the two of them will play downstairs for an hour,
and I will use that time to start dinner prep and then give myself the remainder of time 
to lay down and close my eyes to pray and rest. 
Or, I will simply just cruise Facebook and Instagram for a few minutes. 
It is easier for me to spend quiet time with God too.
Reading, praying and meditating have become practices that 
really ground me and set me up for a better day.

How does adopting minimalism cause all of these great results?
Getting rid of STUFF has given me the freedom to also clean and tidy less stuff.
The less stuff I have for my kids to throw about,
the less there is to clean up.
The fewer clothes we have, 
the fewer I have to wash.

I am the kind of person that sees clutter and feels overwhelmed.
Doing a complete overhaul and eliminating much of that clutter,
has freed my mind! 
I never realized how much mental space
all of that stuff was taking up as well.
It resulted in my reevaluating my time management.
I started taking a closer look at other aspects 
of how I spend my time as well.

Cooking is something I thoroughly enjoy.
So while I had heard several ideas in cutting corners in the kitchen,
I could never justify it because I actually enjoy preparing meals.
What worked for me was meal planning.
This has cut out a huge chunk of time trying to come 
up with dinner the day of.
Instead, I know what we will be eating for that week,
and I can be prepared.
I also spend a day every 3 months to make abut 30 freezer meals.
As a mom, there isn't always time in the day to make a home cooked meal.
Now on days that I know will be busier, I can take out a freezer or crock pot meal 
I have prepared and there is dinner, just like that. 

Each month I go through one area of our home. Toys, clothes and general stuff.
Sometimes, I do two or more.
Every single time I am clearing at least one large garbage bag of stuff.
 It amazes me how much can still be cleared.
Last month we removed large bulky furniture that
wasn't being used and simply just a place to store more stuff we don't need.

I organized and went through the girls' art supplies and put them into bins.
I rearranged furniture.
Its amazing how simply turning a shelf on its side can clear up space
and become more functional.

Minimalism isn't just getting rid of stuff.
Its also not bringing more stuff in.
It is so easy to scoop up a bargain, simply because its on sale!
I am a sucker for that red sticker and scoring a good deal.
That kind of mentality can be addicting.
A while ago I read a way to avoid that
is to ask yourself if you'd pay the regular price for it.
If yes, then buy it.
If no, then ask why you feel like you 'need' it.
Usually, its just because its too good of a deal to pass up.
And that friends, is not good enough!

Heading into this year my goal,
or resolution,
is to live with more intention.
In fact, intention is my theme word for the year.
I want to focus more on living with purpose.
Having every thing I say and do have a reason.
And ultimately,
having that reason be to glorify God.
Honouring Him and my family.
I truly feel like adopting and learning to practice minimalism will help
free up the space in order to do just that.

I am not sure what this blog is going to look like just yet.
And that is okay!
I won't be giving myself an expectation
for posting often or trying to engage a particular audience.
For now, 
it is going to be a space for 
me to keep posting my feelings on life in general.
Oh - and of course sharing cute photos of my girls! 



1.10.2016

Until Next Time

A new year brings opportunity for reflection,
new goals are shifting of priorities.
Last year I was in the depths of my post-partum anxiety
and my blog served as a space for me to escape,
be creative and carve out some time for myself.
I had always wanted to attempt 
shifting our family blog to a lifestyle blog.

Through that shift I had the opportunity and pleasure
to meet some wonderful people!
I was inspired by some great woman
who were leaders and taking charge of their careers.
I met some amazing makers of all kinds of products,
held giveaways and met some new people along the way.
I am forever grateful for those opportunities
and feel proud of myself for just going for it
and seeing what came forth.

Now, a whole year later,
I am at a place where I am ready to release it.
Not permanently, 
but for now,
I am going to put my blog aside.
Instead of saying 'New Years Resolution'
I am going to call them my new ways of being.
For 2016 my new ways of being
have placed new priorities in my life
and my blog no longer fits into this.
Perhaps, if the mood strikes me,
I may come back and post some photos
or write out some thoughts.

This last year I had to make the incredibly
difficult decision to take care of myself.
Some of you may know what I mean
when I saw that it is difficult.
In January I had a 3 month old,
a 3 year old and a husband.
I was also floundering.
Through the incredible support of my husband and friends,
I decided that if I can't take care of myself,
I can't take care of my family.
We ( I say we because this required immense 
support in a few different ways from my husband)
sent me to see a counselor, to a naturopath 
and a low dose of medication for anxiety.
I took time for myself to write, 
to take baths,
to go for walks alone and 
join a gym.

There were times that I felt like the world
was against me.
When I was trying to get the girls out 
the door so I could go work out
and Claire would refuse. 
She didn't want to go
to the childcare at the gym.
Once we were there I would leave them
in the childcare and Jane would cry.
Oh she would cry!
It took everything in me to focus on my yoga practice,
or put in the headphones and get the endorphin's pumping through me.

There were times when I didn't want to take more
pills than I already have to.
I hated that I had to be on medication for my anxiety,
but I hated myself more for the thoughts I had when I wasn't on it.
To make a long story longer,
last year was a big year for me.
A year of change, of discovering who I am through
all of the mothering, anxiety, my role as a wife and a homemaker.

Now as we are in 2016
I am ready to release all of that 
and jump in with two feet to 
this beautiful life I have.
I want to be with my family,
really be with them!
To see what my girls see,
enjoy the time I have with them.
I want to DISCONNECT
so that I can truly CONNECT.

This is where my blog comes in.
While it served me well in 2015,
it no longer serves me in 2016.
Thank you to those who faithfully read my blog.
I will continue to write for a Good Mother Project,
and hope to write for some other sites as well,
to keep pursuing my love for writing.
I will post those links on Facebook.

Happy New Year to you all, friends and family.
Thank you for your love and support.

Michelle xx

Photo by Michelle Cervo


1.04.2016

Mommy Mondays: What A Year

On Saturday as I took down
the Christmas tree,
the pile of kids books
and the intricate and breakable decor,
my mind wandered to what 
would be next Christmas.

Next December,
(okay I admit it, November)
what will life hold for us?
What will have changed?
What will remain the same?

Will I look back on 2016
and feel proud of the changes we made?
The goals set be accomplished,
the ways of being I am promising to myself
hold true?

Next year,
as I unpack those boxes
I so carefully put away,
how will our family look?
Jane will be two
and Claire 5.
We will be in a new routine of 
all day Kindergarten
and how knows what else.

There are so many things
about 2015 I am ready to leave behind.
I am ready for the new year,
new change and 
a new way of being for our family.
The new year also brings a new year for me in another way.
It is my birthday today,
which causes me to pause and reflect even more.
A new calendar year, a new birth year
and another chance for a new beginning.


2016,
I am so ready for you! 

1.01.2016

Women In Business, Review and Giveaway: GLITTER & SPICE



Glitter & Spice is a local company
that makes teething jewelry for mama and baby. 
They make everything from necklaces,bracelets and
teething toys that look just like Oreos! 
They are made from silicone that is completely safe
for your little one.
Unlike most teething jewelry I see,
they are cute enough to wear as well.
Sometimes I have worn my piece
even when I go out without my teething baby! 

I first heard about Glitter and Spice when
I read a review on my friend Codi Lynn's blog, 
She held a giveaway and I won!
I received the Kate teething necklace 
and completely fell in love.
Jane loves to chew on the beads 
while I am wearing or holding her.
They are a great way to always have
something for her to chew on,
and I feel good knowing that they are safe 
for her to have in her mouth.

Jane has her own teething necklace as well.
Their are so many options for colour combinations
I found it hard to choose.
I ended up going with 50 Shades of Greyson
because I knew then it would match with everything.
If you have a hard time deciding too,
there is also the option to create a custom order.

What I like about both the adult and kid necklaces 
is the easy snap off in the back.
If Jane pulls on the necklace hard it will snap
apart and come off.
This is very important when kids where jewelry.
Its also loose enough for her to pull over her head. 
Babies and children should never wear jewelry 
when unsupervised by an adult.

Glitter & Spice is giving the readers of Just An Ordinary Family
20% your purchase until January 8th. 
Use the coupon code MS20 at checkout.

In addition to the coupon code,
Glitter & Spice would like to gift one lucky reader a necklace!

Please follow these instructions to be entered to win!
1) Follow Just An Ordinary Family 
and
Glitter & Spice on Instagram.

*AND*

2) Tag a friend that you think would like to enter as well, one tag per comment.

Don't forget to like Glitter & Spice on Facebook too!


So I had full intentions of having an adorable photo shoot
with Jane using her necklace and bracelet.
Some photos taken of her nursing and using my necklace
(it avoids her pinching me, thank you!)
Do you think my active 1 year old wanted to cooperate?
Nope.
So I went for some candid photos instead.
Not what I wanted at all,
but at least you will see her using the products.
Jane loves them and wants her pieces on all the time.
Even big sister wants to as well!