A Mother's Doubt

It's nights like tonight
that doubt over takes me.
As my sweet three year old sleeps soundly in her bed,
I am kept awake by swirling thoughts 
of whether or not I did enough.

The list of things I did wrong with her today consume me.
Just as I was about to stand up after dinner,
she came up to me and asked,
"Can I sit on your knee Mama?"
I said no.
In that moment it was justified.
I had to clean up dinner and start running the bath.
We were already behind on our bed time routine by 20 minutes.
Now that she is sleeping I am tearing myself apart.
Why did I say no?! 

Today when she had a temper,
I lost mine.
I yelled.
It has been my goal not to
and I broke that promise to myself.
I raised my voice, only to have her raise hers right back at me.
Replaying the moment in my mind
I am bewildered at how quickly I can act like a three year old
and allow her to control my actions.

This evening I scheduled a doctor appointment
during the girls' bedtime.
Feeling confident that Dad would be just fine,
I left the house.
What I came home to was a screaming baby 
that only wanted her mom.
My heart was breaking,
my baby was crying and my husband felt helpless.
As I nursed her my mind was going from heartache
for my baby, feeling sad for my husband and frustrated that
I can't leave the house for an hour without being needed.
I wasn't there when she was crying for me.
I wasn't there to offer her warm milk and a breast to fall asleep against.

This morning,
my arms were full of baby and bags while out shopping.
Claire left the store and wandered down the mall corridor alone.
I called out her name. I yelled her name.
My heart raced and a sweat began to break.
Trying to hard to keep the panic at bay, and the "what ifs" locked out of my mind,
I rushed outside the store to see Claire running toward me.

I keep going back to that moment.
That relief of seeing her; being so thankful in that moment
that it was a lapse in her judgement,
her disobedience and not a stranger,
that took her from my side for mere seconds.

At the end of the day,
when Claire's wraps her arms around my neck
and tells me I am the best mommy ever,
I am overwhelmed by her grace.
Her ability to put aside, or even forget,
my moments when I said no and should have said yes.
She doesn't sit on it all day
and let it consume her.
She says,
"It's okay Mama, I forgive you" and skips right along.
I have so much to learn from her.

On days like today
I lay in bed and wonder did I love them enough?
Did I give them the never-ending love that my Heavenly Father gives me?
In the moment of panic, of losing my temper,
was my love able to shine over it all?

Tomorrow is a new day,
and I pray for His mercies new for me again.
That I can extend that to my girls
whether tomorrow if filled with temper tantrums,
sass, crying and/or teething.
That the love of Christ transcends through me,
and pours all over those sweet little girls.
God gave them to me,
I promised Him to protect and love them.
I pray by His sovereign power I can do that well.


Finding Silence in the Noise

I've graduated! Two weeks ago 
I had my last appointment with my counselor. 
I've be seeing her for about 6 months. 
Slowly my appointments were 
growing further and further apart. 
Then she told me that I was finished. 
Together we have worked through my anxiety issues. 
Figuring out my triggers through different techniques. 

Both literal and figurative. 
Isn't that a struggle for all of us? 

Noise, the stuff that is so loud that it is distracting us from what is truly important. 
Listening to that quiet voice of our a Heavenly Father.
Family, friendships, encouraging words and uplifting messages.

We are bombarded by the noise of the media. 
The bad news telling us humanity is hopeless. 
The overly edited pictures of celebrities telling us we don't look good enough. 
Our to-do lists, managing expectations (both actual and self-inflicted), 
balancing the demands of our families and running a house. 

For me, it is also the literal noise that gets under my skin. 
I like loud noises when it is okay (according to me) to be loud. 
Blaring a favourite song in the car, a concert and laughter. 
Yelling in the car, the radio and TV on at the same time, 
talking too loudly, tantrums, unnecessary background noise -
I get a headache and I get irritable. 

Some of these things are out of my control. 
It's how I choose to handle them that is in my control. 
I need to learn to filter through the noise and find the silence, 
the peace, that can allow me to roll with it and continue to bring me joy. 

Isn't that something we all need to learn?
Maybe you can handle, or even like, all the literal noise around you. 
I admire that! 
But isn't there a common struggle of filtering 
out all the figurative noise and slow down so that we can 
focus on what's truly worth making noise about? 

The struggle is real. 

As parents of young children, noise is inevitable. 
We are going to have houses cluttered with toys, 
a messy sticky kitchen and a beautiful, 
yelling song of "Let It Go" throughout our home. 

I know that one day when my kids 
are long gone and have babies of their own, 
I will be sitting in the silence and tidy house 
remembering fondly these days. 
I will look back on the mess 
and the loudness of the life I once lead and smile. 
What I need to do now is 
live right here in this noisy life and embrace it

Through my couneling, 
I have learned that I am an incredibly visual person. 
I have been told that the level that I can visualize is a gift 
and I need to use it for coping. 
So now, when I visualize filtering out the noise, 
I see myself crouching on a river bank with a gold pan in my hands. 
I am shaking it about, adding the water, 
watching all the sediment fall though the holes of the pan. 

What remains are large gold nuggets. 
On it are the names of my husband and girls. 
There are other names of people that are closest to me 
and labels of what is important to me. 
There is a nugget so large it's impossible to miss - Christ. 

(Photo cred Aneste Photography)

 (Photo cred above and below Michelle Cervo Photography)

Those are the things that remain and everything else falls away. 


Expectations vs. Reality

At 21 I was newly engaged and dreaming of my life with my husband.
Like any bride-to-be,
I had high hopes of what life would be like as a wife.
With both my own mother, and my soon-to-be mother-in-law,
I had a fine example of domestic bliss.

In my mind's eye,
I saw myself happily working away in the kitchen.
Baking pies, learning new recipes and hosting fabulous dinner parties.
My house was always tidy.
The dishes were always done,
the laundry neatly folded in the correct drawers
and the bathrooms were spotless.
What I didn't see were the realities and the hardships behind it all.
That perfect recipes mean many burnt attempts along the way.
A clean house required time spent scrubbing.
Spotless bathrooms meant wiping someone else's pee on the toilet seat.
That once children come along,
keeping a house tidy for more than 10 minutes 
would be nearly impossible.
Hosting elegant dinner parties 
means money spent on beautiful glassware and linens.

Behind the beautiful scene of a perfect homemaker,
comes hours of work.

Within the first year of marriage
my dreams of being Holly Homemaker were dashed.
As Spencer and I learned how to co-exist
and learn a new way of doing things,
I realized my expectations were set too high.

The thing is,
they were expectations I had set on myself.
I was completely oblivious to the
hours of work my mom and put into our home.
That 'bliss' was actually the wrong word for it.
The next few years were hard for me because I could
not let go of my own expectations.

When two people move in together,
they each come in with their own set of realities
and expectations.
They way things were done in their family.
Which jobs each of their parents did,
which chores they would do,
and how time was spent.

The idea of domestic perfection,
of Holly Homemaker or June Cleaver,
is ridiculous.
My bathroom will be cleaned once a week.
If you come over that day, you will find a clean bathroom.
If you tell me you are coming over,
you will find a clean bathroom.
Same goes for my floors an the dusting.
If you come over unannounced,
you will most likely find water spots
dried on the faucets,
dishes in the sink and crumbs under the kitchen table.


In the past,
I would have a mini heart attack
when someone knocked on the door.
 I would rush quickly from room to room,
grabbing everything I could and throw it into a room
and shut the door.
Okay, sometimes I still do that.
But for the most part,
I am way better at opening the door with a big smile
and letting it all go.

After spending time living in Portland,
I learned how to embrace the truth
that having a clean house does not
equal happiness, peace in the home or
good hospitality.
There were times when we had overnight guests leaving
at the same time new ones were coming.
I had to learn to open the door to welcome them and say,
"Hi! I am just washing your sheets!"
All while the breakfast dishes from the previous guests had not yet been washed.

You know what made me happy?
People in my home.
They came to see my family,
not to see a perfectly clean house.
Nothing made me happier than having people in my home.
That is still true to this day.

It was such a unique community living there,
and I absolutely loved filling our table with people and feeding them.
Providing them with a meal and a break from studying.
Some of them lived alone, or had little time to make a home cooked meal,
and I was incredibly happy to do that for them.
Each week we would get together with two other families.
It was total chaos and I loved it.
It was a big lesson in what is truly important.

Once I changed my definition and idea of 'domestic bliss',
everything was seen in a different light.
I do not want my life to be measured by how many days my home went
without a mess.
But instead by the memories made inside my home.

My friend Rachel has a little wooden sign on her window sill that says,
Reading that gave me such freedom.
My babies are here for a short time,
my house can be tidy once they are gone.
And even then,
I will probably still choose
people over Pledge!

 Anne Taintor

"Oh, cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow.
But children grow up as I've learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I'm rocking my baby. Babies don't keep."
- last  verse of Song For a Fifth Child, Ruth Hulburt Hamilton


Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day!
I am so blessed to have an abundance of great dads in my life.
There's my own dad,
who made me. 
There's my father-in-law,
who made my husband.
And there's my husband,
the father to my girls.
Hashtag blessed, am I right?

Memories I have with my dad
 are playing basketball at dusk,
hoping to win at 21.
Dancing and singing,
Sitting on him with my brother
watching the Canucks go all the way
to the Stanley Cup finals in '94.
Waking us up after we've already gone to bed
to watch the Muppets Christmas on TV.
Playing Kick the Can,
and road trips.

My dad and I

My father-in-law is a constant 
source of support. 
Almost every day Spencer is on the phone
with his dad asking for his advice. 
As we enter this new phase of life
of becoming parents, home owners and running our own business,
I am so thankful that we have him.

Howard and Spencer sharing a marshmallow

My girls are so in love with our parents. 
They get so excited when they get to go exploring with Baba,
or go to Papa's job site.
Claire thinks it is great that Papa will have a tea/coffee party with her,
and loves to wrestle with my dad.
It is so fun for Spencer and I to see the mutual love and admiration.

Dads are an integral part of any little girls life.
They give a foundation of feeling loved,
secure and safe.
I am incredibly thankful that was the upbringing I had.
Now I get to watch my husband
be the best dad to our two little girls.
I love watching them together.
Playing, wrestling,
getting his toe nails painted.
He gives them a sense of adventure in the mundane chores.
He gives them the best hugs (I know because I have been a recipient of his hugs).
He brushes Claire's hair and puts it in an Elsa braid.
He changes diapers, wipes faces and is involved in every aspect.

Father's Day can bring mixed emotions.
Some people lost their dad too soon. 
I have three friends spring to mind right away who lost their fathers at a young age.
Some dads left, or have been absent.
Whatever the case may be,
while the day is for celebrating amazing dads,
it can also be a time of hurt.

Whatever your situations is,
I want to encourage you by 
telling you that there is a Heavenly Father
who wants a relationship with you.
You have a Father
who loves you, takes care of you,
watches over you.
He knows you better than anyone here.
You are a son or daughter of the King!

Happy Father's Day dads!


Easter Weekend

Yes, I realize Easter weekend was months ago.
This post has been on my mind,
but I have had some other exciting posts that this one took the back burner.
Now the baby is napping and Claire is busy with play doh, 
I thought I could sit down and finally formulate
my thoughts and pictures from that weekend.

We met our friends from Portland at our cabin in Sun Peaks, BC.
There were 6 adults, 3 dads and 3 moms,
and 6 girls aged 3 and under. 
Our Claire was the oldest and our Jane was the youngest. 
It sounds insane, right?

Waiting patiently for our friends to arrive.

That is what we were expecting too - complete insanity.
Although there were plenty of shrieks and giggles,
it was actually a very relaxing weekend.
It was much easier parenting with all the extra eyes and hands.
The older girls are all at an age where they play so well together,
and we all have easy going babies.
It made for a very fun and tantrum-free 
(well, almost) weekend! 
We were armed with craft kits,
stickers, bubbles and baking. 
We enjoyed our time together so much.

It had been a very long time,
since we left Portland back in 2013, that we had all been together. 
Our friend Melanie, who also went to school with our husbands and lives in Kamloops,
came up for an evening as well.
Although I don't understand all of the chiropractic jargon,
it filled my heart with joy knowing that
Spencer was in his element discussing his profession with his friends.

The weekend was a balance of doing fun stuff like going for hot cocoa,
campfires, hot tubbing and extreme trampolining.
And sitting around drinking coffee, visiting and cooking together.
We all left feeling like we had our fill and rejuvenated from being with such good friends. 

The weekend was a perfect mix of down time and adventure.
Lola and Claire snuggled in bed watching a movie and fell asleep together one afternoon.
Another time the girls went to the park.
We had an Easter Egg hunt and they went extreme trampolining.


Is there anything cuter than dads reading to kids?

Isn't it amazing how much you can love someone else's kids?
I am so blessed to be a pseudo auntie to these four girls.
They fill my heart with joy.

Of course, we had to go for the world famous
(okay, Sun Peaks famous) hot cocoa!

That weekend was so much fun!
I am really looking forward for us to all be together again.


Women In Business and Review: Buggy Babies Fitness and Yoga

If you would have asked me 
two months ago if I enjoyed a good workout,
I would have laughed out loud.
I enjoy riding a bike, walking and hiking.
But going to work out was not on the list of things I enjoyed.

Three and a half weeks ago I signed up
for the U.G.I.® Challenge 
I had no idea what to expect,
but I was ready to get my butt whipped into shape.
At 8 months post-partum,
 I was ready to start feeling like a normal human again.

U.G.I.® (pronounced you-gee),
which stands for you've got it,
was developed by Sara Shears, a South Delta woman.
Sara graduated with her degree in 
Human Kinetics from the University of British Columbia,
 and trained celebrities in Vancouver.
She created a 5-day a week 30 minute work out and her clients were seeing results.
It then evolved into U.G.I.®
(photo courtesy of maddog.com)

It is fast paced, intense and works your muscles from head to tow,
using only one piece of equipment - the U.G.I.® ball.
It comes in different weights (6, 8, 10 and 12 pounds), each in a fun colour.
They are soft, squishy and not intimidating.
You can use them to stand on, sit on, plank on and toss. 
You can do U.G.I.® at a fitness studio, 
or purchase the ball online to do at home.
There are 30 exercises done in one minute bursts.
It can be cut in half for a shorter workout,
or extended into a one hour workout.

(photo courtesy of spinning.com)

Tanya Armstrong of Buggy Babies and Yoga
has taken U.G.I.® and worked it into a full challenge.
You can choose one of the two challenges,
three mornings a week or two evenings a week.
Tanya worked with Keyrsten to develop two meal plans, 
one more disciplined than the other,
for the challengers to use throughout the three weeks.
It removes foods like added sugars, wheat, dairy, and some fruits.
It included plenty of vegetables, legumes, lean meats, nuts and seeds.
There are recipes included as well. 
The goal is to eat 80% of the time following the plan,
and allowing 20% for slip ups or wiggle room. 

Joanne of batch.food sends the challengers home
with one of her delicious salads after each class.
It is always something to look forward to afterwards.
I love to see local businesses supporting each other and working together.
(Read our review of batch.food here.)

Mt first experience with U.G.I.® 
was when I came for Buggy Babies trial class.
I was so nervous, but was motivated to try something new
and get back into exercising regularly.
My stubborn streak came through when the class started
and I was determined to do as many reps as Haley,
the very fit fitness instructor.
The idea is to go seamlessly from one exercise into the other,
but I took a few water breaks in between.
It was tough, but I felt amazing.
I also felt like I was going to throw up.
My husband kindly reminded me that I had not 
done this rigorous of a workout in a long time,
and that Haley does this for her job.
I didn't need to keep her pace on my first day. 

The second day,
and the first day of the challenge,
I felt more prepared.
I knew what to expect and I knew to pace myself. 
Both Haley and Tanya are fantastic instructors.
I appreciate each of their styles and like the way 
each of them has their spin on the class. 
What I love is that there was no time to get bored of an exercise
because it moves from one to the next so quickly.
There is a great variety between strength, balance and cardio.
If an exercise seems impossible, there are modifications. 
And by the time you think,
"When will this be over?",
 it is! 

By the second week 
I was looking forward to going.
It felt good to get together with the others
and push ourselves beyond our limits.
Working off any steam or tension that we came into the studio with.
I found that when I was surrounded by the others,
hearing the grunts and groans around me,
it pushed me harder. 
Together we were pushing each other
and encouraging each other
to give it our all.

Each day Tanya would write something 
on her giant chalkboard by the door.
My favourite one was,
"Sweat like a pig, look like a fox." 
I would think about that as sweat was pouring off my body
and I thought I couldn't take it anymore.

For me,
exercising in this kind of environment 
was something I never thought I would do, or could do.
I was always too afraid to try and look like an idiot.
I feared that I would be the worst one and hold the class back.
It turns out I was wrong!
If you are the same way I used to be,
I encourage you to come and try one of their classes.
Both Tanya and Haley are so sweet and encouraging
and in no way did they make me feel silly and inadequate.
The Buggy Babies studio is a welcoming place.

Buggy Babies Fitness and Yoga is 
a local business based out of Ladner.
Tanya's studio is based out of her home,
where she has a studio in her backyard.
Some of the classes provide affordable and excellent childcare as well. 

Tanya graduated with her degree in
Kinesiology from Simon Fraser University.
Fitness has been a way of life for her since childhood.
When she became a mother,
she found a way to combine
her love for her family and her passion for fitness.
The result was Buggy Babies.

Tanya started off teaching one stroller class a week.
As her family grew, so did her business.
She gained more certifications,
added more classes and the business grew into something beautiful.
Even though the name implies pregnant women and new moms,
it is intended for any woman wanting to get into shape,
or find a great environment to workout.
Their are classes to suit every need.

Tanya was kind enough to answer some of my questions about 
her business venture and how Buggy Babies was born.

Just An Ordinary Family: 
What was your vision when you dreamt about Buggy Babies?

Buggy Babies:
My vision was to provide an exciting mix of fitness and yoga classes for moms, so they could work out with their babyies.  I wanted to create a community for moms that was positive, supportive and fun!  A place for women to meet other like-minded moms where they could exercise and socialize all at the same time.

JAOF:  What did you do before you started Baby Buggies? How did that help you in what you do now?

BB: Before I started BB, I worked for Canada Trust as a Bank Teller and in Administration.  I believe that the Customer Service based training at Canada Trust was amazing.  I learned that you need to provide top notch service to be successful at what you do.

JAOF:  What is the most enjoyable piece about owning your own business? What do you find the most challenging?

BB: The best part about owning my own business is being able to create my own schedule around what's going on with my family. The most challenging part is trying to find the perfect balance between work and family.  Trying not to feel overwhelmed. Or not being fully focused on the family when I'm not working.

JAOF: If you had three pieces of advice to give someone who wanted to make the leap into becoming their own boss, what would you tell them?

BB: The first thing I would tell them is that they have to be passionate about what they are doing.  The second thing I would say is that they have to be a self starter. You have to create deadlines for yourself and stick with them.  You cannot procrastinate!  The third thing I would say is that being your own boss is fantastic, but it takes a ton of creativity, time and effort to stay current in your industry and run a successful business.

JAOF:  How do you like, or dislike, working in the same community that you live in?

BB: I actually love it!  Although, my friends all laugh at me because we can't go anywhere without me running into people I know!

JAOF: Being a mom, wife and business owner is difficult. How do you manage your time, and also give yourself time? 

BB: Now that all my kids are in school full time, it's definitely a lot easier to manage my time.  I try my best to schedule classes when they are in school. My husband is very supportive. He encourages me to do things for myself, which we both agree is important!

JAOF: Where would you like to see Buggy Babies in 5 years? 

BB: My business has grown and evolved with my family. Now my kids are getting older and in school, BB will probably organically change as well. My focus right now is on getting information out about our 21 Day U.G.I. Challenges.I also see myself focusing on various specialty workshops, adventures and being a consultant. 

JAOF:  Is there anything you would like to say to our readers that are thinking about taking your classes, but may feel hesitant or uneasy? 

BB: I would say that everyone is welcome to come and try any of our classes for free. Our classes are for all levels of fitness and modifications are always offered if needed.  Don't be shy!  We strive to provide a very comfortable, welcoming and supportive environment.  Everyone has to start somewhere! We've all been there.We know what it's like to be up all night with crying babies. We can relate to it all.

Buggy Babies is taking a break over the summer.
But don't worry, they will be back in September.
The next U.G.I. ® challenge will be running in September as well.
Tanya has kindly offered our readers a 15% discount
when they mention this blog post!
For the three day a week class that is a savings of $30!

Find Buggy Babies
on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.
Also check out their 21 Day U.G.I.® Challenge Facebook page here!


Finding Time For Quiet Time

As a mother,
finding time for yourself can be difficult.
Before I had kids,
I admittedly thought it was all a little over exaggerated.
How were you unable to have a shower? It takes 5 minutes!
You really didn't get to go pee all day? Please.
Oh how naive I was! 

This is me letting my 3 year old give me 'face paint'.
My attempt in keeping her quiet while on the phone.

Now as a mom,
I understand that not being able to sit down and pee (alone) 
is definitely a real thing. 
I have perfected how to unbutton my jeans,
pull them down, pull up my jeans and button them again
all with one hand! 

Yes, these may seem like small triumphs,
but triumphs they are.
It's all about learning and perfecting a whole new set of skills.
Being a mom is a big learning curve in so many ways.

That being said,
when it comes to carving out time
for yourself, it is a hard thing to do.
If I can't get the basics covered,
 like toileting and showering,
how could I possibly spend 30 minutes 
in alone reading my Bible?
Even painting my nails or shaving my legs
have become luxuries.

It is tough to readjust.
To shift my  priority and mindset,
carving out time for God each day.
The great thing is that God doesn't care
if I am showered in order to meet Him.
He doesn't mind that I may
have a little one on my lap watching
videos on my phone 
so that I can spend some time 
reading His word.
It certainly looks different with children, 
but it doesn't mean it has to stop.

God calls us to spend time with Him,
to study His word and to pray.
There are times for me when this is much easier,
and times when it seems impossible. 
For instance, when my oldest daughter was a baby she would take two,
sometimes three, naps a day.
That seemed easy enough for me to figure out.
The first nap was when I'd make a cup of tea and sit down with
my Bible and journal to have quiet time.
The other naps I would devote to cleaning or exercise.

As she grew older her naps decreased
and I had to choose how I wanted to spend that time.
Would I clean a disorderly and untidy house?
Would I shower, have a cup of coffee and breakfast in peace?
Or would I sit down and open my Bible?
It was a toss up every day.
Often times I chose a combination of the first two.
My devotionals and time with God
kept getting further down my list of priorities.
I'd tell myself it was too hard to sit down 
when there was so much else to be done.
Sure that may have been true, 
my to-do list was always long.
The best times to tackle it was when my daughter was sleeping.

It feels selfish to do something for ourselves.
Even if you don't have a belief system that you want to devote time to.
Just getting out to exercise, read a book,
go for a walk alone or sit and hear your own thoughts.
Using a portion of our day just for us feels foreign,
but it is so important. 
For our sanity, for our souls and for our families.

A solo bike ride at sun set. Peaceful and serene.

Recently, I started going to a fitness class.
I pack up the girls in the van and drive a short distance.
They have childcare there that's fun for the girls.
On the third day, Claire announced she didn't want to go.
That she would rather just stay at home.
The struggle for me to overcome the guilt of taking her anyway was incredible.
I wanted to give her what she wanted, 
a morning at home watching cartoons.
Yet I knew that taking one hour out of my day for myself
would ultimately be better for us all.
I reminded myself that my three year old thinks and expresses
what she wants in that moment.
 I needed to push through it and take her with me.

When I take the time to even spend 15 minutes to sit 
and read my devotional, and hopefully have enough time left over 
to write in my journal, I feel better prepared for the day.
It is almost as if I have a sense of peace over me.
My anxiety decreases, my temper isn't as short 
and I feel as if I can go with the flow of the day easier.
When I choose to take a shower, work out,
or spend a few minutes drinking a hot cup of coffee, I know 
that investing time for myself is also investing time for the my family.
The best version of Mommy is what my kids deserve.

Your time for yourself should be guilt free.
Don't get hung up on the fact that you need to be 
entirely alone, sometimes that just isn't a possibility. 
For the betterment of yourself,
make the time for some cleansing breaths,
a cup of tea and spend some time in the Word
reminding yourself you are a precious child of the King.

A marriage seminar and date night for Spencer and I.
Taking some time to work on and appreciate what we have.

I use the She Reads Truth app on my phone for great devotionals and to always have the Bible at my fingertips. It is a great way to stay connected. You can read it while making dinner, during your quiet time or (gasp!) in the bathroom! Right now I am enjoying the Fruits of the Spirit study. Read me review on the app here.