What I Learned in July

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One of my favourite writers, Emily P. Freeman, has been sharing what she’s learned each month on her blog for the past two years.  Some are silly, some are serious, and some are just plain useful!  I always enjoy reading her posts, so this month I decided to join her and share what I’ve learned in July:

  1. It’s important to count stitches when crocheting.  I started learning how to crochet a couple of months ago and I am horrible at remembering to count.  I’ve unravelled so many projects to start them over from the beginning  – just because I’m not paying attention.   Every row or two it’s also a good idea to take a step back and look at the project from a distance.  When you’re working up close it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture.  Which is why I got three balls in on a blanket before I realized it was more a trapezoid than a rectangle.  Ugh.  I’m sure there’s a life lesson in there somewhere …
  2. More than I ever wanted to know about Pokemon!  Nathan downloaded the Pokemon Go app on his phone and I have never seen him walk or rollerblade or spend time outside as much as I have this past month.  (FYI: Rollerblading doesn’t work very well unless you go slowly.  Otherwise you move too quickly for the GPS or whatever it is to register where you are/how far you’re going.)
  3. Stars Hollow is loosely based on the real town of Washington, Connecticut – which is where I’ve decided we need to go to celebrate our ten year wedding anniversary.  We watched the entire series together while we were in the early stages of dating – forget about  Hawaii, I want to re-live the Gilmore Girls!  And yes, I’ve already told Nathan he needs to take November 25th off work.
  4. If you don’t submit your writing, you won’t get published.  I’ve heard it said over and over that what makes you a writer is writing – but I’m not sure I agree.  Are you really a writer if you have no readers?  I love to write, but I’ve always written somewhat anonymously.  My blog isn’t exactly a secret, but it’s not something I share with my friends either.  I participated in Hannah Brencher‘s Writing Intensive last November and an important lesson I took away from it is that there’s no point in secret writing.  We write for ourselves, to some extent –  but it’s more important that we write for other people.  This month I submitted writing to a couple of blogs and other online publications – and the first one was actually accepted!
  5. Smores with peanut butter cups are THE BEST.

What did you learn this month?  

2015 in Review

I let my faith be bigger than my fear.

I felt helpless, and I learned about dependence.

I started subtracting.

I said thanks.

I wrote a love letter to myself.

I said good-bye to Target.

I told the voice in my head to shut up.  Often.

Nathan and I celebrated eight years together.

I wrote about goats and growing up.

I threw together a last minute birthday party.

I was grateful for my neighbourhood.

I celebrated my  ten year Albertaversary.

I travelled to Winnipeg for my best friend’s wedding, and wrote a maid of honour speech about how marriage is like Star Wars.

Topher turned our bathroom into an art gallery.

I was brave.

We bought a second vehicle.

Topher started kindergarten.

I nearly died at Wal-Mart.

I became a stay at home mom.

Things That Changed My Life This Year

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1.  The Message.  I used to be a real snob about The Message.  I mean, I went to Bible college, I’ve been told a million times “It’s not the Bible, it’s a paraphrase …”  Every now and then I would look up a verse in the Message just to see what it said, but this year I started reading the Message in its entirety – mostly because a lot of the Christian authors I’ve been reading lately have been citing from the Message almost more frequently than other versions of the Bible and I was curious.  Whoa.  Talk about life changing.  I’ve read the Bible in its entirety more than a few times in my life (I do a “Read the Bible in a Year” plan as well as a “Read a Book in the Bible at a Time” plan) but reading it in contemporary language really brings it to life.   I’m still reading my NLT but I even ventured so far as to cite from the Message myself when I wrote my Advent Reflection for A Little Light.  (Shhh.  Don’t tell my college professors!)

2.  Keeping a Gratitude Journal.  I’ve always been a journaler but this summer I started keeping a gratitude journal in addition to my regular, everyday-random thoughts-journal.  I write  down three things I’m grateful for every single day – and it’s a game changer!  It’s a great way to change my perspective.  This morning I sat at the kitchen table to write, gazing into the living room filled with blankets, pillows, bags, boxes, and toys galore (the grandparents spoil the kids at Christmas, what can I say?) – and instead of feeling frustrated with the mess, I was able to be grateful for my children and the chaos they bring to my life!  I love how creative they are, making hideouts and forts – I would much rather have days filled with their squeals and laughter than days filled with silence.  (But honestly, if I step on one more piece of lego …. )

3.  Taking Hannah Brencher‘s Writing Intensive.  I took Hannah’s first Writing Intensive in November and it was AMAZING.  It was exactly what I needed to hear, exactly when I needed to hear it – the kick in the pants I needed to get back to writing consistently, regardless of my audience.  I’ll definitely share more about this in the weeks to come – I learned so much, I’m still processing some of it!

4.  Ebates.  I do a lot of shopping online so this one was pretty much a no-brainer.  Sign up (if you use my referral link I get cash back!), go to the Ebates website, and click through from there to any of the websites you usually shop at.  There are over 650 on there, I’m sure you’ll find at least a couple that you frequent!   Make a purchase and get cash back – a cheque in the mail, an Amazon gift card, or donate it to a charity of your choice.  I’ve been a member since October and I’ve already made more than $50, buying things I was going to buy anyway.

5. Slow Cooker Mondays.  This fall Topher and Ellie had swimming lessons on Monday evenings.   Nathan and I both wanted to be at the pool, which meant we either had to pick up take-out on the way home (ugh!) or have something already prepared and waiting for us when we got home.  So we started Slow Cooker Mondays – I would throw something in the slow cooker in the morning and ba-da-bing, ba-da-boom, it would be ready (and smell fantastic!) when we walked in the door at six o’clock.  Definitely life-changing.

6.  Having a capsule wardrobe.  If you want to know the truth, I’ve always thought capsule wardrobes were kind of silly.  I’m the sort of girl who wears the same faded jeans, tank tops, and hoodies all year long.  I might switch up my sneakers for a pair of boots if the weather requires, and of course I wear a winter jacket (I alternate between four, depending on the temperature and the occasion!) but other than that, the same clothes stay in my closet year round. But after reading  Ahslee’s post  on five benefits from capsule wardrobe, the wheels started turning, and I drank the kool-aid!  I’ve never blogged about it (because seriously, who wants to hear about somebody’s wardrobe that contains 14 different colours of Old Navy’s perfect fit tank top?) – but I’ve created a capsule wardrobe for summer, fall and winter and I love it.  I have way less clothes in my closet, I spend way less time and money shopping, and I can’t remember the last time I had a meltdown because I didn’t have anything to wear.  (Ask my husband, those used to be a regular Sunday morning occurrence in our house!)

7.  Make Over Your Mornings.  I already blogged about this one here, but to recap (or,uh, copy & paste!): I used to crawl out of bed, pull on my hoodie, and walk around the kitchen in a fog for the first hours of my day while the kids (and dog) ran wild.  Now I get out of bed with the first alarm – often before Nathan is even stirring! – and head outside for an early morning walk with Chloe.  Then we curl up on the couch – me with my Bible and my journal, her with a dog biscuit – and wait for the rest of the house to wake up.  Mornings are now the time of day that I most look forward to!

*I stopped waking up early since I was sick for the entire month of November and half of December and I needed all the rest I could get (!!) –  but I’m going through the course a second time to motivate me to get back into my early morning routine.

What changed your life this year? 

My Neighbourhood (#EPSstrong)

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The more Nathan and I have talked about moving over the past few months, the more I’ve wanted to stay in our little neighbourhood.

It’s home.

Sure, our neighbours are a little kooky, and I hate the way our entire building smells like pot from March through October.  Some of the kids Topher meets in the park use words I don’t appreciate and I would never dream of taking a walk by myself after dark – but then again, the same is true of any neighbourhood in the city.

What sets our neighbourhood apart is the people.  

Our neighbourhood is a community in every sense of the word.  When the kids and I are outside we’re typically stopped at least three times by neighbours talking to the kids or asking how my day is or wanting to pat the dog.  Ellie gets her cheeks pinched by one particular lady every single time they meet but she still races toward her with a huge grin, yelling “HI!” at the top of her lungs and flapping both arms excitedly to greet her friend.

I took the kids for a walk this morning.  It was a morning like any other morning – except that it wasn’t.

This morning our street is lined with blue ribbons to honour Const. Daniel Woodall, a member of the Edmonton Police Service , who was killed in the line of duty on Monday night.

He was killed protecting us.

Our neighbourhood has never felt more like a community.  I’ve been amazed at the outpouring of support – for each other, after the frightening ordeal we all went through on Monday night, but more so for the Edmonton Police Service.  The investigation was ongoing throughout  the day yesterday and every time I was outside I could see  people walking through the area, reaching out to shake the hands of officers to offer their condolences, their support, and to say thank you.

In our neighbourhood – in our city – we honour a man, a husband, a father, a son:  Const. Daniel Woodall.

Hold your loved ones close.  It can all change in the blink of an eye.  I am sending thoughts and prayers of strength, comfort and peace for those affected by this tragedy.

When Things Don’t Go As Planned

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When it comes to birthday parties, I’m not much of a planner.  I like to invite entire families so I don’t have to entertain small children, and I like hosting events outside, since we live in a teeny tiny condo.  Laurier Park is one of my favourite party locations.   It’s fairly central for all of our friends and for a (slightly unreasonable) fee, you can reserve the picnic site of your choice.

Two weeks before Topher’s party I checked the forecast (24 and sunny!) and booked Picnic Site #2.  It’s our favourite:  Right beside a playground, shaded by evergreens, backing onto an enormous open field, and with its own fountain so the little ones can refill their water guns.  Party site booked?  CHECK!

Topher’s birthday fell on a Thursday, and that morning I noticed a small bump on his nose.  He rubs his nose all the time so I thought it could be just a pimple – but I made a mental note to keep an eye on it, just in case!

By Friday afternoon he had spots on both cheeks.  I called Nathan in a panic:  “It’s a rash!  We have to cancel the party!”

Nathan is typically much more calm than I am, so he suggested we “wait and see how it looks in the morning.”

Of course.  Because it’s much better to cancel a birthday party hours before it starts than the day before.

Anyway …

By Saturday, Topher had spots on his face, ears, arms and legs.   I felt like he had a handful of new spots every time I looked at him!   We didn’t want to cancel his party so Nathan took him to the doctor to make sure it wasn’t chicken pox.

Just a tip:  If you think your child has the chicken pox and you go to a walk-in clinic, phone ahead and tell them you think it could be the chicken pox and they’ll most likely get you into an examination room right away.  It takes less than 15 minutes in the same room with someone with chicken pox for you to catch it, if you’ve never had it!

I stayed home with Ellie.  It had been pouring rain all morning and even though the forecast predicted it would stop by noon (the party was scheduled for two o’clock), it was cold and windy and I knew nobody would want to spend the afternoon at the park.  I had less than three hours to pull together an indoor party at an alternate location.

Our condo is too small to hold all of Topher’s friends and their families, so Nathan’s parents kindly volunteered to host the party at their house.  Whew!  Problem #1 solved! 

I’ve never thrown an indoor party before.  Like I said, I like outdoor events.  The kids entertain themselves!  We had Topher’s third birthday at a park and the kids (ages 2-6) spent a glorious three hours running around with sticks, whacking trees, and squirting each other with water guns.  The other adults mingled, and I nursed her baby Ellie in a lawn chair in the shade.  It was a great day!

I was in a panic so I called my sister for suggestions.  She has six kids so she’s thrown a lot of parties.  Her first suggestion was that I have a theme (in three hours?!?) – and plan games accordingly.

“You mean I need to come up with games?!?”  

Thank goodness for Pinterest.  

I didn’t have time to pull together a theme, but we did play three games that went over really well:

  1. Jump The River – Place two pieces of blue yarn about two inches apart to create a “river”.  Each guest has to jump over the river successfully in order to continue.  Every round, the yarn moves farther and farther apart.  Whichever guest jumps the widest river is the winner.
  2. Unwrap the Present – Pick a prize and wrap it over and over and over again, in as many different kinds of paper as you want.  The guests sit in a circle.  When the music starts, they pass the present around the circle until the music stops.  Whoever is holding the present when the music stops gets to unwrap one layer.  Whoever wraps the last layer gets to keep the prize.
  3. Penguin Race – Each guest holds a balloon between their legs and waddles to the finish!  The winner gets a prize.

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Fortunately that day was Grocery Day, so when Ellie and I picked up the groceries we threw in a few extras that could be considered prizes:  Glitter markers, stickers, colouring books, a stuffed monkey, and a disposable camera.  Things I knew my kids would enjoy playing with, even if the party did have to be rescheduled.

Nathan and Topher got home from the doctor just before lunch.  The rash was an allergic reaction of some sort – likely something environmental – and not chicken pox.  The party was on!

I phoned, e-mailed, and Facebooked all of our guests about the change in location, and after that there was nothing to do but wait.  We headed over to Nathan’s parents’ house to “decorate” (we blew up balloons and called it done!), set out some food, and Topher’s guests started arriving.

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I’m not a take charge kind of person, especially with children (am I the only person who thinks getting kids from Point A to Point B is like herding cats that are on fire?) – but all in all, things went well.  We visited, we ate, we played games.  Topher opened presents, blew out candles and spit on his cake.

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I think we hit all the high points of a typical birthday party!  It wasn’t at all like I had planned, but everyone had fun and I think – maybe, just maybe! – I might be confident enough in my party throwing skills now, after pulling everything together in a couple of hours with no major mishaps – that I might try an indoor party for Ellie next year.

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I guess I’ll wait and see how I feel in March.