Loving the Pace of Summer

Happy Wednesday, Friends.

And happy smokin’ hot summer days!  At least, if you live in my neck of the woods.  I am soaking up every last drop of this summer.  It has been tremendous not only in terms of what we’ve been doing but also in terms of weather.  And before anyone makes a smart crack about the humidity, I just want to remind you of this:

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SERIOUSLY.  THIS. ^^^^^.  Don’t even try to convince me that six feet of snow and five layers of clothing is better.  Because it just isn’t.  Actually, I take that back.  I love winter up until Christmas.  And then it just goes downhill from there all the way through late March.  Verdict?  Summer.   Longer days, warm nights, sun-kissed tans, no parkas.  Verdict?  Summer.

I find it fascinating that I live in a part of the world that goes from -35°C in February to +35°C in July.  Five months ago I could walk across the lake at our cottage and now I can comfortably swim across it.

Mind blown.

Speaking of comfortably swimming in a lake and returning to the point of this blog post, I’ve rather been enjoying the slower pace we chose this year.  We made the conscious choice to avoid scheduling much during July and August.  I read an incredible article this spring that inspired me to schedule less but not necessarily do less.  In fact, we’ve been pretty busy. We just choose our busy-ness as we go.  Based on the whim and fancy of what we want to do that day.

Want to build a fort?  Sure!

Want to play Scrabble?  You bet!

Want to play tag in the sprinkler?  Last one in their bathing suit is IT!

The kids are in two separate weeks of day camps (one in July and one in August) but other than that, there is nothing.  No organized sports.  Few play dates.  No “bucket lists”.  Just inspired by what the day brings and what we feel like doing.  We’ve accomplished a lot.

I’ll be honest that in the beginning the thought of it seemed daunting.  Nine whole weeks of unscheduled open-ness?  I thought for sure I would crack….and I fully admit to enjoying a white wine spritzer in the afternoons on the back porch as the kids run around {virtual fist bumps for the spritzer!}.  There are days the kids get bored and I had to be okay with that.  I also had to be okay with not filling that time for them.  I asked them to come up with their own activities and most times they do without *too* much complaining.

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Here are a few ideas for those families looking to do less yet connect more in August.  Most of these activities cost little to no money and require little to no preparation in advance.

  • Build a fort (inside or outside)
  • Take a hike
  • Read a book (we love Chronicles of Narnia and are taking a few weeks – if not months – to finish it as a family)
  • Paint rocks
  • Garden
  • Go geo-caching
  • Count stars at night
  • Go to a drive in movie
  • Catch bugs
  • Go swimming in a lake or a river or the beach
  • Run in the sprinkler
  • Blow bubbles
  • Watch clouds float in the sky
  • Make a scavenger hunt in your backyard
  • Climb a tree (and please, get up there with them!  It’s fun!)
  • Play board games (we even made our own)
  • Go to the library
  • Make homemade popsicles
  • Make paper mache
  • Lemonade stand
  • Go fishing
  • Do yoga in your backyard 
  • Go on a picnic
  • Be a tourist in your hometown
  • Go on a day trip and let the kids decide when & where to turn (see where they take you!)
  • Hit up a provincial/state park
  • Make homemade ice cream

The ideas are simple and endless.  And thoroughly enjoyable.  And most importantly, we’ve found that we are seriously connecting with our kids more.  Sure, they still watch a movie here and there.  And my iPhone isn’t always turned off (how else do I share the photos of our fun but by posting them to Instagram!).  But I do find that we’re having more fun than we have in past summers.

AND with five more weeks of summer left, I’m looking for other ideas too – would love to hear about what you’re doing with your kids over the hotter months!

Our Family Bed

It seems that we have reached a turning point in the sleeping patterns of our children.  It’s not guaranteed but for the most part, if my kids go to bed at their bedtimes (7:30 for Maggie, 8:30 for Caleigh and Blake) they now sleep through the night and wake up at a reasonable hour (between 6 and 6:30).  Sometimes they even treat me to a 7:30 sleep in.

Seven.  Thirty.  Folks.

It has afforded me some mornings to once again commit to my morning power hour.  I had missed my quiet morning times,  For a solid year, Maggie decided that her sleep routine was to wake up at 5AM.  My “power hours” became “Elmo hours” that included regular refills of raisins into a Minnie Mouse bowl.  Far from empowering and quite honestly, one can only take so many Elmo episodes off of YouTube.

7:30 wake up times also allowed Tom and me to lay in bed for a while longer some mornings, halfway between wake and sleep in that lovely, warm, drowsy space where dreams come and go.  What was nice about these mornings is that eventually, we would be joined by three drowsy kids.  One by one, they would plod into our room with blankets and stuffies trailing behind them, find their way into our bed, and snuggle in under the blankets between us.  We talk about our dreams from the previous night.  We talk about what was awesome about the day before.  We talk about what we are excited or nervous for in the coming day. It’s time that I relish.  The kids are still young enough to find this nice.  Tom and I can connect with our kids all at once (rare with five of us!).  We have real, honest conversations.  We tell jokes.  We laugh.  It’s family bliss.  I love our family bed.  I know it won’t always be like that so for the time being, I’ll hold onto those mornings for as long as I can. 86d875f3db62169d_157104402.preview

Our Christmas Tree

I love our Christmas tree.  It’s not flashy.  It’s not bright.  It’s not adorned with the trendiest ornaments.  Our Christmas tree has had the same ornaments on its branches over the years, save for (usually) one addition per year.  Each ornament has a special significance to it.

We have ornaments that were handed down to Tom and I from our parents or over the years.  Like the straw ladies that I remember as a child on my Mom’s tree.  Also, the wooden airplane, the bird house, and the wooden angel.   Tom has ornaments from his childhood, including a special one of the little drummer boy, which was given to him by his late Uncle John.  Those ornaments hold a place in our hearts.

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We have ornaments that have been given to us by patients over the years, some that reflect us as Chiropractors and others that were given based on our passions.

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We have ornaments in honour of the births of each of our children.

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We also make it a tradition that each time we go on vacation, we purchase an ornament that reminds us of our time together as a family.  We have the princess we picked up at Walt Disney World last year.  We have a beach scene from our honeymoon in Jamaica.

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My favourites though are the homemade ornaments our kids have made over the years.

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We make trimming the tree a family affair.  We lay all of the ornaments out on the ground and the kids are able to put up ornaments, one by one, on whatever branch they want.  Tom and I place the ornaments on the higher branches, but only as directed by the kids.  There is always a squabble over who gets to place the angel on the top of the tree, and each year it ends with Tom taking the honour.  The finale is, of course, turning on the white lights, with the rest of the room in dark.

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Carrying on a tradition that was in our family growing up, we play a game where Tom and I name an ornament and the kids have to find it.  I remember as a kid loving this game, the sense of excitement as I explored the tree with all of the decorations on it.  I’m thrilled that my kids have just as much fun as my brother and I used to have.  There is something quite comforting about carrying on a tradition that is so deeply ingrained in Christmas spirit.

I love our tree.  I wouldn’t give it up for all the sparkly newness that is on the shelves of the stores I’ve been to in the last few years.  I love the story behind each ornament.  I love sharing those stories with the kids, as they hang them delicately on the branches.  I hope that one day they will receive some of these ornaments and have just as much fun telling their children of their significance.

Eight years ago

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Eight years ago this sweet being came into our life.  She did not at all come in quietly but of course she has also, just like her sister and her brother, left an impressionable mark on my heart ever since.

I’ve written about Caleigh’s birth before.  Every year on her birthday, I count my blessings for how healthy she is.  This year, as I think about how grateful I am for having her for a daughter, I’m also in equal amount of shock that she is in fact eight years old.  When did that happen?  She’s halfway to her driver’s license.

As my kids get older, the things that used to worry me are replaced with new worries.  Instead of watching as she stumbles while learning to navigate stairs, now I watch as she navigates the ups and downs of friendships at school.  I used to wonder if she was safe in the playroom to play on her own and now I wonder if she’s safe as she walks down the road, out of sight, to the park on her own.

I love the person she is becoming.  When she was first-born, I wondered if I would love being a mom as she grew older as much as I loved being a mom when she was a baby.  That sounds so incredibly selfish, and I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it but I didn’t know if I would like it as much.  And now that I’m here, I realize that I love it just as much, just in a different way.  Instead of watching her as she reaches her different milestones (first smile, first step, first word), I’m now watching as she develops her own sense of self and passions in life.  I have moments of pride and moments of heartbreak as she goes through different stages.  And I most especially love how our relationship as mom and daughter as evolved.

I watch as she figures out her emotions.  I watch as she rebels against her bedtime.  I watch as she learns that alone time is sometimes just as important as together time.  I watch as she learns about the repercussions of choosing play over homework.  I watch as she reaches that age where she still is, and wants to be, a kid but at the same time, she wants to be more grown up.  I listen to her as she shares her day at school with me.  I cuddle with her in bed when she cries over the unjust in the life of a (now) eight year old girl.  I laugh with her over jokes, funny stories, and memories from when she was younger.

Eight years from now it will be a totally different experience.  High school.  Boys.  Part time jobs.  Sports.  Right now, I’ll enjoy Rainbow Loom marathons and playing Uno.

Happy, happy birthday Caleigh.

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Two years ago

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Two years ago this sweet being came into our lives.  She came in quietly and has left an impressionable mark on my heart ever since.

Tom and I debated on having a third baby.  At the time, with a five year old and a three year old, it seemed like we had the perfect family.  It didn’t feel as though there was a piece missing.  Since before we were married, we had thought that three kids would be what we wanted.  But two difficult pregnancies later, my enthusiasm and desire for a third had waned.  But as I watched Blake grow from a toddler into a little boy, something pulled at my heart.  A feeling that I simply chalked up to the sadness that comes when I realized my “babies” were no longer babies.  But as that feeling grew stronger, we revisited the topic of a third little one.  We decided to give it six months and it if was meant to be, it was meant to be.  Apparently, it was.

It was the best decision of our lives.

Within moments of her birth, when I had my first opportunity to hold her and look into her eyes, I knew that Maggie completed our family.  I hadn’t realized that our puzzle was missing a piece.

Dearest Maggie, you are a spitfire.  I have no doubt you will contribute to more grey hairs on my head than your older brother and sister combined.  You are adventurous and brave.  I love how you leap into the arms of people you trust and love – how you come hurtling down the hallway when I arrive home, yelling “mama” and jump into my arms.  I love how you already count to twenty, kind of, because you get to nineteen and then go back to sixteen or fourteen or whatever number is on the tip of your tongue.  I love how you will argue with whoever tries to convince you that something is any colour other than green.  I love how you follow your big sister around like a shadow.  I love how you snuggle with your big brother on the couch.  I love that when you hug your daddy, you snuggle into his neck and announce “MY dada”.  I love to watch as you learn to express yourself both verbally and through emotions, as hard as that can be sometimes.  I love that for the last two weeks, you’ve sung the words to “happy birthday” to yourself as you are falling asleep.

I know you want to be a big girl – to play with the your brother and sister and the big girls outside but I beg of you, don’t grow up too quickly.  Be my baby girl just a little while longer.  There will be plenty of time to be a big girl and there is only so much time to be a little one.  As I type this, I realize that by me asking this of you, it’s really a reminder to me to enjoy these years too.  The days may be long but yes, the years are too short.

Happy birthday sweet Maggie.

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Short but sweet, on this beautiful Thanksgiving Sunday.

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“I am thankful for a lovely house.  I am thankful for a nice healthy meal.  I am thankful for a warm bed to sleep in at night.  I am thankful for a bit and healthy life.  I am thankful for a safe trip to school.  I am thankful for my big caring family.”

I, Caleigh, am thankful that you are such a thoughtful, sweet, caring daughter.

Pretty big heart for an almost eight year old.

Happy Thanksgiving.

My Six Step Punch to Knock Out Colds

Hi there!  I feel like I’m coming out of this hole that I’ve been living in for the last two weeks.  There’s been a lot of excitement with my nephew being born  and getting back to routine in September.  Sandwiched in-between those two events was this nagging sense of not getting things done, being disconnected from the world due to lack of internet at home, and this after-summer cold that my family has been hanging onto for a few weeks now.  It went from one person to the next and seems to be working its way out of our home (finally)!

I was sharing our story of this persistent cold/”viral thing”/”congestive annoyance” with another family in our office and they asked one of the most common questions I get in practice.  “What do you do for your family to beat infections?”

This is a topic that I’m very passionate about.  I’m a Mom (first and foremost) and I’m also a Chiropractor, who has a special interest in taking care of myself and my family as naturally and holistically as possible.  And I like to share what I have learned with others because over the years I have connected with so many amazing families, headed by mamas who are doing everything they can to support their family’s health with as little medical intervention as possible.

So, before I answer the question “What do I do for my family to beat infections?”, let me share some of my beliefs so that you understand why it is what I do.

1.  Your body (and those of your children) is intelligent.  The human body will always pick the perfect response to stress that it encounters.  For example, if your 3 year old daughter gets a virus then her body will do whatever it has to do in order to kill the virus.  It will raise its internal body temperature (read: get a fever) in order to destroy the virus as it tries to multiply.  Viruses love normal body temperature, they do not like higher than normal body temperature and will die off as a fever is produced.  Also, it will create an increase in mucous in order to rid the body of the virus.  Hence the gunk that is coughed out of lungs and the stuffy, runny noses that are draining.  Pretty smart of her body, right?

2.  Infections are a Normal and Healthy Part of Being Human  When we “get sick”, it’s not always a bad thing.  I have to look at a few things to determine whether or not this is my own fault out of conscious (or subconscious) thought and action OR if simply, this is my body (or my children’s bodies) growing a better defence system.  What do I mean?  I mean that if I’m burning the candle at both ends – not sleeping well, not exercising, not eating whole foods, not getting adjusted as often as my body needs, etc. – then I’m likely setting my body up for an infection.  It’s energy stores are depleted. I can’t possibly expect for my body to ward off a cold or flu if I haven’t been properly taking care of it.

The second part of this is that getting sick can simply be a way for my child’s immune system to expand and get stronger.  Childhood infections of any kind are a great way to test, grow, and support the immune system.  If we never got sick, then we wouldn’t have a heightened immune system to protect us against future infections.  When we take medication or give our kids medication, it doesn’t allow for their bodies to properly and completely internalize the infection, build an immune response against it, and heal from it.  As a result, when future infections hit, the body is less prepared and more likely to get knocked down even harder.  Interesting concept, yes?

This all being said, when I or my husband or my kids are sick, it sucks.  None of us enjoy being sick.  It affects the whole family too.  It impacts our ability to do what we want.  It impacts our ability to work.  It impacts our ability to play.  I respect the whole process that the body has to go through when it’s healing from a sickness, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t sideline our lives.  Prevention is key but let’s be honest, even with the most organized plan to stay well, we still get sick.  So, let me share with you what it is we do once “something” sets in.

My Six Step Punch to Knock Out Infections

1.  Get adjusted!  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  Regular Chiropractic care is crucial to supporting a imageshealthy nervous system AND immune system.  The nervous system is the master control system of your body and directly affects how your immune system functions.  If there is interference to your nervous system then there will be interference in your immune system (read: your immunity is working at less than 100%).  Get adjusted.  Regularly for preventative reasons and to stay well…and then yes, when you feel like your immune system has been compromised, get checked immediately!

2.  Essential Oils  A relatively new addition to our family’s toolbox but one that I can’t believe we lived without up until the beginning of this summer.  I use DoTERRA oils and I’ve been amazed at how well they work.  Their purpose is not to “treat” your infection, but support your body through it.  That being said, I was shocked the other night when I used a couple of drops of OnGuard and immediately my sinuses cleared after hours of being congested. Find out how to order them for your own family.

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  • OnGuard – An incredible immune support oil.  It’s Wild Orange combined with clove, cinnamon, eucalyptus, and rosemary.  I put a couple of drops under my tongue (very spicy, like oregano oil but wow, does it work!), put a drop on each of the soles of my feet, and dilute 3-4 drops in a tablespoon of coconut oil and massage it into the areas that need support (bridge of nose if nasal congestion, chest if coughing, across throat if sore, behind ears if sore, etc.)
  • Lemon – I add 1-2 drops in each glass of water I drink.  Another great oil for immune support.
  • Helichrysum – Helps to support healing.  I take 1-2 drops (with or without a carrier oil, depending on level of sensitivity…I use a carrier oil for my kids) and place it on the soles of feet and into areas that need extra support (see above with OnGuard).
  • Breathe – great to use if congested and having trouble breathing (also great support for allergies, asthma, and other breathing challenges!)
  • Peppermint & Lavender– We often don’t get fevers but when we do, they hit hard!  Fever has its place but it makes it very difficult to sleep, especially for young ones.  I will take 2 drops of peppermint & 2 drops of lavender & mix it in 1 tsp of carrier oil.  Rub onto soles of feet, back of neck, and down their spine.  It creates a cooling sensation that isn’t meant to kill the fever, just make it more manageable to live with.

3. Drink Liquids  So great to stay hydrated!  Water, water with lemon and warm tea (or even warm water) are images-1all easy ways to get fluids in.  Bone broth works by bringing oxygen to the cells that need it.  I make homemade bone broth once a month and then freeze it in small portions (1/4 cup sizes…or use an ice cube tray to make individual portions).  Simmer different bones (oxtails, bones of fish,  chickens, cows, etc. – just make sure they are organic!) in water for days (I stick it all in a slow cooker for up to 72 hours).  Breast milk for those who are still breastfeeding is exceptional for immune system support.

4.  Tone It Down  Hardest part especially for the “go go go” types like myself.  But it’s crucial to get into a quiet place.  Stay home.  Snuggle up on the couch or in bed.  Watch a movie.  Play quietly.  Read books.  Draw.  Our lives are so busy usually that for us, we really need to focus on just being as still as possible.

5.  Avoid Sugar and Dairy  Sugar is a feast for viruses and bacteria.  Eliminate it asap (it’s not good for us anyhow!).  Dairy is a congestant.  It will create more mucous than what is necessary.  So getting rid of all dairy products is a second nutritional change that has to be made the moment we are fighting something.

6.  The 24 Hour Rule   Did you go to bed with a fever and wake up feeling great?  Well, you’re likely not out of the woods yet.  The rule in our home is 24 hours without fever before heading back out into life.  It’s too easy for infections to rear their ugly heads again.  Your body is still processing!  I know that life is there and needs your attention – but I promise you it will still be there tomorrow.  Work from home, if you can.  Putter around the house.  Go for an easy walk outside.  But lay low for an extra day to avoid delaying proper healing.

So there you go!  That’s what we do to beat infections in our home.  Hopefully this helps you discover what works best for your family.

Welcome to the World

Earlier today, in the wee hours of the morning, I got a text from my brother letting me know that he was a dad.  I cannot put into words the rush of emotions that swept through me.  My little brother is a dad.  My little brother is a dad and as a result I now have a new nephew.  This isn’t the first time I became an aunt.  I also have a nephew on my husband’s side of the family, who turned nine this summer.   Over the years, there were five more cousins that became part of our family, all through my step-siblings. I remember the day they were each introduced and I remember the feeling of love that spreads over you when you have a new little one who is now part of your family.  There is just something different though when it’s your own brother who becomes a parent.

Having three children myself, I remember the emotions that are experienced the day you have your first baby.  We’re coming up on that anniversary in another month, as we welcomed our first daughter, Caleigh into the world eight years ago on the 26th of October.

I remember the early contractions that are more exciting than painful.  That moment early on in labour when I looked into Tom’s eyes and we just knew that we were no longer going to be a family of two but a family of three.  This was it.  No turning back.  Labour progresses and it gets hard.  Really hard.  So intense that I could hardly breathe at times.  And in the days that followed, Tom admitted the frustration and fear to just want to take that intensity and pain away from me.  He would feel so helpless at times and just want to take some of it on to give me a break.  Fast forward to a day later and it’s that moment we held her for the first time and we knew, in an instant, that our lives would never be the same.  That immense feeling that flows through your entire body that can only be described as love but on a level that you didn’t think was possible.  Such overwhelming emotion over such a tiny little being.

And now being one step removed from that experience, as an aunt.  An aunt to a handsome baby boy.  As I lay in bed and relished in the joy of the new addition to our family, I thought of everything that my brother and his wife were going through for the first time.  The first kiss and cuddle.  Counting toes.  Holding little hands.  Stroking his cheek.  Connecting for the first time.  Falling madly in love with a boy who up until an hour ago, they didn’t know what he looked like.  I smile now, just thinking of it all.

My thoughts then moved forward to the coming days, weeks, months and years.  The adventures of parenthood that could both be wonderful and also so painful.  The excitement as he reaches his milestones. His first smile (oh my, that’s magical, yes?). His first step.  His first word.  His first tumble down the stairs. His first true scare. The first time he cries when he’s left at a daycare or with a babysitter, as their hearts are broken because even though they know it’s necessary, it is never easy.  Each lesson learned.  Each decision made, wondering if it’s the right one.  The stress of reading about and listening to what “should” be done and then coming back to the realization each time that what’s best is what is right for them.

Welcome to the world, Morley James.  You are so loved.  You’ve existed, out of the womb, for all of 15 hours (at time of writing) and are so, so loved.  You have two amazing parents who are absolutely perfect for you…but you know that already (because I strongly believe that you chose them).  They love you and every fibre of your being.  All three of you are in for a brilliantly wild ride together.

You have six incredible grandparents whose hearts were are just “over the moon” at the news of your arrival.  For two of them, you are their first grandchild.  For two of them, you are their fourth.  And for the last two, you are the eighth.  But you’ll soon discover that it doesn’t matter how many grandchildren they have, there will always be more than enough love to go around.

Speaking of those grandchildren…you have seven cousins who will be very excited to meet you.  You were already held by one today, the oldest, Caleigh.  She fell immediately in love with you and she made sure that everyone else she encountered today knew that she had a new baby cousin.  By the way, you also managed to bump her UNO cards as “show & tell” this week.  Trust me, Morley, that means you’re pretty cool.

And I’ll speak for your aunts and uncles when I tell you that our hearts are all full with love and anticipation of getting to know you.  You have a lot of us – ten in total, with the possibility of more in the future.  I have a few aunts and uncles who I love dearly and have an incredible relationship with.  I have laughed with them, cried with them, shared with them, and have always ALWAYS felt completely safe with them.  I hope that I earn the opportunity to create that bond with you.

You, Morley James, are loved.  Loved by more people than you can imagine.  Welcome to the world.

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A Small But Mighty Space

I swept up the remaining crumbs from breakfast that hid under the table and four chairs in the small cottage.  By small, I mean that if I had two brooms, one in each hand, stretched out, I would be able to touch the opposing walls.  The single room doubled as a kitchen and bedroom, smaller than many bunkies that I’m sure were scattered across Lake Kawagama.

This would be our last visit to this cottage, and in truth, I may have only been there as many times as I could count on one hand.  Strange, really, as it is a family cottage.  I had found out this morning, via email, that the cottage had finally been sold, after being on the market over a year.  It made this already planned trip bittersweet.  When I first stepped foot at this place, ten years ago, I wasn’t married and so visiting on my own I didn’t leave much of a footprint.  Over the years, our expanding brood growing to five plus dog, it sometimes felt as though we outgrew the tiny space.  We were visitors, converging on my mom and stepdad’s place once a summer.  With them sleeping in the only bed, we would erect a tent or blow up a mattress in the screened in gazebo to comfortably spend the night.  They had bought the cottage and land in 2004, a couple of years before Caleigh was born, and so it didn’t have the nostalgia that went with many cottages that had belonged to families over decades.  When I say we had outgrown the space, it was literally a conversation piece each time we were on our way up the highway (where will we sleep?  will there be room?  do we drive them crazy?)  And yet each time I arrived, a sense of absolute peace fell over me.  A sense of simplicity.  All because of the smallness, yet mightiness, of this cottage.

This morning, with Tom and the kids down at the lake, I had the cottage to myself for some time before joining them for a morning swim.  I cleaned the dishes at a sink that offers a most serene view.  The outdoor sink is situated on the raised porch such that while doing dishes you can imagine yourself in a tree house.  Your view at eye level is simply the trees.  Off the porch, below you, is the outdoor shower.  This shower is unique in that it offers nothing between you and nature around you.  With no protection from spying eyes neither, only the most daring do so in front of others or you would wait for a moment where you have it to yourself.

Dishes cleaned and dried, I brought them inside to finish cleaning up.  As someone who doesn’t necessarily enjoy cleaning, tidying up this cottage is a pleasant task.  Its quaintness makes it not only easy but enjoyable.  A sense of accomplishment quickly takes over.  Make the bed, turn around, and wipe down the kitchen table.  Another half turn and I can arrange the dishes on the open shelves.  Everything just so, everything in its place.  A small slice of perfection.

The night before, with Maggie asleep in the bed, the rest of us moved to the gazebo.  With a bag of  tortilla chips in one hand and a deck of cards in the other, I quickly shot down the whines of disappointment over not being able to play Angry Birds, our kids latest addiction on the iPad.  Instead, we played first a game of ‘Go Fish’ and then Tom taught them how to play War.  The laughter, the giggles, the cheeky smiles, the shrieks of laughter as they beat both Tom and me – fair and square – will remain a memory fixed in my mind for years to come.  No electronics.  No arguments.  Just good old fashioned fun over a deck of cards.  Again, simplicity.

After cards, with the tent forgotten at home, we all set up in the single room.  Caleigh and Blake on the floor, covered in blankets.  Tom, Maggie, and I in the bed.  Quickly asleep, we were kept comfortable with a breeze off the lake that kept the cottage cool at night.  At some point it became four of us in the bed, as Blake snuggled in between Maggie and Tom.  Later still Tom abandoned the bed (or maybe Blake in his sleep had kicked him out) and ended up on the floor with Caleigh.  As the sun came up, it was quite fitting that we would all get in the bed together and just lay quietly, telling one another about our dreams, if only for a couple of minutes.  Simplicity.

As I arranged the last few dishes and smoothed out the comforter on the bed, it was sad to take a last look around the tiny cabin.  My eyes settled on a blue, leather-bound book with the word “JOURNAL” inscribed in gold on the front.  With a smile I opened it up and read through the last ten years of memories my mom and stepdad had recorded.  The trees they had felled after buying the property.  The installation of the dock.  The improvements to the cottage.  The friends who had visited.  The memorable meals.  The bears and deer who had made for fascinating sightings.  The stories of Carter, who spent his last couple of summers on the lake, chasing sticks into the lake and squirrels up trees.  The telling of our family history, a blended family, as their grandchildren were added and introduced to Lake Kawagama.  All of these tales told a story of a cottage that while wasn’t in our family for long, had surely made an impact on the hearts and minds of those who stayed there.

I will miss this cottage.  I will miss the simplicity.  It is a value so ingrained in my heart that I vow to bring it to our own family cottage that we are building.  It will be a little bigger, yes.  However, now it will be built with every intention to keep it in the grain that cottages should be.  An escape from a world dependant on technology.  An escape from a world where televisions replace board games.  An escape from a world where cars replace walking shoes.  An escape from a world where family life can become chaotic and hectic, running from appointment to errand to activity…and the simple pleasure of just talking – connecting – is lost.  An escape TO the world of cottaging…family, connection, nature, and simplicity.

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The Deck.

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The View.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A sink that makes me want to do dishes.

A sink that makes me want to do dishes.

Remnants of War the next morning

Remnants of War the next morning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even the towel holder fits in, made from a birch tree.

Even the towel holder fits in, made from a birch tree.

A Boy & His Shower.

A Boy & His Shower.

Conflicted over Weaning

My last baby is slowly weaning herself.  Maggie is becoming less and less interested, asking more for water rather than milk.  I’m totally torn over the immediacy of this shift in her wants.  Part of my heart says “yesssss….I’m ready” and another part of my heart says “nooooo….I’m not”.  And part of my heart feels completely guilty because unlike my other two, I feel like I pushed Maggie into this by going away two weeks ago.

I knew that by taking three days away from her I would like begin this process.  She’s 21 months

Mags at 6 months.

Mags at 6 months.

but she still breast fed anywhere between 4 to 6 times a day.  I was like a 24 hour milk buffet for her.  She would greet me with outstretched arms and a loud “Mama!” when I picked her up from daycare or got home from work and immediately migrate her way down towards my breast.  She would look up at me from behind those big lashes and innocently ask, “Milk?”.   If she wanted milk, I would happily offer it to her, with a few exceptions if the timing or circumstances just weren’t right.  We had a good thing going and it has been much longer than with my other two.  It just worked for Mags and me.

And now, I have this dichotomous view of my attachment to breastfeeding.  On one hand, I’m very aware of all of the benefits prolonged breastfeeding brings.  There is no question in my mind that extended breastfeeding, past one year, is hugely beneficial to both baby and mom.  It’s part of her nutritional, physical, emotional and spiritual development.  The guilty mama part of this is…I’m not entirely upset.

Reason being is that on the other hand, one of my core values is freedom and that is definitely compromised when I breast feed my babies.  My ability to go away, to have a date night or a girls night, to work out, to have quiet time, etc. would be challenged because I had this pull towards making sure Maggie was okay.  It wasn’t easy when the first thing she did, even if we were reunited after just an hour, was asking to be fed.  I was very aware that she wanted that attachment to her mom.

Since I’ve been back from the retreat, I’ve noticed a significant decline in her nursing.  I think what bothers me about this is that I feel like I imposed my desire for a weekend of freedom on her and as a result, she’s now weaning.  Three days without Mama around to comfort and feed her will do that to a little one.  Since I’ve always used child-led weaning in the past with my two older ones, it feels like it was me that led it this time.  Maggie and I still have an early morning and before bedtime feed, which is peaceful and gives us both the connection we crave, but daytime and nightly feedings are gone.  She just has no interest.  Also, on a bigger level, this is our last baby.  My last opportunity to ever breastfeed.  There is some degree of closure needed for me with that part of being a mom.  I’m a little surprised at how much I want to hang onto that element of motherhood.

So, I suppose the question once again becomes….is this about her or about me?  Or maybe it’s about both of us being okay with weaning and finding other ways to connect.