Vegetables, Traveling, and a Personal Crisis, in the Best Way Possible…

Notes From a Blue BikeI bought a book last weekend – Tsh Oxenreider’s Notes From a Blue Bike was on sale for a couple of bucks, and I’ve been wanting to read it for awhile. I don’t know if it was the short, easy-reading chapters, or the rainy weather keeping us inside, or the subject matter, but I finished it in a weekend, which is rare for me.

And then I broke down and had a whole life crisis, which concerned Ben a lot. He asked very hesitantly if perhaps I should possibly consider…not reading that book anymore.

I tried to explain to him that the book is about intentional living, and the fact that I was questioning my intentions was a good thing, even if it did lead to a bit of a crisis.

The crisis past fairly quickly, and now I’m looking back to see what’s been left in it’s wake….

Tsh Oxenreider examines five areas of intentional living: food, travel, education, entertainment, and revival. I’m pretty much in agreement with most of her thoughts, but there were a few ideas that threw me for a bit of a loop.

Food

I love what she has to say about “slow food” – cook it from scratch, use whole, natural ingredients, and make it something the whole family enjoys. Because of this book, I just signed us up for a CSA program – it stands for “Community Supported Agriculture”, and it means that for the next 17 weeks, our family will receive a box of organic vegetables grown on a nearby farm. I have been curious about such a program for a long time, but my weekend of reading was what finally gave me the final push to do something about it.

It’s like a food adventure – you never know what you’ll get in the box, so I’m looking forward to a summer of awesome, fresh ingredients, and a whole bunch of new recipes! We got our first box this week, and it contained a ton of lettuce, beets, green onions, rhubarb, and lovage. We didn’t even know what lovage was, so Ben had to google it, and now we can’t stop talking about lovage, because it’s a fun word – “Can you taste the lovage in the soup? You can never have too much lovage!!”

We were feasting on Citrus and Roasted Beet Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing, which was delicious, even though I’ve never liked beets before. And I love having fresh salad ingredients just waiting for me in the fridge, making it easy to throw lunch together. Somehow, everything tastes better when I know we picked it up right at the farm, instead of buying it at Superstore!

salad

Travel

This was one of the uncomfortable topics for me. Tsh Oxenreider is a huge believer in doing international travel with small children. I am a huge believer in keeping young children at home and avoiding jet lag with a four-year-old. Road trips I would consider, but we’ve turned down a few awesome vacation offers from Ben’s parents, because it just seems like there will be a better time for really ambitious travel.

This book has me reconsidering….Maybe now is as good a time as any! And maybe I need to be thinking more about the story we want our family to tell, than about my total comfort and sanity.

“Traveling with children is harder than traveling without them – no argument from me there. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth giving it a shot. I’m so grateful for our trips across oceans and our journeys down the road, navigating adventures together as a family. It’s knit us together in ways hard to replicate anywhere else….

Together, we smell smells and see sights collectively that no one else will at that exact moment – or at least no one who will also drive home to the same house and fall asleep under the same roof. When we travel, no matter how near or far, we share moments that shape our family culture. Each exploration, to the next town over or on the next flight out of the country, is one more chisel notch in our family’s sculpture. If we are each a work of art, then our life’s experiences are the tools. Traveling gives us, as parents, the chance to make those tools effective and sharp.”

With a baby on the way, we won’t be going on an exotic trip anytime very soon, but at the very least, I think we need to do some exploring close to home. And maybe start dreaming about where we’ll go as soon as Baby is old enough…

Education

Here’s where the bulk of my crisis occurred….She tried homeschooling and quit, for reasons I’d never heard before. I had to chew them over for a bit. Once I finished chewing, I was left with the conviction that we are still called to homeschool right now, and the benefits are still outweighing the negatives.

But still – I never want to be so completely sure in what I’m doing that I won’t even stop to question and consider if it’s still the best thing. I think it’s good and right to reassess every once in a while.

And I love what she wrote about parental instincts when it comes to educating our children:

“I want to model learning for the sheer joy of exploration, provide a secure home environment for their creativity, and pray continually for wisdom about the best method to educate them. I want to remember that I will always be their most influential teacher. And I want to then take a step of faith and make choices by trusting my parental instincts – even if that means ignoring the culture that says it knows what’s best. I want to rest in confidence that we’ll make the best decisions for our children because only we know them as intimately as we do.”

Entertainment

While I completed an entertainment fast a few months ago, and learned a ton, I also just came through the first trimester of pregnancy, which pretty much resulted in loads of snacks, and Netflix on the couch every single night. It was all I was capable of doing. It felt disgusting, too. Now that my energy is increasing, it’s definitely time for find some balance in this area, so I appreciated what Oxenreider had to say about enjoying entertainment in small doses, to avoid the feeling of entitlement.

“If entertainment isn’t our right, does this mean our days have to be drudgery? Well, sometimes, yes. Life has never promised us nonstop parties and parades. But our everyday rituals can also become our entertainment, if we let them. When I reduce my screen time, not only is my remaining screen time  more enjoyable, but my eyes better sharpen their focus on the little things in life.”

Revival

Tsh Oxenreider wrapped up this book by talking about how their family has chosen to slow down, how she purposely chooses to take care of herself to avoid burn-out, and what benefits we reap when we live intentionally.

It’s interesting, because much of what she wrote about was learned during the time her family lived overseas, and the culture shock that greeted them when they moved back to the States. It took awhile to figure out how to take what they loved about life in a different culture, and apply it to living in the States, where it wasn’t possible to make life exactly the same, but rather, making the principles apply to the life they are currently living.

It’s how I feel about our transition from living at a Bible camp out in the bush, to living a more “normal” life, back in civilization. Life is a completely different pace, and yet over the past two years, our family has found a way to hold on to the principles we loved most about our life at camp, and fit those into this new life. Go slowly, with intention, and never do something that feels wrong for your family, just because it’s culturally normal. I had no idea that living in the forest for five years would teach me so much about disregarding what’s culturally acceptable, and doing what is truest to our hearts.

Goethe quotesource

It was a lot to take in over one weekend! But since I love a good re-evaluation of life (and a good personal crisis?!), it was a weekend well spent! So many thoughts to chew over.

And now, I wish you a lovely weekend. May you linger over delicious meals, delight in exploring the world around you, find enjoyment in simple pleasures, and be able to discern what matters most to you and those  you love!

Vacation Favorites: Ottawa

I’m back from my lovely little vacation, and finally recovered enough to put a blog post together!

planeMy older sister, Karla, and I flew out to Ottawa to visit our younger sister, Kim. It’s been two years since I last went to see her – last time we spent most of our time getting her new home set up, but this time was all about relaxing!

Kim met us at the airport, and whisked us away to a spa in Quebec.

Nordic spaWe spent the afternoon lounging around in bathrobes, eating, getting massages, and trying to decide which pool or sauna to try next. Such difficult decisions…;)

The next day, we went to a tea house in Quebec, and walked around the grounds for awhile.

tea housesaladgardensgardensgardensgardensOn Sunday, we drove to a little town close to Ottawa to try out another restaurant, and to check out a bunch of little shops.

lunchBest food I’ve ever eaten in my entire life – seriously. If I could only eat one meal for the rest of my life, it would be this – Asian Ginger Salmon on rice noodles with squash jus.  I’ve never been that passionate about fish, but that was before this meal…

flowersbus tourThe next day, we went on a bus tour of Ottawa and Gatineau.

parlimentOttawa

Parliment

In between all these delicious fun things, there were manicures and pedicures, much more food, movies, talking, and more food!

Kim and meAnd one last photo with Kim, to record the fact that I wore the necklace Anika gave me as a going-away present!

We had a wonderful time, and then it was wonderful to come home to my sweet family! But now I’ve got mountains of stuff to catch up on, and a birthday party to plan, so I need to get to work!

I hope you’ve been having a fantastic week!

Learning to Find Joy in the Journey

Well, here we are in Florida. 

orange trees

You know that feeling when you get up at 3 am, drive to the airport, sit around waiting, sit around in a plane, sit around eating lots and lots of snacks which may or may not be the best thing for you to be eating, and then you sit around and wait for a rental car, and then you drive around for a little while until you figure out where you’re going, and then you add a round of sushi to the large amount of questionable snacks already consumed that day, and sit around in a car until you finally reach your destination, which makes you feel super happy, and you wonder if MAYBE, possibly…the discomfort of the day was worth reaching the destination?

waiting

That’s how we’re feeling right now.

The day went fairly well, all things considered. “All things considered” being that I never actually fell asleep last night before the alarm rang, so I’m super excited about bedtime.

sleepy

As we went about our day, I’ve been thinking about the joy of the journey.

In all honesty, sometimes the joy was a bit elusive, with the lack of sleep and all, but our family has always tried to enjoy traveling. Not just getting to where we’re going, but traveling.

When I was younger, my family traveled a lot. My dad always made it seem as though packing up the van or the camper and heading off across Canada or the States was an amazing adventure. And my mom provided so many snacks that I still associate “travel” with eating.

So we’d set off, with our plans for adventure, and a lot of snacks, and we’d make memories. My dad always took a ton of pictures, which we would relive once the adventure was over by watching slides. Some of my favorite family times involved all of us gathered together, staring up at the wall as our memories were projected into vibrant color, life-sized and brilliant.

I don’t know which was more fun – the trips or the slideshows! We loved them all.

Until I was in Grade Three, my family traveled with a truck and camper, but that year, my dad decided to buy a large van. There was a bench in the back that folded down into a bed for my parents to sleep on, but for the rest of us, my dad got creative….

He figured out that if my younger sister and I slept on the two front seats, reclined as far as possible, there was room enough for placing a piece of plywood onto the dashboard, supported on the window sills. There was a cutout for the steering wheel to fit into, and all of this worked out to form an interesting type of “bunk bed” for my sister to sleep on, with us two younger girls tucked underneath.

I really wish I had a picture of that, partly because it would be awesome, and partly because I could eliminate that last awkward paragraph, attempting to explain the whole set-up.

I remember waking up to the sound of our van horn, blasting through the quiet campground air as my sister kicked it in her sleep – one of the drawbacks to a bed on the dashboard.

But it worked, and we traveled, and we made memories. We listened to my parents’ music, and they listened to some of ours. We found ways to entertain ourselves for hours as we drove across the country. We fought, and made up, ate sunflower seeds, and survived sketchy bathroom break experiences.

Besides all the memories, we gained another treasure: We learned to enjoy the journey.

We weren’t impatient to get where we were going, because we were always going.

We’d drive, and then we’d stop to go exploring.

We’d drive a bit more, and then we’d get out to go canoeing.

Driving was part of the experience. Travelling was the adventure, not some necessary evil to endure so that we could finally reach our destination.

My friend once said, “I wish there were some way to be unconscious until I reach my destination. I can’t stand traveling – I just want to get there as fast as possible.”

When I heard him say that, it suddenly struck me what a gift my parents had given me which I’d never even noticed: I had learned to find joy in the journey.

They taught me to have fun along the way. We learned to make memories during all parts of the trip – the journey and the getting there.

Kaylia

I want my girls to learn that. I hope that someday they’ll look back, and think getting up at three in the morning was part of the adventure. I hope they’ll remember snacks and sushi, and even waiting in line.

I dream of them being patient as they wait to get where we’re going – able to recognize the anticipation that grows as we wait, and the memories we form when we try to pass the time with goofiness or chatting about life, or whatever.

We bond as we go, not just when we get there.

Ben and I have reached a decision – the next time we come to Florida to visit my parents, we are making it a road trip. Yes, it takes WAY longer than a plane ride, but it will teach our girls some things I want them to remember forever:

Family, memories, and adventures are worth the effort.

Waiting for something makes it better in the end.

Learn to enjoy the journey, not just the destination.

map

 

Okay, travel tips, everybody! What do you do to enjoy the journey? 

Best Part of the Trip

My sister Kim just moved to Ottawa, and invited me to visit her for a weekend. What a busy, full trip! We did some sightseeing, but most of our time was spent shopping and setting up her new townhouse.

We worked and shopped, and worked and worked…and now I can present our Before and After pictures! (I love those!)

Before:

And After!

After working like crazy for two days straight, we finished up with decorating/setting up house, and went sightseeing.

Our family went to Ottawa when I was 10 years old, so it was really neat to see some of those sights again, and appreciate them more as an adult.

Ottawa is such a beautiful city. It is green and lush, with majestic views all over the place. I could totally see why my sister is loving it!

It was so much fun to see Kim’s new home, and spend a ton of time together. It was fun to shop like mad with money that wasn’t mine, and it was fun to get creative and share all of my ideas with her. It reminded me of all the things I enjoy doing, but don’t always have the time or opportunity to do.

But on my last night in Ottawa, a card from Anika fell out of my Bible, and I opened it up to read it again. Inside it said, “Roses are red, violets are blue, you are my Mommy, and I love you.” And I thought to myself, “It is time to go home and hear my girlies calling me ‘Mommy’ again!”

It was the best kind of trip – I loved my time away, and I loved coming home to my family.

I kept smiling out at the clouds through the airplane window because I was so happy to get back!

All By Myself

I am in Ottawa.

This is the very first time I’ve ever travelled by myself. I’ve only been gone a day, and I already miss late-night talks with Ben, and hugging our girls, but I’m still quite excited about this mini vacation.

My sister recently moved to Ottawa, and bought this fantastic townhouse which needs some decorating, so she asked me to come invade Ikea with her, shopping and decorating to our hearts’ content.

We will also get some sightseeing in, which makes this an absolutely amazing little holiday for me. Can’t wait to get started!

While travelling, I was reminded of an item to add to my 34 Days of Favorites: Overcoming Fears.

A few years ago, I went through a stretch of time when I was absolutely freaked out about flying. I used to love flying when I was younger, but then the whole World Trade Center thing happened, and we were reminded that all kinds of people ride on airplanes, sometimes with very bad intentions. We were reminded that sometimes people leave, and don’t come home.

Obviously, I knew these things didn’t happen very often, but I allowed my thoughts to linger in dangerous territories, and before I knew it, I had developed a fear of flying.

I didn’t have to fly much during those years, which probably caused my fear to grow.

But Ben and I were dreaming of a vacation, and so, when Anika turned four, we flew to Mexico. It was quite terrible for me.

I remember looking out the window, and seeing land verrrry far away, and suddenly feeling so full of panic, I didn’t know what to do with myself.

We flew as a family a few more times after that, and I knew I had to keep my act together, in order to put up a good front for the girls. But inside, I was still in a panic, and did not enjoy the experience.

This last January, I flew to Florida with the girls while Ben went on a missions trip to Belize, and I knew it was time to deal with this whole issue, once and for all. I was the only adult responsible for those sweet girls, and things would be a lot easier if I wasn’t freaking out about getting into an airplane.

I knew it all went back to my thoughts. I had to get control of them, and be extremely disciplined about what I filled my mind with.

Years ago, I saw a counselor in an effort to learn how to deal with anxiety. The most important technique I came away with was learning to identify the fear, and replace it with a calm, logical thought.

For example, whenever my brain started to think about plane crashes, I replaced this thought with statistics about how safe flying actually is.

It’s very easy to let our thoughts unravel quickly, and before we know it, we’re in a state of panic, and our thoughts are out of control. At that point, it’s hard to get things back under control, and our bodies have already begun to physically respond to the stress.

A few years ago, Ben’s family planned to go skydiving together, but his sister was quite nervous about the whole idea. She wanted to go, but she was also afraid to, which is understandable when you think about jumping out of an airplane.

In an effort to help his sister, Ben looked up safety statistics on skydiving, and found that more people die in a year from falling off donkeys than they do from jumping out of airplanes.

His sister chose to focus on the donkeys, and went skydiving.

Sometimes I have a deep, secret wish that I’d also chosen to think about donkeys, and joined them. Only sometimes.

Anyway. The point is that we get to choose. I’ve written a lot about how choosing our thoughts and attitudes can make us happier. It can also make us braver.

I had fun yesterday. Flying was good. There was a turbulent patch which had me clenching the arm rests, and left me feeling a bit shaky, but otherwise, I enjoyed travelling. It’s become fun once more.

Do you have any fears you’ve faced? How do you get control over your thoughts in difficult situations?

Buckle Up For Landing

We made it.

My word, travelling with a two-year-old can be interesting at times. For the most part, we had a good trip, but when it was time to buckle up for landing, Kaylia lost it.

From the moment the seat belt sign went on till the second it went off and I released her, she was screeching,

“I’M STUCK!! Get me out! This is not mine! There is nothing in here for me!!! I don’t want this!!!”

I’d say she’s a fairly effective communicator, for a two-year-old.

Here’s a few pictures from our day of travel:

Running loose and free while she has the chance.

Having lunch with our travel companion, Auntie Kim.

Doing her fake smile for the camera.

***********************

So thankful that we’re here, and that the sun is shining! My hubby’s sitting in an airport, waiting for his flight to Belize. Thank goodness my girls are so wildly active that I’ve had no time to think about missing him!

What Summer Means To Me

Someone asked me the other day if we had any big travel plans for this summer.

I resisted the urge to let out a snort of laughter, and proceeded to explain that camp directors do not travel anywhere in summer. Unless it’s completely unavoidable. Like Ben going to BC for two weeks to finish his last course for his Masters.

So, no. As long as we live at camp, we will not be taking any leisurely road trips across the country during the summer.

But the question made me think about the fact that when most people think about summer, they think very different things than I do when I think about summer.

This is normal for us, but it’s not normal for most people. Sometimes I forget that. So I made a list.

Here is what summer means to me:

  • the bell ringing throughout the day to signal the beginning of the next activity
  • buses of kids arriving every week
  • hotdogs on Mondays, hamburgers on Saturdays
  • going to the beach almost every afternoon
  • sandy floors all over the house, because we’re constantly tracking in more than I can keep up with
  • lying in bed at night with the windows open, listening to the loons on the lake
  • the hydro going out almost every time there’s a storm because the trees are always falling on the power lines
  • boat rides and water skiing
  • the happy sound of kids having fun, every second of the day
  • people everywhere, all the time
  • Sunday morning walks before our chapel service
  • picking wild blueberries
  • sharing every meal with the staff and campers at the lodge

Travel plans this summer? Where would we go – camping? The beach? We’d just rather stay home!

Exploring Rochester

Yesterday was a very wonderful day. I had almost the whole day free, and after three days of countless appointments and tests, it was just what I needed!

Everything in downtown Rochester is connected by tunnels and walkways, so every time I have to run over to the clinic, I stay inside.

Very practical and convenient, but has definitely left me craving some fresh air.

So we headed off this morning with the goal of buying some milk and finding a park with a play structure.

On the big cliff overlooking the grocery store parking lot, there was a huge, beautiful, old mansion. Anika loves stuff like that, which makes Ben and me pretty happy because we love it too, so off we went to explore.

This is the Plumber House, and in summer, it’s open for tourists to walk through the house and gardens. In spring, the house is closed and no one is around. We had so much fun exploring. There is a huge tower on the grounds which Anika thought looked exactly like Rapunzal’s tower.

I took about a million pictures. It was such a beautiful spring morning, and there were so many interesting things to see.

It was my favorite day yet! Today is my last day of appointments at Mayo, and then we get to meet up with our friends, Trevor,Terra-Lee, and their girls, for a weekend in Minneapolis! So excited!

Have a good weekend!