Posted in Devotional, Hope & Encouragement, Life

The Secret to Joy this Christmas

It’s the second week of Advent! This week in my Advent series, we’ll be focusing on Joy! This has been a very convicting post to write as joy is something I still struggle to find day in and day out. I don’t find joy in doing the laundry or washing the dishes. So, there has to be something more, right?!?

What does joy look like? Pure, unadulterated joy. Here’s a picture of my daughters playing together this summer… this to me is joy.

Why do we call it unadulterated? Adultery in a marriage is cheating on your spouse. Adultery in the Bible is seeking idols or other gods besides the One True God. So how do we commit adultery on Joy? Committing adultery on Joy is when we look somewhere other than Christ for our Joy.

We look to all sorts of other places to try and find joy.

  • Marriages
  • Likes and followers on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest
  • Our Children
  • Being accepted by others
  • Having a successful career

These are all things that can definitely bring us feelings of joy. But feelings don’t last, they change. I want to know that joy that is in my heart and doesn’t change based on circumstances. What’s the secret to finding that Joy?

Jesus.

Joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Galations 5:22-23) Joy is in us because Christ lives in us. My girls like when we sing the song I’ve got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down in my Heart, the end of the chorus says joy is down in our heart TO STAY. It’s there, it can’t be taken away because it comes from Christ in us!

The Secret to Joy this Christmas

How do we find joy, how do we choose joy? We look to Christ. That is part of the beauty of Christmas; Christ came down to earth to restore our relationship with God. Because of this, we can have the Holy Spirit living in us and experience Joy every day. Joy that doesn’t change when things aren’t going as we had planned. Joy in the midst of sorrow.

Satan will do anything to steal our joy, to take our focus off Christ and try to find our joy elsewhere. We are so much less effective when we aren’t joyful, at least I know I am. It says in John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Notice how Jesus says He wants to have life abundantly? That includes joy. He wants us to have an abundance of joy!

So, this Christmas I choose Joy. This Christmas I choose Christ. This Christmas I celebrate Christ’s birth that has given this unending Joy down in my heart TO STAY! What will you choose this Christmas?

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Posted in Hope & Encouragement, Life

Hope this Christmas

So I’m sitting here in my living room, finishing up a cup of hot chocolate with the fireplace on, and I’m thinking about Hope. Here we are in the first week of Advent already, the week of Hope. I honestly don’t know where to start or what to write about. I’m having a little bit of writers block to be honest! So I started Googling, because that’s what we do when we have questions right?!? I came across a couple definitions that really got me thinking.

The dictionary defines Advent as “the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event.” In this case, the arrival of Christ. But that happened over 2000 years ago… where’s the hope in that? Hope is defined as “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.” We can’t have a feeling of expectation or desire for something that has already happened. That doesn’t make sense.

“Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.” 1 Peter 1:13 NIV

Our hope, this feeling of expectation of the arrival of a notable person, this Advent; we wait patiently for Christ to return again. He came once, God in the form of a human baby, to live among us, forgive our sins and give us eternal life. Our hope is in the fact that He will come again! He will fully restore this world to His original plan and design.

“and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4

This Christmas as I reflect on Christ’s first coming, I also wait with expectation for His second coming.

So how do we do this? Especially with our kids? How do we describe the hope we have in Christ?

Last year, we bought our girls Shepherd’s Treasure. It’s like Elf on the Shelf, but not. Instead it’s the story of a little shepherd boy and his journey to find the TRUE meaning of Christmas. Kids learn about God’s great love for them when he sent his son into this world to save us! Each day a new verse from God’s word is read on the Advent card. So, basically you hide the Shepherd Boy each night for your child to find the next morning. When they find it, you can all read the Bible verse on the card, as well as the explanation or activity or action on the back on the card. I was flipping through them today and came across the one based on Luke 2:8-16 (the birth of Jesus). On the back of the card it says “We are almost there! I can’t wait to see Jesus!” The Shepherd boy is talking about Christmas, but isn’t that an amazing thought for right now as well… we’re almost there!

Jesus is coming again! I’m going to read this card with my girls in the morning and we can talk about the Hope we have in this time leading up to Christmas and always of seeing Jesus.

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Posted in Life

Top Christmas Gifts for 2-4 Year Old Girls Under $30

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Shopping on a Christmas budget this year? We sure are! I was asking my daughters the other day (Maggie is 2, almost 3, and Lily just turned 4) what they wanted for Christmas. We had a few flyers out with options, and other things they just told me what they wanted. I thought I’d compile a wish list of gifts for 2-4 year old girls at a reasonable price (not the $240 Barbie Dream House they wanted!!) Here’s what they came up with…

  • PJ Masks Figurine Set ~ Lily is obsessed with PJ Masks thanks to her cousins!! Maggie watches it with her, but she’s still more into Paw Patrol. These are the perfect size to play with.
  • Paw Patrol Skye Set or Paw Patrol Everest Set ~ at 4 years old, Lily is sort of starting to outgrow Paw Patrol. She still LOVES Skye though and would love anything Skye related. As I said before, Maggie still loves this show! My girls favorite pups are Skye and Everest which isn’t surprising seeing as they are the only 2 girl pups and they wear pink and purple!
  • FurReal Pets Kami, My Poopin’ Kitty ~ Lily wants a cat, she loves cats. We had 2 cats when she was born, but we had to get rid of them shortly after Maggie was born, they were jealous of her! Pete also developed really bad allergies to them. But, Lily still wants one. This is the next best thing, she still has to feed it and she has to clean up after it as well. Give her a taste for having a real pet!! (mind you, she does help me feed our dog Winnie almost every day)
  • Who’s kids like to help them in the kitchen? My girls LOVE helping me bake, do dishes, make breakfast etc. Sometimes I get a little impatient because I know I can do it 10 times faster by myself, but they just love it and it’s so good for them to be and feel involved. Check out Flirty Homes (used to be Flirty Aprons), they have the cutest aprons for everyone in the family. Lily loves her little apron and I know Maggie is getting one for her birthday in January too! (They also have some other adorable decor for the home and natural cleaning products… great site all around!) www.FlirtyAprons.com
  • Disney Princess Anything ~ here’s a few ideas Disney Princess My First Bedtime Story Book , Fisher Price Little People Disney Princess set of 6, CandyLand Disney Princess Edition (the girls are just starting to get into board games, this one would be excellent for them!). Pretty much anything Disney Princess they would be happy with. They love their Shimmering Princess dolls too. We’ve also asked for a few of the movies: Frozen, Tangled and Tinker Bell
  • Barbie ~ They’re just starting to get into Barbies… Lily a bit more so than Maggie. They LOVE the Barbie Dolphin Magic movie. We’ve watched it over and over and over (see my blog about that here). I know either of the dolls, the Mermaid or the Barbie Snorkell doll would make them 2 happy little girls!
  • Finally, if you’re looking for some awesome devotionals or inspirational stories for young girls about females in the Bible, check out Bible Belles. Their books aim to teach our daughters their worth through Biblical stories. These are great for this age to build girls a solid foundation of how God sees them.

What are you getting for your kids this year? Any other great ideas? I’m not done my shopping yet (not even close!!), so I’m always looking for great ideas!!

Posted in Instant Pot

Easiest Instant Pot Chicken Noodle Soup

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Have you jumped on the  Instant Pot bandwagon yet? If not, you should! I’ve had mine for about a year now and I absolutely LOVE it!!! I use it probably 2-4 times a week. It’s so great to just be able to pop the food in there, walk away and have a meal ready in as little as 20 minutes. I can make an entire meal in just the one pot, so there’s less clean up afterwards too! I’ve never considered myself to be a good cook, I always stuck to the recipes I knew how to do. It doesn’t help that I married a man who used to be a cook in restaurants. Needless to say, I have never been super confident in the kitchen!

Since getting the Instant Pot I have become a lot more experimental. Everything from soups and chili’s, to roasts and applesauce. I never would have tried some of these recipes before. I’ve had some fails, but for the most part the meals I’ve tried have turned out pretty well.

Anyway, I wanted to make Chicken Noodle Soup last week. I love soups in the fall! I came up with an idea to make it, my hubby tweaked it a little, and then I made it and it was delicious!!! It’s made using rotisserie chicken. You can make this in the Instant Pot as well (here’s a recipe from Cooking with Curls). I use store bought as my husband buys a rotisserie every week for his work lunches. You can also just use chicken breasts or thighs.

So, I started by sauteing the onion, carrot and celery in canola oil using the saute function on your Instant Pot until the onions become translucent. I added in the chicken and then I added in the Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and turned off the saute mode. Finally, I added in the chicken stock (which you can also make in the Instant Pot using Aileen Cooks recipe) and noodles. Set the Instant Pot to manual for 8 minutes (Note: it can take up to 20 minutes for the pot to reach cooking pressure). Once the timer went off, I did a quick release and we were ready to eat!! So, in under half an hour, we had delicious soup for supper!!

Click here to download printable version

What are your favorite Instant Pot soup recipes for the fall and winter? I need some more to try out! Drop your fave recipe in the comments section below!!

Posted in Crochet

Crochet Tinker Bell Hair

This year Lily wanted to be TinkerBell for Halloween. We watched the Disney Tinker Bell movie a few months ago, and ever since she saw it, she wanted to be Tinker Bell. I thought it was adorable, she kind of looks a little like Tinker Bell… big blue eyes, blonde hair.

Last year she was a Princess and I found a pattern on Pinterest to make a crochet crown with a long braid coming off. Her and Maggie call it their “Elsa” hair now even though it’s purple and white. I would think Rapunzel makes more sense, but whatever they want to call it is just fine with me!

So after Lily decided to be Tinker Bell, I went looking again for a pattern to make her a crochet wig to wear. I love the hats because they are adorable and keeps them warm if it’s a cold evening of trick or treating. I couldn’t really find anything that I liked other than a few pictures. But I thought to myself “hey, I can make this!!”

I found this simple double crochet toque pattern on Craftsy and figured it would be the perfect base for what I wanted to make. I just wanted a straight forward hat, nothing too fancy. Sometimes I wonder why I even get patterns though as I don’t often stick to them. For instance in this one, I decided to work in rounds rather than joining every row. It’s probably just me, but I can’t stand joining rows, I’d rather just keep going!

Once I was done that, I started adding the hair. I looped a piece of yarn from my hand around my elbow and back up and then cut about 30 more of those! Because Tinker Bell’s hair is swept over, I started to add the hair just off center. Here’s  a great tutorial on adding hair to crochet dolls. Same applies for hats. I decided to actually knot the hair in place rather than using a glue gun at the end. If it’s on a doll it’s fine, but I didn’t think it would be very comfortable on something to wear. I added hair in the first 5 rows, the next stitch over I did 4 rows, then 3, then 2, then 1. I found it filled it in a lot better than just doing a few strands in each row. When I was done that, I filled in a few more spots I thought looked a little bare. I swept the hair over until it looked about right for Tinker Bell. Then I secured all the strands to the first row on the hat by taking one strand through the loop and then tying it tight a few times. I’m not 100% sure if this is the best way to do it, but I found it the easiest to get the look I wanted. After that, I did 5 or 6 strands of hair on the other side and attached them the same way.

Finally, it was time for the bun. I took an old, holey sock (clean) from my husband and cut off the foot part. Then I rolled the ankle part into a doughnut. I just started wrapping yarn around it like crazy. Once it was all covered, I wove strands through the middle so it wouldn’t be a big open hole. Then I sewed it on to the top of the hat! And VOILA… the finished project!

Needless to say, I think she liked it!!

It’ll be interesting to see what she wants to be next year… and if she keeps wanting me to make “hair” for her! One thing I would change is to make the toque part a little longer. It didn’t cover her ears, which is fine because Tinker Bell’s ears show, but I just think it would have looked a bit better with a few more rows.

xoxo

Caroline

If you are interested in learning more about crocheting, knitting, yoga, jewellery making, fitness or cake making check out Bluprint. Bluprint offers “World-class experts, guidance for all skill levels, and learning that fits your lifestyle – whether you have two minutes or two hours.” This is a great resource for craft, fitness, art, baking etc. Sign up for your free trial today!

 

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Posted in Hope & Encouragement, Life

Fighting a Panic Attack: 4 Practical tips

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This past weekend my husband, Pete, and I went to Calgary. It was a quick trip and we did A LOT of driving around. He showed me where his childhood home and elementary school was in North Calgary, we caught a movie at the VIP Cinema in South Calgary. On Saturday afternoon we decided to take a drive out to Chestermere just East of Calgary. It’s a beautiful little community, there’s a gorgeous lake with cute little parks and beaches. I was really looking forward to looking around when I started having a panic attack. It started out slowly and I was just trying to control it with deep breathing. It wasn’t long before it turned into a full fledged panic attack, heart beating super fast, nausea, sweating. It was horrible. I told my hubby to pull over and puked in the parking lot of one of the cute little parks. I haven’t had a panic attack like that in years. I’ve known Pete for over 7 years and he’s never seen me like that.

So, what do I do when I’m having an attack? Here are some very practical things I do to get through my anxiety.

1- Ginger Ale, Gravol  and Gum ~ I’ve never gone onto any fast acting anxiety medications like Ativan, I haven’t felt the need to especially in the last few years as my panic attacks have been fairly well controlled. I take my anti-anxiety/anti-depressant every day, but nothing to take when I feel an attack coming on. So Ginger Ale and Gravol are my go to’s. They both help cut the nausea and the Gravol helps me settle down and pass out for a little while (see tip #3) I get very physical reactions to my panic attacks, so gum is always helpful after throwing up.

2- Remind myself of what I can control ~ The only thing we can truly control is ourselves. How we react, what we think, what we do. When I feel so out of control I find it helpful to picture myself in a box and remind myself over and over that I can’t control what people think of me when I’m like this, I can’t control the circumstances that led to the panic attack, I can’t even really control whether or not I throw up, but I can control myself and my thoughts. I had an instructor once explain it as the hula hoop. We can only control what happens in our hula hoop, not in anyone else’s.

3- Go to Bed ~ Getting some sleep make a world of difference for me! Thankfully the Gravol leaves me sleepy, so if I can get an hour or two of sleep, I usually wake up feeling refreshed and with a better outlook on life. I find having a weighted blanket or at least a heavy blanket or comforter helps me settle as well. I tried just throwing a small blanket over myself at first, but it really didn’t help. Once I put something heavier on, it seems to help control some of the reaction to anxiety (shivering, shaking, wakes of panic etc.)

4- Pray ~ Prayer helps to remind me of the bigger picture. God is ultimately in control of everything… the small things and the big picture things. It also reminds me that I am not alone. I am never alone, God is always there walking with me through the good times and the bad.

Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” ~ Deuteronomy 31:6

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” ~ Psalm 139:7-10

Finally friends, I want to remind you (and myself) anxiety does not define you. Let me say that again, because if nothing else helps you from this post, I want you to know that anxiety does not define you. I was really worried I would have another panic attack the next day, but I didn’t. I was fine, my anxiety attack did not define me or how the weekend went. I still had a great time. I am just a regular person who has panic attacks sometimes. There is nothing wrong with you if you have anxiety like me. It’s a sickness and it can be dealt with and overcome to live a happy, healthy and fruitful life. Don’t be afraid to seek help if you need it, it is nothing to be ashamed of.

What are some of the ways you cope with stress/anxiety or panic attacks? I’d love to hear from you! The more “tools” we can have in our belts to fight these kinds of things, the better! We’re in this together.

xoxo,

  Caroline

Posted in Hope & Encouragement, Life, Motherhood

Obsessed with Picture Perfect

Fall is here and that means Pumpkin patch season!! I love going to our local pumpkin patch to get pumpkins and pick apples. I’ve been twice in the last week! As long as it isn’t raining, I’m game to go! Shopping local is awesome and I love to support local. Plus, the fruit always tastes better and lasts longer as it’s straight from the farm!

The other day I was on a field trip with Lily. I was struck by how many people were snapping photos after photo after photo of their kids rather than just enjoying the time with their kid. Moms were stuck behind their cameras or cell phones moving their kids around and telling them to sit still to get the perfect picture. Kids were fidgeting and trying to run away making moms more and more upset.

Are we so obsessed in today’s world with getting the perfect picture to put on our social media rather than the moments in time we get to spend with our loved ones? We’re so concerned about portraying our perfect life on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter that sometimes I think we forget to enjoy the time we get to spend with our kids. I’ll admit, I’m guilty of it too. As soon as I snap a cute picture of the girls I start thinking about how I can put it on social media. If I don’t like the picture, there is no chance I’m posting it! We “airbrush” our lives to make them look how we want rather than actually connecting to people on a human level and relating to them in our struggles and weakness, joys and strengths. He wants us to be authentic. It’s sad really how disconnected our world is becoming. There are more and more ways to connect with others, but is having a device in our hands or in front of us really connecting with people?

When Christ died for us, He did it so He can have a relationship with us and we can have one with Him. God is all about relationships, that’s why He’s 3 in 1, that’s why He created us in the first place. He wants us all to live in relationship. His greatest commandment is to Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31. There is nothing more important to God and there should be nothing more important to us.

I just pray that as I snap my pictures my images won’t be more important to me than the subjects I’m taking pictures of!

xoxo

   Caroline

Posted in Hope & Encouragement, Life, Motherhood, Preemies

Overcoming Mom Guilt

This is the time of year my “Mom Guilt” kicks into high gear. It’s almost Lily’s birthday, she’ll be 4 next week. I still can’t believe that, but it’s true! You can read all about her miracle birth story in my post My Preemie Miracle.

First time holding my precious baby girl!

4 days before Lily was born, I was in the ER with severe upper right abdominal pain. It was my third time in the ER in the 6 and a half months I was pregnant. I had gallstones and the way Lily was sitting in my tummy was causing them to be pushed out. Talk about pain! I was 13 weeks pregnant when it first happened and I was sure I was miscarrying. The pain was unimaginable. Thankfully it was just gallstones and not the baby! Anyway, when I got to the ER that third time, they did the standard tests of temperature, heart rate and blood pressure. My blood pressure was through the roof… I remember seeing 184/something. When I was in at 19 weeks, the nurses had told me that after 20 weeks any woman who comes in to the ER with stomach pain automatically gets sent up to the maternity ward. Even though I was almost 29 weeks, I was not. I was kept in the ER. That was my first mistake. I knew they had said that to me on my last visit, but everyone just kept putting my high blood pressure off as being from the pain. I should have pushed to go up to the maternity ward. Both of my sisters also had early deliveries due to preeclampsia (Don’t know what Preeclampsia is? Read my post: What is Preeclampsia?) Not 11 weeks early, but still early. I should have known better. I knew the symptoms of preeclampsia. I wasn’t having some of the more common symptoms, such as headache and vision problems, so I guess I just ignored it.

There are so many “what ifs” that run through my head! What if my preeclampsia was caught earlier? Would they have been able to keep Lily in longer? What if I didn’t have a routine prenatal appointment 4 days later when it was finally caught? What if I had a seizure, or a stroke? I was at home by myself for those 4 days. Anything could have happened in those hours Pete was at work. What if, what if, what if…

What if’s cause guilt. We second guess what we did. We think of all the ways we could have done things better. We strive to be perfectionists (at least I do!) and when something doesn’t go perfectly as planned, we heap on the guilt. I believe we are harder on ourselves than we are on anyone else. We need to learn to have some compassion on ourselves as well.

So, how do we move past that Mom guilt? Thanksgiving.

I am thankful Lily is a lively, active, smart and challenging. She is a completely typical 4 year old! I am thankful nothing happened in those 4 days between when I was in the ER and when Lily was born. I am thankful I had that doctors appointment set up already. I am thankful for Lily’s safe delivery and for my safety that day. I am thankful for our time in the NICU, I really am. It’s not how I would have planned things to go, but we were so blessed by our time there by seeing our family and friends come around us and support us, by feeling God right there with us and being completely confident He would provide for us no matter what the outcome was. We had the best possible outcome, but I know there are others who do not. But there is always something to be thankful for. There is always something other than guilt that we can focus on and be thankful for, even if it is just the fact that God is walking through this time in our life with us. He will never leave us or forsake us and for this reason we can be strong and courageous (Deuteronomy 31:6).

So, if you are feeling Mom guilt today, think about all the things you are thankful for. Write them down! Start a gratitude journal! Tell them to someone! Tell them to God! The more we are thankful for, the less we feel guilty for.

xoxo

Caroline

Posted in Hope & Encouragement, Life

Lessons Learned while Whale Watching

Do you do daily devotions? I try to. I’d love to say I do it every day, but I don’t. I should, but it doesn’t always happen. Lately I’ve been using the First5 App. I set the alarm on it to go off at 7:30am. I’ll admit though, I am NOT a morning person. My First 5 minutes of my day are not my best minutes to give to God! So, I usually do my reading at night, I’m much more coherent then.

The other night the devotion was based on Psalm 42 with focus on verse 5: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?”

Basically it was about not fixating on our emotions or anxious feeling, things that are forever changing, but instead to fix our eyes on God who is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8.)

When I was in my early 20’s, I went off to Bible School (Capernwray Harbour Bible Centre) for two years of Biblical studies. That was a big time in my life of learning about the Bible and myself as well as a time of God revealing His character to me. As part of my second year of studies (Leadership Training) we went on a retreat to Tofino, BC (which is one of my favourite places in the entire world! The beaches are gorgeous and there is so much to explore!) One afternoon we went on a whale watching tour. I’d been on another tour out of Victoria before, but not Tofino. Tofino boasts seeing some amazing grey whales and we saw one after a bit of a bumpy ride out of the sheltered cove.  Now, I tend to get a little sea sick from time to time. I was fine on our whale watching tour in Victoria, so I thought I’d be OK on this one. I was wrong, terribly wrong.

We were quite far out, so after I got sick, we had to go all the way back with frequent stops for me to “feed the fish” as they say. As we headed back, our tour guide told me to keep my eyes focused on the mountains on the horizon. He said the more you keep your eyes focused on something that was not moving, the less sick I’d get. He was right, if I focused on the waves around us, or my friends on the boat or the other boat, I’d start throwing up everywhere.

The Bible often refers to God as being our rock (2 Samuel 22:3, Psalm 18:46, Psalm 40:2, Psalm 94:22, Isaiah 26:4.) As I was focusing on the mountains, those beautiful unmovable rocks, I was reminded of this. God is our steady rock. As long as we fix our eyes on Him, it doesn’t matter what else is going on around us, we won’t “get sick.” God is like a rock, unchanging, steady and immovable. His character is always the same, and He is always faithful, even if we are going through emotional turmoil or an anxious time in life. Keep your eyes on the Lord, He is our refuge in times of trouble.

“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.” Psalm 18:2-3

What are some things you do for daily devotions? Is there anything you use to remind yourself or keep yourself accountable? I’d love to hear what you do… it’s definitely an area in my life I’d like to improve on.

xoxo

Caroline

 

Posted in Hope & Encouragement, Life

Loving Discipline

I wrote a post a few weeks ago called 3 Words to Stop Arguing with your Toddler. I feel like I’ve gotten into a bad rut of yelling at Lily and Maggie when I’m “disciplining” them. That’s not real discipline, they get nothing out of it, I just end up feeling bad for yelling. It makes me feel even worse when they are playing house together and whoever is playing the Mom yells at whoever is playing the child.

Anyway, one of the techniques I’ve been using lately to diffuse the situation, both for myself and the girls, is taking a little breather and reminding myself and them that I love them. Just saying I love you makes a huge difference.

Here’s a little piece of what I wrote:

“Rather than yelling or getting upset, I stop and tell them I love them. It doesn’t mean they don’t get a time out or have to say sorry for their actions. There are still consequences. But it really just resets the whole situation. It reminds them that I am doing this because I love them, not out of spite, or being mean or just because I feel like it. I love them and I want them to know right from wrong. I love them and I want them to learn to be kind to each other and others. I love them and I want them to know whining is not going to get them what they want in life and that sometimes they’re going to have to work really hard to get what they want. I love them and I want them to be able to share with others and make friends. I love them and I want them to learn to be responsible and work hard at whatever tasks they are given.”

My Aunt, one of my most loyal followers, sent me an email the next day. In it she said “I am currently in the prophets for my daily Bible reading, and reading your blog this morning so resonated as to the heart of God for us – His love is always at the core of necessary discipline and consequence.” I hadn’t even thought about that when I wrote the post. It’s absolutely true though.

“My son, do not reject the discipline of the Lord
Or loathe His reproof,
For whom the Lord loves He reproves,
Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.” ~Proverbs 3:11-12

“Behold, how happy is the man whom God reproves, So do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.” ~Job 5:17
I’m not going to pretend that I understand God’s discipline. How can a loving God allow bad things to happen to us? How can I discipline my children?I love them!  If you are going through a tough patch in life, in no way would I ever suggest it’s God discipline on you. Have you ever read the book of Job? Yeah, his friends got quite the scolding from God for suggesting Job’s struggles were because he had sinned against the Lord, even though Job insisted his innocence throughout. Besides, who am I to judge. I’ve made my fair share of mistakes in life. We live in a fallen world. Bad things are going to happen. But, God uses those things for our good. Was Lily born prematurely as God’s discipline to us? I have a hard time believing that. But I do know that God used that extremely difficult time in our life for good. God taught me a lot about Himself and His character during our NICU stay. He showed Himself as love, peace, healer, provider, miracle worker. He loves us and He wants the best for us. We were created in His image and He wants us to grow into that more and more each day.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
xoxo
   Caroline
If you don’t already own a Bible, here is one I recommend: Life Application Bible (New American Standard Bible)
Its easy to read language and easy to understand and apply to life.
Posted in Hope & Encouragement, Life

The Lame Walking

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” ~Revelations 21:1-4

I don’t often write about my Dad. I guess I’m still in some sort of denial. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease the week before Pete and I got married. In the 5 and a bit years since then, his health has drastically declined. He’s got dementia and they believe he has some other neurological diseases that have contributed to how fast he has gone down hill. My Dad was always the big 6’6″ gentle giant. He was my hero (he still is, it’s just different now). He is now confined to a wheelchair as he is a severe fall risk. When he was standing up before, his blood pressure was dropping so low he would pass out. He went in to the hospital after my mom called 9-1-1 when he passed out in March of this year. They transferred him to a car home as soon as a bed was open. So, yeah… seeing your Dad who was always larger than life to you now wheelchair bound and hardly able to communicate has been difficult.

My Mom and Dad

Lily and Maggie really don’t know my Dad any other way. It makes me so sad that they didn’t get to spend time with him before this disease stole so much of his life. I know my older nieces and nephews have memories of my Dad when he was still relatively healthy (looking back now we see some signs that he’s probably been sick for a while). I wish so bad my girls had this!

A few weeks ago after we had visited my Dad, Lily was asking about Pake (this is what my kids call my Dad. It’s Frisian for grandpa) being in a wheelchair. I explained that it wasn’t safe for him to stand anymore. Honestly, it’s been so long I doubt he’d have the strength in his legs to get up anymore. She seemed OK with that answer and we just carried on. Later that day as I was putting her and Maggie to bed she asked if we could pray for Pake to walk again. Talk about breaking my heart!!! She’s so precious and thoughtful sometimes, it just blows my mind coming from a 4 year old. I almost said no, we can’t pray for that, it won’t happen. But, God is the God of miracles and I don’t want to doubt Him or her faith in what God can do! We talked a bit about it and I said that Pake likely wouldn’t walk again until Jesus came back and healed all the sick. We still prayed Pake would walk again, even if it was when Jesus returned.

“But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall.” ~Malachi 4:2

Earlier this year there was a major bus crash involving a hockey team here in Canada, the Humboldt Broncos (you can read about it here if you don’t know about it). We’re a big hockey family. I have nephews and nieces who play hockey and we were raised on Hockey Night in Canada. Hockey was one of the things that Pete and I instantly bonded over when we first met, although he unfortunately cheers for the wrong team. That’s a whole other story though. Last week, the Broncos played their first game since the accident. I was glued to the TV, it was just so emotional, both sad and happy. Most of the surviving players were there in attendance. A few of them are now paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. Lily was watching with me and looks at me (I was probably crying) and says “He’ll walk again when Jesus comes back, right Mom?” Talk about faith like a child. For her to put those conversations we had together, is incredible.

I personally cannot wait for the day I see my Dad and these young hockey players walk again!

 “Yet those who wait for the Lord Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.” ~Isaiah 40:31

xoxo,

Caroline

Posted in Hope & Encouragement, Life

Getting through the Scary parts of Life

It’s been a bit of a rainy week here in BC. On rainy afternoons (especially when I need to get some work done) I’ll sometimes put on a movie for Lily and Maggie to watch. Right now they are obsessed with the Barbie- Dolphin Magic movie. It’s a cute little movie about mermaids and dolphins and I don’t mind hearing it in the background as I work, unlike some of the shows they choose!

Its not a scary movie by any means, but at the beginning one of the dolphins gets captured. They both get a little scared during this part. I always have to remind them not to worry, that they know the end of the movie (dolphin gets saved… blah, blah, blah), they know what happens, so there’s nothing to be scared of.

I got to thinking today as I reminded them of this yet again, isn’t this so true of our lives as Christians? We know how the story ends, we know Christ has victory over sin and death! No matter what happens in this life, scary or uncertain, we can walk through it with the knowledge of what happens in the end.

“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” ~1 Corinthians 15:55-57

We’ve got a lot of things coming up in the next few months, a lot of uncertainties and unknowns. Pete is scheduled to have surgery on his elbow in the next couple months. He’s been in constant pain for months due to his arthritis and damage to the joint from him being a hemophiliac. So, he’ll be off on EI for a while recovering. We have no idea how long that could be. They’ve said anywhere from 3-6 months, and that’s provided everything goes as planned. Him not working will change things financially for us again. I’ll likely have to look for work again as we can’t afford to live without his full income.

We’ve been praying about and exploring different options for months now. It’s scary not  knowing what lies ahead of us. I’m a planner, I like to have things organized and know what is happening. Spontaneity is not my strong suit.  I make checklists all the time, especially for big events! But I can’t for any of this. I can’t plan if I don’t know whats going to happen.

But, I do know the ending of my story. Christ has given me victory over sin and death. Whatever else happens between now and the end of my story, no matter how unknown or scary parts of the movie might be, in the end there is victory! He offers this to all of us. All we have to do is believe Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior and in His grace and mercy, He offers us this amazing gift of eternal life! Death will not have the victory over us, Christ has already taken the punishment for us. What an amazing comfort! It’s easy to get caught up in the details of our lives (and I’m not saying those details aren’t important, they very much are) without looking at the big picture.

“We will sing for joy over your victory, And in the name of our God we will set up our banners. May the Lord fulfill all your petitions.” ~Psalm 20: 5
“O sing to the Lord a new song, For He has done wonderful things, His right hand and His holy arm have gained the victory for Him.” ~Psalm 98:1
Take comfort my friends… we know the ending!
xoxo
   Caroline
Posted in Motherhood, Preemies

Reflections of a NICU Mom

September is NICU awareness month. Before I had Lily I had only heard of a few people who had spent time in the NICU with their babies. But you never fully understand it until you go through it yourself. Its hard to explain the roller coaster of emotions that you go through when you’re there. Its a real contradiction; you’re excited yet terrified, happy yet sad, heartbroken yet thankful. Looking back now almost 4 years later, I still don’t know if I’ve fully come to terms with what happened.

The birth of your child is supposed to be an exciting time for everyone. When you are told your baby is going to be born prematurely, everything changes. We weren’t ready for her to come, emotionally or physically. We had literally just gotten her crib the day before she was born. It wasn’t even put together yet. Her nursery was no where near being done. I was supposed to have another 3 months to get ready. But she was coming whether we wanted to or not. We were both in danger, so she had to come out then (read my post about our Preemie Miracle ) 

I missed out on a lot of things I thought I would experience when having a baby. I missed out on labour and having a “normal” vaginal birth. I didn’t even get to be the first one to see her. Multiple doctors and nurses met her before I did. My husband saw her and spent time with her before I did. Even my parents and my sister could go and visit her before I was allowed out of the maternity ward. It was tough. Those are all things I would say I needed to grieve during our time in the NICU. It’s OK to mourn things not going the way you expected, as long as you don’t let the grief take over. I think it’s an important part of the healing process.

You see, it’s not just the baby who needs help, support and healing… it’s the parents too. Of course the baby is the primary focus, but our emotional health as new parents is important to. You can’t be a good parent if you can’t take care of yourself first. I had to learn this the hard way by leaving my daughter at the hospital overnight to go home and get a shower and a good nights sleep in my own bed. It was heart wrenching to leave her there. I had to learn this by taking the time to go for a walk or get a tea to drink even though my Mom guilt made me think I needed to be in Lily’s room 24/7. The only way I was able to do this was that I knew she had the BEST care possible. She was exactly where she needed to be. We had the most well equipped baby sitters ever, our NICU nurses and doctors. I can’t even begin to express the appreciation I have for these women and men. They would leave their families for 12-24 hours at a time to come and take care of my baby. They would talk me through all the medical jargon and explain to me in plain English what was going on and what the plan for her way; they explained all the beeps and lights on the machines Lily was hooked up to, they made me feel like a person… a normal person. Not just a zombie who was going through the motions (even though I felt like it at times!)

To be honest, I didn’t really feel like a real mother until Lily started breast feeding around 2 months old. I pumped religiously before that so she could still have my milk, but there was so little else I felt like I could do. The nurses let us change her diaper in the isolette and we bathed her, but that’s about all we could do other than cuddling her (I sure did enjoy the snuggles though! She does not like to cuddle anymore… maybe I used them all up while she was in the hospital). When I finally got to nurse her it was something only I could do for her. No one else, only me… her Mother. It is one of my most special memories.

The whole time we were there, even the day she was born, I was scared but I had this deep sense of peace. I knew that no matter what happened, we would be OK. We would just deal with whatever our new normal was. Whether she needed glasses from being a preemie, or was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, or needed heart surgery because of the hole in her heart… all I can say is I know God was with us walking every step of the way in our NICU journey. That’s the only explanation I can come up with!

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” ~Phillippians 4:7

xoxo

Caroline

Read more related articles about our NICU journey:

A Day in the Life of a NICU Momma

Must Haves for Bringing Home a Preemie

Getting through a NICU stay

My Preemie Miracle

What is Preeclampsia

Posted in Hope & Encouragement, Life, Motherhood, Preemies

3 Words to Stop Arguing with your Toddler

It’s been a long, hot, smokey summer here in BC. Our province has literally been on fire and the smoke has basically taken over. I’ve lived in BC pretty much all of my 36 years and I have NEVER experienced smokey air like this. The air quality has been so bad, we’ve been forced to stay inside on many occasions. I’m still a little cautious with Lily’s lungs because of her being so premature (read that story here ) She’s at a higher risk for asthma and other breathing problems because she was born with underdeveloped lungs. For those of you with toddlers, you know what staying inside for multiple days means… lots of whining, arguing and tantrums.

An Image of Vancouver in the smoke from CTV News Vancouver (https://bc.ctvnews.ca/dramatic-difference-vancouver-skyline-transformed-by-smoke-1.2456182)

My girls need to burn (bad word choice, no pun intended) off energy and they LOVE being outside. There’s only so much energy they can burn off while playing inside. There’s less room, so they’re in each others space more, which leads to more arguing. It’s an endless cycle some days. Bedtime is the worst here in our house. The girls still have pent up energy and try to get it all out before going to sleep. Getting them ready for bed is exhausting. I started to feel like I was just yelling at them all the time and they didn’t listen anyway. I’d end up with 2 streakers running down the hallway while I threatened “don’t make me get Daddy up here!!” Some nights Pete would just have it with the screaming and arguing and talking back he’d come up anyway. They usually smarten up a bit when Daddy’s around.

One night I was at my wits end! We’d been stuck inside for 2 or 3 days. Our only outings had been grocery shopping and to PetSmart to get them out and see the fish (they love the fish!) I was on the floor, close to tears, after fighting with them for what seemed like FOREVER over which pajamas to wear and then actually putting those pajamas on. They just would not listen.

I couldn’t help but think to myself “this is not working…” I took a moment just to take a breath and regain some composure. Then I looked at Lily and I said “Hey Lily, you know what? I LOVE YOU!” Then I looked at Maggie and said “Hey Maggie, you know what? I LOVE YOU!” I think they were a little shocked at first! I brought them both over for a little hug and snuggle and from them on, the whole getting ready for bed routine went a lot smoother.

I don’t know if it was me taking a moment to gather myself and remind myself that I love them, or if it was me reminding them that I love them. Maybe I’d been yelling too much for too long and they’d tuned me out. But those 3 simple words made such a difference to our night. I’ve tried it a couple other times when we’re having a tough time dealing with big emotions. Rather than yelling or getting upset, I stop and tell them I love them. It doesn’t mean they don’t get a time out or have to say sorry for their actions. There are still consequences. But it really just resets the whole situation. It reminds them that I am doing this because I love them, not out of spite, or being mean or just because I feel like it. I love them and I want them to know right from wrong. I love them and I want them to learn to be kind to each other and others. I love them and I want them to know whining is not going to get them what they want in life and that sometimes they’re going to have to work really hard to get what they want. I love them and I want them to be able to share with others and make friends. I love them and I want them to learn to be responsible and work hard at whatever tasks they are given.

What are some ways you deal with whinny, overtired toddlers? How do you and your family cope with big emotions and tantrums?

Related article:Loving discipline

Posted in Crochet, Hope & Encouragement

Mermaid Give Away!!

Update September 10, 2018- The mermaid was donated to the Surrey Memorial NICU to be given as a gift to an older sister of a NICU baby. Our neighbours in the NICU had a little girl when they were in the hospital. A stay in the hospital is hard on all family members, especially older siblings. If she can bless one of those little girls, I’m a happy camper!

She’s almost done!! Just a few finishing touches left on this gorgeous little mermaid! Originally I was making her to donate to an organization that makes care bags for people (including kids) undergoing cancer treatments here in BC. Unfortunately, the lady organizing the bags had to take a bit of a break due to family reasons (totally get it!!)

Anyway, I still want her to go to a deserving little girl. Do you know of a special little girl who would absolutely love and deserves this little mermaid? Drop a comment or email me at caroline@lilymags.com with your nominations.  On September 10th I will decide on one special girl to receive this. (Canadian residents only- not affiliated with Instagram or Facebook)

Click bellow for some great crochet patterns from Craftsy

Everything you need to knit, crochet, spin and weave at Craftsy.com

Posted in Hope & Encouragement, Life

BeyondBeanie ~ Brand Ambassador

I’m super excited about this latest partnership I’ve been able to make! A couple weeks ago, I was contacted to see if I wanted to become a brand ambassador for BeyondBeanie. Honestly, I’d never heard of them or their mission before. I was intrigued though. After looking into it some more, I fell in love with the concept! All their products are handmade by Bolivian artists. Each artist signs their work and receives a fair wage for their work!

As if that wasn’t enough, each purchase made goes to helping kids in Bolivia! Is that not the coolest thing ever?!?

After reading all this, I was totally onboard with being a brand ambassador for them! Not only are they providing jobs and fair wages for women, they are also helping children at the same time!

“beyondBeanie was co-founded by Hector Alvarez and Paty Lucero in2014. The company was the result of a backpacking trip that Hector did to Bolivia to visit Paty. Together, they discovered beauty in the rich and colorful textures of Bolivia. They also witnessed the harsh reality of severe poverty in Bolivia… Using an awareness of both the beauty and the not-so-pretty, Hector and Paty dedicated themselves to combine their expertise in business and design to create a fashion line to represent the colorful spirit of Bolivia” (https://beyondbeanie.com/pages/media-kit)

According to World Vision, Bolivia is

“One of the poorest and most underdeveloped Latin American countries, Bolivia faces declining economic growth while drug production and usage climb… Bolivia has one of Latin America’s highest rates of gender violence, affecting women at home and in the workplace. Many children are threatened by exploitation from human trafficking and cyberbullying.”

I am honored to have been asked to be a part of this and I would LOVE if you wanted to be a part of this amazing mission with me! You can shop directly through this BeyondBeanie link and use my code HULTGREN77 for 25% off!! Happy shopping and happy sharing!

love,

Caroline

Posted in Life, Motherhood

Holidays 2018

Sorry I’ve been a little MIA lately! Pete took 2 weeks off of work and we had a GREAT little vacation with our family. Here are some highlights!!

Camping: We went for 3 nights and 4 days camping at Rolley Lake just outside of Mission, BC. It was fantastic! Gorgeous campsite; great little beach by the lake; awesome weather! You can read all about it here!

Also check out my Ultimate Family Camping Checklist downloadable PDF

Click here for your FREE PDF

Road Trip: Every year at the end of July, my sister and brother in law in Enderby host a big family birthday bash for my 2 nephews. My oldest nephew, Ethan’s, birthday is July 27th and his younger brother, Myles’, birthday is July 30th. So it works out well to do them all together. This year Ethan turned 18 and Myles turned 10, so it was kinda a big year for them both! We had just got home from camping, so rather than camp out in my sister’s yard like we have in the past, we decided to book a hotel. It’s a good 5 1/2 hour trip from our place, so we left fairly early on the Saturday and made it there mid afternoon. Everything went well, other than 1 minor puking incident for Maggie. She gets car sick and I hadn’t brought any Gravol along 🙁 Poor kiddo… she was fine and fell asleep after she puked! On the way home we took some Gravol from my sister so we could avoid another incident! We stopped in Merritt for supper at my other sister’s house. So, the girls got to see all of their cousins that weekend! They had so much fun. Their big cousins are so good with them and the girls just love playing with them all, they look up to them a ton.

8 of 11 cousins enjoying some birthday ice cream cake!

Birchwood Dairy: If you are in or around the Abbotsford, BC area this summer (or any summer!) be sure to check out Birchwood Dairy! They have some of the best ice cream in town! Plus, they have a petting zoo area with cows, ponies, goats and sheep that the girls just loved. We bought a bag of apples and celery for $0.50 and the girls went to town feeding all the animals. They especially liked feeding the baby goats and the ponies. There’s also a playground with swings and a slide and some really cool old cars, trucks and tractors to look at. You can watch the farmers milk the cows in the parlor from 3:30-5:30pm as well, so we caught some of that on our way out. It was Pete’s first time seeing a milking parlor too!

Toronto Blue Jays: The Jays were playing in Seattle this past weekend. so we left the girls with my Mom and Pete and I made the trip down there. It was a long weekend and I think half of BC was heading down to see the Jays play, so we had a 2 hour wait at the border! I think that’s the longest I’ve ever had to wait. If you’re familiar with Abbotsford and the Sumas border crossing, we were stopped by Costco already! We hit up the Seattle Premium Outlet Mall on the way down there. Of course, we only left with things for the girls! Pretty typical once you become a parent!! When we got to Seattle, we parked near the stadium and just walked around for a bit and took in the atmosphere. Everywhere you turned there were more and more Blue Jay fans! We met fans from Calgary, Campbell River, Victoria and Cranbrook. Pete’s been to couple Jays home games in Toronto and he said it totally felt like a home game there. It was a sea of Blue Jays blue when you looked out at the stadium. We got to see an awesome game. We saw some great pitching from Marco Estrada, a home run by Aledys Diaz and to top it all off a streaker ran onto the field in the 9th inning. Pretty hilarious, but apparently he’s paying quite a hefty price. You can get fined up to $5000 and spend a night in jail. Turns out this guy was from Ireland too and is possibly facing deportation back there! I hope it was all worth it for him!

Abbotsford Agrifair: We wrapped up our holidays by heading out to the Abbotsford Agrifair. Abbotsford has this fair every year to showcase some of the Agriculture in our city. We’ve taken the girls before, but I think this is the first year they really started to appreciate it. The RCMP Musical Ride was there, so we watched a bit of that. It’s so amazing what they can do with those horses! So beautiful!! It was scorching hot there with no shade, so we didn’t stay for the whole thing. After that, Maggie wanted to go look at every single animal. After a brief meltdown by the Lego display, we went and had a snack and headed into the barns. It was pretty neat seeing all the cows, chickens, goats and horses. You can’t go to the fair without Mini-donuts, so we had that for a snack and then went back home for supper. It was hot, but the girls enjoyed it!!

Our little flower and honey bee!!

So, that’s our holiday recap!! What have you all been up to so far this summer? Any great places to recommend?

love,

Caroline

Posted in Life

Camping with Kids

We decided to take our 2 girls on their first camping trip this past week! We decided to stay pretty close to home just in case things don’t go as smoothly as planned. The first time we tried camping with Lily, she was 9 months old (6 1/2 when you account for her prematurity) and I was 2 months pregnant. This time we headed up to Rolley Lake just outside of Mission, BC (less than a 45 minute drive from our house!!) I’ve been there on many day trips, but never overnight. Its a gorgeous little spot with a great beach and lake to swim in (no motorized boats!)

Lily playing at the beach
Maggie playing at the beach

I was a little nervous at first. Our first trip with Lily didn’t end up going so well. We went to Tofino on Vancouver Island. It ended up being soooooo cold that week and it was the middle of July! Lily was miserable, we ended up leaving early and getting a hotel in Nanaimo. This time around, we had a fantastic time! The girls had so much fun playing and exploring around the campsite and we all enjoyed relaxing and swimming at the beach. It was much needed time for our family.

Our campsite was fantastic! It was fairly private with lots of big trees surrounding us. Even though it was smoking hot when we were there (30+ degree weather) the campsite was comfortable in the shade. We were only about a 2 minute walk from the flush toilets (there were outhouses closer, but Lily refuses to use those… I can’t say I blame her!) There was also a great little park right by the washrooms that the girls enjoyed playing at a few times. Once when I was there with Lily, there was a group of Korean kids playing there too. I don’t think they spoke a lick of English, but Lily insisted they were her new best friends on the playground! It was so cute. I love her friendly spirit.

Bedtime stories around the propane fire (there was a fire ban on while we were there)

The nights were late, the girls would be up in the tent giggling (or fighting) until 9:30 or 10, but I expected that. We brought along some new sand toys (thanks to my Mom!) that they could play with at the beach and in our campsite as well. We brought their Puddle Jumpers that they loved floating around with in the lake. Lily even floated on her back for the first time which is something they said she had to work on in her last set of swimming lessons. They’re both learning to ride their bikes, Lily has a strider bike and Maggie has training wheels, so we took their bikes along as well. They rode them a bit (Lily more than Maggie). Pete took them for a bike ride one afternoon. About 5 minutes later they came back. The girls were running ahead and there came Pete carrying both bikes! Needless to say, it wasn’t the best bike ride!

Some of my fondest childhood memories are of my family camping trips. My Dad used to get 2 weeks off every summer and we’d pack up the tent trailer and head out on the road! Sometimes we went to just one spot for 2 weeks, but usually we’d do a bit of a road trip and spend a night or two at any given campsite. The smell of campfires and lazy days on the beach, those were the best! My husband grew up in Ontario and his family owned a cottage on a lake. They spent weeks there in the summer. I know he loved it, that cottage holds a special place in his heart. He talks about it often. Needless to say, we really want our girls to have these great memories and experiences. Our dream is to get a tent trailer or travel trailer so we can sleep up off the ground and have somewhere to go if it’s raining that’s a bit more comfortable than a tent. One day…

I learned a lot from my Mom when I was little about getting ready for a camping trip. She was a master packer and she is probably the most organized person I have every known. The organization trait must have skipped me, but the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree when it comes to packing! I’ve traveled enough with just a back pack (Mexico, Europe) to get things to fit just right! I’ve also moved enough (Fun fact: between 2003-2013 I moved 8 times- twice across the country) to consider myself a pretty good packer.

So, I’ve compiled an Ultimate Family Camping list of all the things I bring along to go camping. I have a tote that I store things in year round. I have plates, bowls, cutlery and pots and pans dedicated to camping so I don’t have to pack up my everyday stuff. It makes getting ready super easy. I just grab my tote and throw it in the back of the van along with our food and other essentials and we’re on our way (well, it’s never quite that easy, but this takes out a lot of the hassle!) I feel like this list has helped me so much, I want to share it with you all! Click below to get your very own FREE printable PDF of the Ultimate Family Camping Checklist.

 

Click here for your PDF

 

Posted in Life

Surviving the First 5 Years of Marriage

My hubby and I just celebrated our 5 year anniversary on July 13th (Friday the 13th this year!) It was so lovely. We (I should say he) got a sitter and made dinner reservations for us at Greek Islands here in Abbotsford. If you are lucky enough to live in the Fraser Valley of BC, you’ve GOT to check out this restaurant! There are 4 locations (2 in Abbotsford, 1 in Chilliwack and 1 in Surrey) The food and service are AMAZING! (I have no affiliation with them, it’s just a great place to eat!)

Most amazing and fun day of my life!!

Anyway, I know 5 years isn’t an eternity, but here are some tips on how we’ve survived the first 5 years!

1- Communicate

Even if it means you’re going to start a fight sometimes. You need to say things to get them off your chest or you will just stew and stew about them. Tell your spouse what you are up to in the next few days. Take the time to just talk. It’s so important to keep open lines of communication. I can tell when my husband and I haven’t seen much of each other in a while (sometimes we go a few days between because of our work schedules) because our communication just isn’t where it should or could be. Which leads to me my next tip!

2- Make time to spend with each other

We try to make it a priority to go out (just the two of us, no kids) at least once every 2 months. We have a babysitting agreement with my brother and sister in law. We babysit their kids and they babysit ours. It’s worked out really well and given us the much needed time to reconnect. The past few weeks have been crazy with Pete and my work schedules. Pete’s been doing a lot of overtime and my teaching is always at night, so we don’t overlap at home much. Even just going out for dinner last night I feel so much more connected to him. We had a chance to talk, just us. It was great!

3- Keep the humour

Even though I tease Pete about telling “Bad Dad Jokes” all the time, he still makes me laugh! I love that we can still joke around and I love that we are passing that sense of humour on to our girls. It’s good to not take yourself to seriously sometimes. Life is tough and there is so much that can bog us down, but laughter is so good for the soul!

4- Keep the romance

Sometimes Pete just brings me home flowers or chocolates. I love that. It’s not usually on any specific day, he just does it if he knows I’ve had a rough do or something. I try to leave him little notes here and there, or send him special texts while he is at work to let him know I’m thinking about him. Even in the bedroom, it’s important to keep that spark alive. Some days I am so tired and sex is the last thing on my mind, but it always makes me feel more connected to Pete again afterwards. I’ve challenged myself in the last few months to not say no when he initiates. I know it’s important to him and it’s an important part to a marriage relationship.

5- Learn to lean on the Lord together

We have been through A LOT in 5 years. We’ve had multiple job changes, 6 months with neither of us working, an 11 week premature baby and subsequent 69 day hospital stay, financial struggles, aging parents, moving to a new city and 2 girls in 14 months. It’s been a little crazy and scary at times. But through it all, we know that God is in charge and we’re learning to trust him each day. This was one of the greatest lessons I learned during our NICU stay (you can read about my thoughts on that here) In the midst of our deepest financial struggles, we had to rely on the Lord to provide for us each and every single day. And He did! I don’t know why it still surprises me when He comes through in the end, He’s been faithful all along after all!

I’m no marriage expert, but these are 5 things that I know without a shadow of a doubt makes our relationship stronger. What are somethings you do to keep your marriage alive and growing?

     love,

Caroline