What We’ve Learned from the First Six Months of Renovating our Home

For many of our local Vancouver friends maybe it seems a bit show-offy to be writing about renovating what would be considered a pretty massive home to anyone hoping to buy in the city. Even the hardest workers amongst our generation are struggling to become homeowners of a condo or townhouse in the city and here I am about to go off about our sprawling rancher on a third of an acre. The catch, of course, is that we had to say goodbye to our coveted city-dwelling status and move to a small community a short ferry sailing from Vancouver. While Tom and I would love to still reap the benefits of raising our kids in the diverse, liberal mecca that is (ideally) the city, there is an undeniable trend building amongst our liberal friends and acquaintances towards a life with a little land, a garden, and room for our families to grow and play. The trade-off for losing out on some of those amazing city events and experiences is that we get to have a home that is unsullied by overbearing landlords, rent increases, or strata rules and regulations. Of course that #RenoLife is not for everyone; some people just wanna score a gorgeous, move-in ready remodel and if you’d rather go to the dentist than paint a room definitely do not buy a fixer-upper; it’s okay if it isn’t your thing. But for me, homes, like life, are all about the journey, and renovating has given me a much-needed outlet for my creativity at a time in my life (stay at home mom with two young, needy children) when I desperately need that outlet. So if you want renovation advice from someone who knows close to nothing about renovation, home ownership, or design: read on, friends!

We Are Our Own Masters! Home ownership is like adulthood: there are some really gratifying experiences associated with having independence but between those times of fun freedom are many, many un-fun responsibilities. Sure, you can spend half of every paycheque on cool vacations but in order to take those sweet vacay’s you have to do the work, file your taxes, go to bank appointments, take our your recycling, and do all that general adult stuff that you wish you didn’t have to do. The freedom that comes with both adulthood and home ownership comes at a price and that price is having to spend your time and money on things that are boring and mundane. Once you buy your own home and can no longer call your landlord to come fix shit when it breaks you gotta go old school and call your dad or call YouTube and learn to do it ya damn self. The upside is that if you feel spontaneously compelled to paint a room after a bottle of wine on a Friday night you can do it without asking anyone’s permission (except maybe your partner’s, depending what your relationship is like). Once when my husband was half asleep and hopped up on NeoCitron I asked him what he thought about me painting his beloved piano blush pink and he said “I’d love a pink piano”. Highly recommend asking for your spouses opinions in this way.

Do A Quick Google First This is the worst advice ever for a parent but the best advice for a homeowner. Do a quick google (or a deep dive, depending on the complexity and scope of the project you’re about to undertake) and educate yourself before jumping in. Assess whether your project will require a professional or if it’s something you can easily learn to do yourself. There are so many things that a human of basic intelligence can do on her own and hear me when I say that after you do it, even if you screwed it up the first and second times, you will feel so badass and proud of yourself when it’s done whether you planted a garden, demolished a shed, installed a light fixture, sanded and refinished a piece of furniture, patched a fence, or took apart the plumbing under your sink to get out all of the environmentally friendly millennial metal straws that your kids somehow poked through the drain. A quick google will also tell you when you’re about to do something that should really be left to a qualified professional, like, say, getting the rabid mama racoon and her three day old babies out from under your crawlspace and relocating them to a nearby wood.

Consider Starting with a Blank Slate Depending on what things look like when you first get possession of your new home (no matter the size!) it can sometimes help to tone down some of the more distracting elements in order to more easily find your own home style buried within the noise. If you are a first-timer like me who isn’t at all sure about your actual home style it can help to start with as blank a slate as possible and work from there. When we got possession of our rancher some of the rooms were dark, distracting, and oppressive despite the huge south-facing windows so I painted everything white. We’ve gone through at least 15 gallons of paint in six months. Once the turquoise, purple, and gold walls and murals had been whitewashed into oblivion (yeah, we bought a pretty eccentric home…) I was able to start putting together my own vision for each space, sometimes completely changing the functionality of a room. I know that not everyone loves the all-white-everything aesthetic that is so hot in home decor right now but sometimes it can be hard to see the potential in your home without removing the big distractions first.

Progress, not Perfection: this has been my mantra since we moved into this house. It’s much too easy to get sucked into the comparison game on Instagram without seeing any of the behind-the-scenes details. There’s no end to the filtered, perfectly staged homes featured on the internet but as always it’s not fair to compare our journey to someone else’s highlight reel, or our fixer-upper to their painstakingly remodelled Dream House; they may have worked ten years to get that house to where it is. To combat that I make sure I’m not fixating on getting each room “done” (what does that even mean, anyway?). Instead I just try to focus on functionality first. When each space is functional (or intentionally lacking function, but very pretty), then I can tick away at small improvements and make simple changes that I love. This can mean something seemingly major like painting the exterior of our house or something minor like moving some light fixtures around or reorganizing a closet. Prioritize whatever you have the energy and motivation to prioritize and eventually everything will come together. Some weeks we get a lot done on our home and some weeks we just look around and think through the next steps. This is true for seasons, too: we did a ton of projects in the Spring, Summer and early Fall, then settled in and are planning on taking Winter off to recoup (and pay off our bursting line of credit…).

Most Renovation Necessities Are Not Fun You already know this, but life is not HGTV. There are times that you will indeed have the time and money to do a full room makeover that completely transforms a space but more often than not renovating is about dropping a shitload of money on stuff that is explicitly not fun, like upgrading your roof, insulating your crawlspace, or getting a new fireplace insert. The majority of your money as a homeowner will go into boring stuff like that so be sure to really enjoy it when a fun project comes along that you’re stoked about! I wish that I had taken the time to enjoy the really good ones a little more instead of rushing through them to get to the next thing. So far I’ve found that the journey is just as fun as the “big reveal,” which I certainly wasn’t expecting when we got ourselves into this whole homeowner gig.

Don’t Be Afraid to Cut Corners I know many people might disagree with this one and normally if you’re gonna do something you may as well do it right the first time, but you don’t have to do everything the right way right away when it comes to your home, and as a logical adult you likely have an idea which things are structural (don’t take shortcuts) and which things are superficial (shortcuts often okay). Most of us won’t have the money to do every single update we want to do right away or even in the first few years and this is especially true if you have a lot of “un-fun” upgrades to do (lookin’ at you, plumbing and electrical!). In the meantime, there are a ton of shortcuts you can take to make your spaces look nicer while minding your budget. If you can’t afford to re-tile your entire front entryway you can paint or stencil that ugly tile to get you through a few years while you save up to do the job the right way. There are amazing high quality backsplash decals or peel-and-stick tiles to update a kitchen for the same purpose (kitchen reno’s are big bucks!). You can sand and stain dated wood floors rather than replace your entire home with expensive oak-engineered hardwood. A coat of paint and some new hardware can completely transform a dated kitchen or bathroom without having to gut it. If you’re renting you can often paint as long as you agree to paint it back before you move. Peel-and-stick wallpaper is another renter-friendly option that’s readily available on Amazon and comes off easily when you need to move. The moral of the story: there are a lot of options these days, so while you choose which things to throw your hard-earned money at you can still make changes that you love to the rest of your home.  Another way to cut corners is to be honest with the people you hire about your budget. We’ve saved lots of money by doing the cleanup and junk hauling parts of jobs ourselves to minimize labour costs. If we can prep a job ourselves or come in later and do the sanding and finishing, we’ll just ask the contractor to give us an itemized quote so we can decide how involved we want to be and what’s worth our time. Sometimes a quote can almost double because of the time it takes to clean up after tree-felling, demolition, etc. It’s hard work but you’ll save a lot by doing it yourself.

Be Patient This is a laughable concept to anyone who is following our renovation journey on our instagram account because we’re diving into new projects every weekend, usually before the current one is even finished. I know myself well enough to know that my motivation for projects ebbs and flows, so when I’m going through a phase where I’m energized and excited to get stuff done I roll with it and accomplish as much as I can before the inevitable “Netflix phase” (aka January to March). But when I say it pays to be patient I mean this in terms of furniture pieces. When you first move into a new place, whether it’s a sprawling rancher or your first tiny, cute bachelor apartment, it’s easy to just go nuts at IKEA and bring home all new stuff. Depending on your circumstances maybe this is the best option for you! But finding the absolute perfect piece at a thrift store or garage sale is the biggest thrill (at least for some of us nerds). It’s always worth it to wait a little while for something different and gorgeous that’s a good deal. Unless you’re freakin’ rich and then by all means get what you want! But second hand pieces are way cooler 🙂

After our first six months in our fixer upper we feel like it’s finally starting to feel like our family home. I can’t believe it took half a year but we’ve gotten our house to a great “blank slate” place and are ready to infuse some of the rooms with some more interesting concepts and starting thinking about those things that make a house into a home with personality: art on the walls, some gorgeous wallpaper, a funky kitchen backsplash. Unfortunately we are currently out of money so it’s time to get creative!

If you’d like to follow along on our journey feel free to follow us at @northwestrancher

Generating More “Good Days” by Identifying Anxiety Triggers

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If you’re a stay-at-home-parent then you know that some days feel amazing and some days feel like absolute shit. Obviously life is like that before we have kids too because circumstances are always in flux but I think that with every child you add to your family you also add a new depth to the lows and high to the highs. Those wonderful “good days” when you and your kids are all in sync and going with the flow and not under the influence of hormones, teething, sleep deprivation or a general latent crankiness become almost magical. Unfortunately the “bad days” when you all wake up short on patience and joy and everyone blows out their diapers and cries and you finally get 30 seconds to yourself only to realize you’re out of coffee… those mornings can turn into some real rock bottom days if you can’t figure out how to do a hard reset. Is this resonating? If not I’m gonna seem like a total Jackass Mom, but I’m gonna risk your judgement and continue.

At some point I realized something that shook me to my core: it usually wasn’t my kids determining whether a day was “good” or “bad,” IT WAS ME (insert sheepish look and apologies to my children). Specifically, the days were determined by my mental state which usually hinged on one single thing: whether I was feeling anxious that day or not. I know, I know, anxiety is such a buzzword right now and I’m sure you’re sick of hearing about it but it can be a big deal. Anxiety manifests in our lives in a ton of ways that can affect home, work, health, parenting, pretty much anything including… your ability to handle your day! Apparently.

First let me just mention how much power can come from getting to know yourself better. Learning about ourselves throughout our childhood and adolescence, our twenties and thirties, can unlock a lot of problem-solving potential in later life! Knowing why and how we do things the way we do them – at work, school, home, or when we’re dating – is crucial knowledge. We can use that knowledge to (hopefully) avoid making the same dumb mistakes over and over again or keep those mistakes from becoming harmful habits that continue to cripple us throughout adulthood. Self knowledge is an ongoing, lifelong journey but I think certain experiences like hardship can push us to discover our own minds faster than normal. I can’t be sure about everyone else but I don’t learn much from those perfect, joyful days where everything goes according to plan. I try to stay present and soak it all in but there aren’t many teaching moments in the good times. But during hardship phases, when my mettle is truly tested, I can often learn a lot about my own mental workings as long as I create the space to allow that to happen. Nothing has taught me more in such a short time than my hardest phases of motherhood.

After my first pregnancy I ended up with a severely colicky newborn with an unknown future due to a medical diagnosis we hadn’t been expecting. The crippling anxiety that hit me my first year as a mother made the anxiety I had been dealing with throughout university look, well, cute. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t go out, I couldn’t make time or room in my life for my friends, I couldn’t do anything so I completely shut down. For about ten months I just stayed home with my new baby bouncing on a yoga ball and crying. It wasn’t until after I had my second baby that I realized postpartum anxiety is normal for me but not nearly to that extent.

During that first year of motherhood I was in a survival state that didn’t leave a lot of time for philosophical deep-dives into my sense of self. But I guess I scraped together enough self-actualization to recognize that certain things triggered the onset of those first anxious feelings that had the potential to spiral into a full-blown, heart-racing, I-can’t-do-this Anxiety Attack. After the surprising realization that it was my own issues that charted the course for the day and not the kids and their crankiness, I started to pay more attention to how I felt on good or bad days (aka manageable or unmanageable days) to see if I could garner more control over the outcome of my days at home. Here are the things that I figured out I personally need to avoid to ensure that I have more “good” emotional days! I’d love to hear what your “bad day” triggers are, if you know them.

Hunger: the kids’ hunger, my own hunger, anyone’s hunger anywhere is a trigger for my feelings of inadequacy because apparently I’m a Feeder. Lack of food in the fridge makes me feel like I’m failing as a parent and human and when I don’t have something on hand to feed the kids (they get hangry every hour on the hour) everyone loses their shit collectively and the day goes downhill from there.

The Solution: on days when I need to majorly lessen the chance of a mama meltdown (like when Tom is out of town) I make sure that the fridge is stocked, fresh snacks are at hand, and meals are prepped and ready to be reheated quickly. If there’s nothing around we do an emergency stroller walk to the grocery store and buy every croissant available and a massive amount of fruit for the walk home.

Unrealistic Expectations: this is a huge one for me. I went into motherhood with a rigid expectation for what I should do each day and that expectation was: everything. I was making myself massive to-do lists and then berating myself if there was one thing that didn’t get done because the baby refused to nap that day. Allowing my day to be more flexible has served me better than most lessons I’ve learned over the course of the last three years. My “must do” list has become a “suggestions” list and if I ignore the whole thing to brave a solo beach day or go get coffee with a friend I don’t sweat it.

The Solution: learning to let the small stuff go has been an important and necessary step for me and my relationship with my anxiety. I have the perspective now to care less about the little things. My kids are still pretty young but I’m also making attempts to get more stuff done while they’re awake instead of during their naptimes. I’ve been incorporating my to-do list into their day and making it as fun for them as I can. Usually I can unload the dishwasher, bake or prep meals, load the laundry machine and get the laundry hung on the line, tidy up, and exercise by pretending it’s a fun thing Hen and I can do together. Kids love to help and she likes it a lot more than I do!

Lack of Routine: since my kids aren’t school age yet it’s easy to feel like we have no structure and are just floating through the day doing whatever. Both me and my kids respond better to a bit of a routine but as per above, we keep it pretty flexible. The outline of our day evolves naturally but gets more lax in the summertime.

The Solution: duh. Create a bit of a routine, even if it’s just a loose one: park in the mornings, books before naptime, a little screentime while you cook dinner just to keep the kids out of your hair. I’m going to try for a tighter routine in September and I have some pretty cool tools at hand that I’m excited to try out.

Staying Inside: even though getting out of the house is daunting some days (and becomes more daunting the more children you have!) every mom I know swears by it in order to gain some perspective and distract everyone long enough for a bit of a reset. If you have older kids you can get a pretty fun day trip in once in a while, but if you have younger ones like me you might have to keep outings pretty short and sweet. Currently our son sleeps 10-12, our daughter naps 12-2, and our son takes a second nap from 2-3, so I’m housebound for most of the day.

The Solution: I prep the stroller in advance for a quick morning outing and stay close to home by just doing a coffeeshop run, a visit to the nearby garden store, a hangout at the park around the corner, or just a long walk through some neighbourhood trails. We definitely don’t get out every single day but sometimes just hanging out in the front yard is enough!

Identity Outside of Motherhood: I’m still working on this one because it’s really hard. It took me multiple years of being a mother to admit that I not only want but need time away from my kids. There’s still a pervasive idea for many moms that our kids should be enough for us but why? If we’re multi-faceted women before we have kids why wouldn’t we expect to be multi-faceted women after we have kids? I think we need to play other roles besides just the mama one, and have other interests as well. It’s a necessity for sanity, I’m sure of it.

The Solution: I make time to do the things I like to do without my kids around, even if it’s just once in a while. Tom and I are pretty hardcore homebodies so we don’t need time out of the house super often. Just watching movies together, doing renovation projects, and the occasional date night are enough for us. He also has work and I chip away at my freelance writing projects when I’m able to. When I crave adult conversation I call a friend and we FaceTime or go for beers!

Not Exercising: I don’t care who you are, exercise helps clear your head and offers perspective. Sometimes just going for a walk (preferably in the forest) is enough but when I’m really working through some stuff I generally have to get some longer runs or harder workouts in to feel like I’m releasing some of the nervous energy I feel when I’m anxious about something.

The Solution: I haven’t felt very motivated this summer so Hennie and I have just been doing yoga together before bed and sometimes in the mornings as well. It’s a great way to get her to stretch and a great way for us to bond. I want our kids to grow up seeing us being active and prioritizing ourselves so they know that it’s important.

I’m always interested to learn more tools for handling anxiety; what are some of the things that threaten to send you into a Bad Day Tailspin? What do you do to combat them? Let’s learn together!

How the Phrase “It’s Just a Phase” is Saving Motherhood for Me

I’m the first to admit that motherhood isn’t easy. If you’ve followed our journey on social media for a while or you know me in real life then you know that it hasn’t been all sleepy newborn snuggles and sweet toddler affection over here. The addition of a child is an adjustment for everyone and we all have our own struggles but for me the difficulty felt so deeply ingrained in my emotional wellbeing and went overlooked for so long (who has the time!?) that it eventually became a part of me and my mothering worldview. Resentment, anger, and frustration became my norm. I was grateful but I wasn’t deep down in my core grateful. I didn’t feel like I really knew the meaning of the word, actually. Maybe somewhere amidst the colic, the medical diagnosis, the always-looming questions about Hen’s health and the complete shitshow that is raising back-to-back babies while moving to a new house in a completely new place (phew!) I got bogged down by my feelings of discontent.

It’s no surprise that those feelings started to colour my perception of motherhood. I was holding on to so much trauma that there was no room left for me to notice the characteristics that made my two kids unique and wonderful in my everyday present reality. Defining myself by how my journey had begun left no room for me to create new, freer versions of myself. Even though I was renovating my dream house with the love of my life in a new community that we loved with our two gorgeous babies I still had niggling feelings of discontent and even unhappiness. I was stealing joy right out from under myself and I felt so much shame because I knew I was doing it but couldn’t figure out how to set myself on a different course.

The biggest difference between first-time and second-time motherhood for me was always foresight. In the thick of the sleeplessness and colic and medical-mama-drama of that first year of motherhood I truly felt that I had no lifeline, that there was no end in sight. That first year felt eternal and my husband and I still agree that there were not many good moments in it but it ended. Colic sloooowly subsided, Hen slowly became more manageable, we slowly got a handle on her diagnosis. Bad days come, but if we’re lucky they also end.

The thing is, the second time around you have that hopeful knowledge to cling to and it helps with the teething and the sleep regressions and the rest but you quickly realize that it applies to the good stuff as well. The phase when your newborn blissfully passes out on your shoulder despite the low rumble of background noise at a party? That ends way too quickly. The phase when they need you to kiss their bumps and bruises ends, too. The phase when they need help getting their own snacks. The phase when they crawl into your bed at 4am and fall asleep, sweaty and content, in the crook of your body ends. There will come a point when they’ll solve their own problems, do their own homework, a time when they have so much going on in their own life that they won’t even remember to call. All the good stuff ends.

Unfortunately it took this constant, painful, roundabout realization of the finite nature of childhood for me to start practicing true gratitude for what I had. In order to remind myself about what I had learned I drilled the phrase “it’s just a phase” into my head and repeated it as necessary (luckily it applies to everything from toddler tantrums to weather systems). When you’re tired of the long, dark, cold days of winter you know that the spring will inevitably arrive and when you’re tired of applying endless layers of sunscreen to your sticky, sweaty kids you know to soak up those summer days because the autumn is coming, too. Of course none of this means that you have to love every minute of motherhood (I ain’t about that vibe!) but take it from a constantly rehabilitating complainer: seeing the silver lining makes it a whole lot more sweet.

Natural Kids Sunscreen Review

ThinkSport | This is my number one fave. It’s easy to apply, works well, and smells good. I like that it’s an SPF 50 for my pale English babies and I usually only have to apply it once in the morning on a sunny day (if we’re spending the entire day in the sun I apply it after Hen’s midday nap as well, just for insurance). In addition to the Kids one pictured above there’s a Sport version, a Baby version, and one called Everyday Face that I should probably start using myself before my face starts to look like an old leather handbag 🙂

Green Beaver | This is by far the greasiest sunscreen I’ve ever used. When I used it last summer it ended up greasin’ up my toddler, myself, and pretty much all of our furniture. The Pro to this sunscreen is that the water beads right off your skin when you use it, so it’d be a great option for kids who are spending a lot of time in water at the pool or beach. The Con is that it’s a thick formula so it’s tough to apply on kids and I had to scrub pretty vigorously with soap to get it off my hands after I applied it; if you wanted to get all the sunscreen off of your kids before bedtime you might have to work pretty hard in the bath to remove it all from their skin. Moral of the story: effective, but a pain in the ass.

Badger | If you’re a mama with tattoos you need a sunscreen stick! I never use a stick for everyday use because they’re difficult to apply on kids, faces, and large surfaces like arms and legs. But I started carrying one around when I got my forearm tattoos done and was working on patios all summer – gotta protect that expensive artwork! I highly recommend this stick for tattoos and easy application areas like the bridge of your nose. Bonus : it smells SO good, like vanilla and oranges.

Alba | As you can see from the Sharpie written on this tube, this sunscreen comes out super fast! It’s the thinnest of the sunscreens I’ve tried so it’s easy to apply on skin because it spreads really well, but there’s no easy way of getting it out of the tube without getting half the tube. More importantly, because the formula is so thin it ran into Hennie’s eyes from her forehead when we used it on her face last summer, leading to major meltdowns and aversion to sunscreen for a while after (ugh, fail!). If you can figure out the perfect amount of pressure to apply to the tube so it doesn’t shoot out and waste the lotion it’s an effective choice with good coverage for arms and legs, but I wouldn’t recommend using it anywhere near the eyes. For now it’s our Stroller Sunscreen.

Do you have any favourite kiddo sunscreens to recommend?

Earth Day should be Every Day

Happy It’s-Been-A-Week-Since-Earth-Day!

I didn’t want to post something about how crucial it is that we save the planet because I found that the internet was oversaturated with that sentiment and sometimes that makes our scrolling become immune to the real message. I’m so glad so many people posted and reposted those messages of urgency because it’s an urgent problem and it has become the most important problem that we as humankind need to solve (aka fix the problem we ourselves have made). There was also also a lot of influencer garbage being posted too, though. If someone is endlessly trying to sell you shit every day in their posts but takes one day off to talk about how important it is to reduce your consumption, that person is a fraud who is just trying to use the moment to get some likes. The internet makes it so easy to tap in collectively to an event and share information about it … and then leave it behind 24 hours later until the next year’s annual post. This is usually fairly harmless but when it comes to climate change every year that passes is crucial to the cause, so please join me in trying to talk about this stuff all year long – I don’t normally post about the environment but I think we all need to start making space for an ongoing discussion about what we’re doing to save this planet and how we can all better our choices so we can move collectively toward a more sustainable future, fast. It’s too late for a bandaid solution now and fast is our only option. We have an opportunity to use the internet as a platform for us to learn from, encourage, and inspire each other. So let’s dive right into my own unsolicited two cents 😂

The latest climate change report stated that we have 11.5 years to reverse the damage we’ve done to our planet, and that’s frightening. My kids will just be entering their teen years then and if Tom and I have raised them even remotely well they’ll be asking why the hell they’re being left an irrevocably damaged planet and what, if anything, we did to try and stop that from happening. We don’t want to have to tell them we did anything less than our absolute, back-breaking best to pass on a beautiful (albeit healing) earth, so we’ve been making as many changes as we can in our lifestyle to attempt to do as much as we are able to do.

It’s really hard to do everything. In fact unless you have unlimited resources it’s impossible, and we’re all in different situations so I think it’s understandable that we each do whatever is within our personal means to do. And I don’t mean we change one little thing to assuage our own guilt and call it a day. The time for fake change and ignorant bliss has long past. Start today and every few months re-evaluate what you can do. Can you make more eco-friendly swaps? Can you go meat-free 6 days a week instead of just 1? Can you stop buying gd water bottles for once and for all (seriously this is SO BAD, but obviously don’t do this if you live in an area without safe drinking water). That’s why we do what makes sense for us to do.

I write all this in the spirit of informing, not preaching. It’s not about who is doing the most, it’s about all of us doing as much as we can. I’m learning more all the time about my impact and the impact of my family. This is an ongoing conversation that Tom and I have and that we hope to include our children in as soon as they’re old enough to talk (lol, still waiting on that). Just in case you’re at a loss for ideas here are some places to start! We have incorporated or are in the middle of incorporating these changes and would love to answer any questions if you have them!

G R O C E R Y and K I T C H E N

  • Most people already know to bring fabric bags with them when they do a food shop (this is like, Environmental Impacts 101) but the little plastic bags in the produce and bulk sections are a killer too! You can replace them with reusable mesh produce bags you can bring to the store for your fruit, veg, and bulk purchases.
  • It’s amazing how many things can be replaced with a reusable product: I’ve replaced my parchment paper with a washable silicone pan liner (I was using parchment paper every single day!), there are great quality heavy duty and leakproof ziplock bags on Amazon as well as beeswax alternatives to clingwrap. You can use biodegradable cloths instead of paper towel, washable makeup remover pads, even biodegradable wooden dish scrubbers and toothbrushes that you can happily throw in with your regular compost at the end of its lifespan.
  • You can’t use what you don’t have with you, so throw a metal straw in your car, stroller, and backpack so you don’t have to use plastic when you need to stop for a coffee or takeout. Same goes for plastic cutlery when ordering takeout.
  • If you live near a bulk or zerowaste store (yay, big cities!) bring those bags and jars and fill up in bulk on whatever you can. This can greatly reduce the amount of plastic packaging that goes from your home to the landfill.
  • Purchase less “single serving” products like juice boxes, squeezepacks, cheese strings, individual yogurts. Buy these things in larger portions and use reusable cups and glass tupperware. If you’re able to, making hummus, guac, salsa, etc from scratch can save a lot of plastic containers over the years. Not all of us have time for that, but a lot of us do. Hummus is stupid easy and takes about 2.5 minutes though so nobody has an excuse for that one.
  • As your plastic tupperware gets worn out, replace it with glass – you can find options everywhere, even at Ikea, and they’re a little heavier but so affordable.

S H O P P I N G

  • start popping into a thrift store once a week – you never know what you’ll find! I score so many kids clothing items, toys, and housewares for a super low cost, and it makes me feel good to know I’ve kept something from going to the landfill. You’re not gonna find the secondhand stuff of your dreams every time, but you won’t ever find anything if you never go. The best find are kids shoes – they’re often priced around $3-$8 and barely used because kids grow so damn fast! New kids shoes can cost a LOT so if you’re near a thrift store but don’t have a lot of time to go through it all, just check out the shoes.
  • let friends and family know that you don’t mind receiving secondhand stuff sometimes! I think we often feel like a new gift is so much better than a used one and that if we give someone a secondhand gift it means we’re dirt poor (lol) but a lovingly-thrifted vintage toy or baby dress or a big basket of excellent used books is way cooler and took more time to choose than some neon plastic that someone bought on their phone on Amazon without a second thought. No shade to plastic toys, there are times when they bring major joy to our kids and last years and years, but I’ve seen firsthand how well kids play with less quantity and less flashy toys, and there’s something to be said for that, too.
  • I used to think making and receiving DIY stuff was a little ghetto, but I’ve since realized that these are just the best gift. Homemade play dough is freaky easy to make, the colours are better, it’s all natural, and you can choose your own scents with essential oils.

D I E T

  • Whelp, this is gonna be an unpopular suggestion, but also maybe not because I’ve received a ton of questions about all of the vegan recipes I’ve posted on IG and I know that a lot of people are making some changes for health, for planet, and for their love of animals. Veganism has such a weird negative stigma associated with it sometimes but meat and dairy are a major part of your individual environmental impact. I’m not going to cite all of my sources here because it’s so easy to find the information if you choose to look into it. I didn’t look into it on purpose for a really long time because I knew what I was going to find and I knew that my discomfort and guilt would make me want to make major choices that I didn’t feel ready to make. To be perfectly honest I don’t give a hot damn about animals being eaten (this makes me sound like a total monster and I’m very sorry but I’ve always felt much more tender-hearted toward humans in need than animals. But saving animals is a lovely bonus too). The more I informed myself about meat and dairy and their affects on our health (so bad) and the planet (so, so bad), the more inclined I was to try reducing our consumption of those products. I was worried that Tom wouldn’t be on board at all, but after the latest climate change report freaked us out we did some research and found that cutting out meat and dairy was one of the biggest things we could do for climate change on an individual and family level. At first I felt like it was such a major personal sacrifice to make (and difficult for me as our family’s primary meal-planner and cook to change all of my habits!) but I quickly realized that my palate had changed and I truly preferred to eat a more veg-heavy meal. I experimented a lot and found ways that my family and I could love eating tons of veg and fruit. I found that there are amazing meat-free alternatives to almost all of our favourite things. For now we are what I’d call “Home Vegans” and it’s really easy for us. This means we eat plant-based meals at home and we try to go veg when we’re out but we sometimes indulge when it’s easy or we’re having a major craving for something. If we’re out with the kids we might grab an ice cream or a piece of pizza. On a date night (not that we get any of those!) we might split a burger. When we eat at someone’s house we will happily eat whatever we’re served without making a special request. But I’m shocked at how easy it’s been to transition at home and how much I prefer to eat healthful meals that I know are nourishing our bodies in a big way. I easily made all of my baking dairy and egg-free without one failed recipe. Our dinners are big, beautiful buddha-bowls filled with grains, veg, tasty sauces, nuts and seeds. We aren’t perfect but we’ve made a big change and I’m kinda proud of us.
  • if you want any recommendations for great meat-free substitutes, hit me up! I’ve tried a lot of them and have some major faves. If you have that you love, also hit me up! Always looking to try new recipes and products.

H O M E

  • when Tom told me he wanted to replace all of our thermostats with smart thermostats and our bulbs with smart bulbs I thought he was just being a dork who wanted to pimp our house with tech. And maybe he is! But then I read about how setting your heating systems to a timer can save a ton of energy and now I’m into it too. When we leave the house in a frenzy of chaos (which is every time we leave the house, because kids) and we forget to turn lights and heaters off, we can just do it from our phone in the car. We can set our heat to drop during the night and come up again in time for morning. We use this one.
  • cleaning supplies: just so much room for improvement here. Science is amazing and people have come up with eco-friendly cleaning agents that work just as well as the ‘bad stuff’ and won’t give your kids a rash or kill their brain cells. So many of those mass-produced candles and “odour cover” sprays are full of some truly toxic shit. Get thee to Amazon, Whole Foods, any alternative store, or just your local grocer, because better options exist! Esp. essential oils. 
  • I hang-dry the laundry when I can but sometimes you just need to use the dryer (especially when you’re cleaning your toddlers sheets in the middle of the night when they have the flu). I just found out about wool dryer balls last week. Throwing a couple of wool balls in the dryer with your clothes can reduce your dry time by 50%! That’s just convenient. I ordered mine on Amazon but you can find Canadian-made, organic wool balls (lol) pretty much everywhere.
  • I know that it would be more eco-friendly for us to have stayed in our 750 sq ft condo; the massive house we bought needs a lot of heating and that isn’t doing the environment any favours. But the plus side of having such a large property is that we have the opportunity to do some other cool stuff, like composting, rain collection, and growing our own food. Plus hello, money saving! The free soil we’ll get from our compost and the free food we’ll grow in our veg garden and harvest from our fruit trees will save us tons of money, especially since I’ve found groceries to be much more expensive on the coast.
  • we paid a few hundred bucks to have a full EnerGuide home evaluation done. An energy expert comes to your house and assesses its draftiness, heat sources, blah blah blah, and sends you a full report on your home, telling you where you can save the most money and energy and which rebates (whoop!!) you can apply for to get a bunch of money back on the changes you make. Knowledge is power, people. Also we basically bought the draftiest home in BC so there’s a lot of work to be done over here (cringe).
  • eventually we’d love to get solar-powered energy in our house but it can cost around $25-$30k so we aren’t able to make all the leaps we wanna make at this time. But I’ll mention it because maybe you can! Also, the government should give huge rebates for this kinda stuff. 

P O L I T I C A L

  • I’m still working on this one. Currently in North America our leaders are not the climate change leaders that every country needs. Keeping myself informed and voting for a party that will consider the future of the planet is important to me and something that I want to spend more time doing.
  • major corporations should be held much more accountable for their environmental footprint than they currently are. This is something we can all learn more about and lobby for within our local and wider government systems.

If you’ve read this far, wow (fun fact: I started writing this as an Instagram caption, but it got a little ahead of me). If you read this and want to head to your local shops to purchase some reusable and sustainable items, mother earth applauds you! We can’t all do it all. You might not be able to relinquish air travel if you have relatives overseas. You might not have the space to grow your own vegetables. But maybe you have the money to buy handmade wooden toys on Etsy for the next birthday party you attend, or the time to search on Craigslist for a baby swing instead of having it delivered by Amazon Prime, or the energy to visit a bulk store for half of your grocery list. Again, it’s not about who’s doing the most, it’s about all of us doing as much as we can.

The Things I Said I’d Never Do

We have such high (and often unrealistic) hopes for ourselves when they’re freshly born, don’t we?

Just for fun, so we can all have a good hearty laugh together, these are the things I said I’d never do before I became a parent (in my infinite and knowing wisdom). Eye roll.

  • feed them sugar
  • let them ‘cry it out’
  • kiss them on the mouth
  • lose my patience (ya ummmm ok)
  • give them screen time
  • feel the urge to shake them (sorrrrryyy but if you’re a colic mama you’ll understand)
  • cater to them by making a separate meal at dinner (or breakfast… or lunch…)
  • let their nap schedule dictate my day
  • use food or TV as a reward
  • stress about taking them on a plane (ha. ha. HAAAAAAA)
  • miss being in the workforce
  • eat food my toddler has dropped on the floor
  • eat food my toddler has dropped out of her own mouth
  • talk about my kid’s poops in great detail with my spouse
  • skip a workout because I was too tired

…are you rolling on the floor laughing? You should be; I certainly am.

First Impressions of the Coast

Well it’s been a week since we moved to the Sunshine Coast and for the first time in what feels like weeks I’ve found a moment to reflect. The whole process of buying and selling homes is stressful and busy! Sure, it’s stressful and busy in a super exciting, where-will-we-end-up, holy-shit-we’ve-ended-up-here? kinda way, but at it’s core it’s still just stressful and busy. But now we’re in the midst of settling into life in a new home, new community, and tbh very new lifestyle and I wanted to share some of my initial impressions, if only to chronicle my thoughts for future me (who I can only assume will be a major Nature Girl) to look back and laugh about.

Nightlife There are some big animals out here, guys. Like bears and bobcats and cougars right in our yard. Like I could run into them while walking my kids to school one block over. Everyone has a gate at the end of their drive that they close at dusk to keep the bigger stuff out of the yard overnight (makes sense!) and the first night it totally felt like a Purge situation and really freaked me out. I’ll admit that I haven’t actually seen that movie because I got too scared from just the trailer, but seeing everyone in my neighbourhood shut up their houses at dinnertime that first day made me wonder if Gibsons was harbouring a very dark secret. It didn’t help that I then spent the first night in our new house alone while Tom returned the UHaul to the mainland (well the kids were there, but they’d be fairly useless in an emergency). I will never forget the moment when the midnight cacophony of our swamp frogs went dead silent and I heard something big thumping around the backyard. It was probably just the raccoons but half of our doors didn’t lock that first day and my imagination definitely got away from me.

Nature All things above considered, I can see myself becoming a little easier-going with nature already. I used to pretty much refuse to live in a home without screens on the window, but I’ve lightened up a little (mostly due to the fact that we can’t afford to fix everything at once and I don’t have a choice). I used to hate having a fly or a bee in the house buzzin’ around and irritatin’ me but now that I have a big beautiful window right over my kitchen sink I’m like “come on in, bees, I know you guys do some good work on the planet and I really want you to pollinate my shit, just don’t sting my kids okay? Actually if you gotta do it, just do it, they probably deserve it.” Spiders are another story though as I learned today when Wells was reaching for a big, weird, black thing with a pulsating red backend and I flew across the room, swept him into my arms, and stomped it to oblivion before vacuuming it up and then putting the vacuum outside just in case. Hennie looked at me like I was a total psycho. She’s probably right.

A Trade-Off of Waiting I don’t think that a secret utopia exists where everything is a pro and there are no cons. One thing I’ve realized is that we’ve swapped waits. What I mean by this is that we’re not longer waiting for the things that used to take time back in the city, and we’re waiting for things we never waited for before (lol I hope no one has read this far, I’ve had two pints). There haven’t been any lineups at the grocery store, no traffic, no fighting for parking spots, none of that anxiety-inducing urgency on the roads that you can feel palpably in a city; it’s a glorious small-town benefit that helps me breathe easier. But the tiny condo we just left behind was in the same city as the Amazon distribution warehouse, and that’s one area where the new wait catches up with us. I can no longer place an order over breakfast and have it in hand before bedtime on the same day. Hell it won’t even arrive the same week anymore! As a matter of fact our neighbourhood is so rural that no one will come to our house, not Amazon, not the recycling pickup (we have to bring it to the depot ourselves), not the compost collectors, not even the friggin’ mailman (our mail goes to a bank of letterboxes at the end of our street). And here’s the kicker: there’s no. grocery. delivery. Am I even a mom of two if I don’t get my groceries delivered?

Neighbourliness okay so maybe the services aren’t the best but the locals are just so gd accessible that it more than makes up for having to walk down a street filled with cougars and bears to pick up our mail. My Amazon packages may not come to the door but new friends and neighbours will pop by with baskets of beers, freshly baked cookies, and kids to introduce to your kids. We texted a local electrician to see if we could make an appt with him and he texted back that he could “pop by in 5”. So far everyone we’ve met is roughly our age and has kids around the ages of our kids too (**potential friend alert**) which means that we can finally live out our dreams as social homebodies who host lots of bomb parties and ply their company with tons of beer and good stories. Lol pls come over. There’s only a small chance we’ll put you to work in our yard.

The Wildlings it took less than a week for the kids to adapt to the new space, which has amazed me and made me jealous because it’s gonna take much longer for me to get used to it. At first they were a bit agitated by the lack of routine, constant unpacking, and unfamiliar environment. Wells wasn’t falling asleep as easily as he usually does and Hen was acting out during the day, becoming clingy and whiny with Tom. But Wells has quickly become accustomed to his new bedroom and Hen has realized that she has a whole house and yard to explore there haven’t been any more (moving-related) issues.

Going Coastal

I thought I’d sit down amidst the utter discombobulation that is packing with two small children to write a blog post about what led us to our decision to move to a small coastal community we’ve never been to. It might seem like it came out of nowhere but I’ll remind anyone who has known us for 3+ years that a surprise move is kind of… dare I say on-brand for Tom and I. I mean, we did elope and this feels pretty similar to that. In both instances we spoke at great length about what we thought was the right move for the future of our family, took it about as seriously as we needed to (that is to say… not very) and then took a leap of faith. The only difference is that getting married cost us like eight hundred bucks and was probably a smaller commitment than the current weight of our new mortgage and sprawling fixer-upper.

Our first home together was a cheery and bright one bedroom apartment in the city. We got married in that apartment and brought Hennie home to it a year later. When she was ten months old we bought our first home, a tiny but cozy two bedroom condo. A year later we brought Wells home from the hospital to that apartment; I guess we move fast! Even before he was born we were having the conversation most of our generation probably has when raising a young family: do we want to continue to live in a small space in the city or do we want to move further afield so our kids can have the stuff we took for granted, like a yard and their own bedrooms? Like many young families our age, we can’t afford to have it both ways. We had this conversation over and over and over again, never really deciding what we wanted.

A year ago this month I was reading this post on one of my favourite blogs and I started daydreaming, as I always do when I see a home tour of a whole house, about upsizing our home and downsizing our community. Though it had always been a bit of a dream in the back of my mind, something about that article made me think “why not?” and I began thinking more critically about the logistics of that move – whether it would be possible, what it would look like for us. It felt like a monumental decision for me but when I mentioned it more seriously to Tom he seemed game for a change; having lived in multiple countries throughout his twenties I don’t think moving outside of the Lower Mainland was too much of a stretch for him.

Soon I became pretty fixated on the idea of selling our tiny apartment and moving somewhere else, but the checklist of what we were looking for in a community made the move seem fairly improbable. Our non-negotiables included mild weather (well, for Canada), decent elementary schools, a young, liberal-minded (or at least open-minded) community, multiple breweries (if we’re being perfectly honest) and obviously a real estate market that would allow for a detached home to be within the realm of possibility for us. We wanted to stay in as close proximity as possible to family in the Lower Mainland but knew that this was asking a lot. Knowing that it might not be possible to check all of our  boxes, we didn’t pursue it too much.

When we became serious enough about selling our place to connect with our realtor, we focused on a move to another local city where we thought we could afford a decent townhouse. We hung out there and loved the area, even staying in an AirBnB for two weeks in the fall and viewing some properties. One evening as we were doing our usual nightly scouring of the real estate there, Tom entered our search parameters and just started cruising around the map to see what we could afford elsewhere. He ended up on the Sunshine Coast looking at the houses for sale in a little beachside town called Gibsons. We marvelled at some gorgeous ocean-view homes and went to bed. A few nights of real estate hunting later and we were still looking at houses in Gibsons. We had never been there before and knew nothing about the coast but within a week our search had shifted. Without even talking about it we had both stopped looking at townhouses in the lower mainland and completely redirected our house hunt to the coast. Rather than approaching our nightly real estate searches with our usual sense of tired obligation I could feel a palpable excitement in the way we talked about the possibility of this move. Just as I can remember the moment when we decided we were going to be together forever (me: “is this it!?” Tom: “…I think so!”), I can remember the moment when we decided to redirect our house hunt to this totally new, seemingly random community we had stumbled upon in our late-night, beer-fuelled deep-dives into the depths of REW (me: “should we tell our realtor!?” Tom: “…I think so!”).

And then we found the house. It checked all of our boxes: stunning natural light, all the windows I could imagine, bedrooms enough for guests (or more babies! or guests with babies!) and it was even a rancher, which we were kinda hoping for. It was on a huge property with a back and front yard, had a fire pit, a large deck, and a detached office for Tom to work out of. It even had fruit trees and space for an ample vegetable garden, which was a long-shot wish of mine. We could afford it because it needed a helluva lot of love, but we were game for the challenge. We told our realtor. He called to inquire. The house was sold.

To Tom’s credit, he stayed calm through the many ups-and-downs of house-hunting, a feat that I cannot say I was capable of. With my exemplary imagination and lingering postpartum hormones I was a maniac every time we found a place we loved and a much bigger maniac every time we found out that a place I was already picturing myself living in was unavailable. I took up meditation to try and handle myself and we continued to focus our search on Gibsons, a community we had still never been to. We moved out of our condo so we could stage and show it more easily, packing up all of our unsightly clutter and moving it to my dad’s house (lucky him!). Before we left we went for one last date night at a local pub. Over many cheap pints I found that my husband, who doesn’t get excited about much, was unable to stop talking about the renovations he’d do on that first house we had fallen in love with. Poor guy.

The next morning our realtor called. The sale on the house – that house – hadn’t gone through and it was on the market again. He wanted to know if we could hop on a ferry immediately to go view it. Tom booked the next morning off work and we loaded the kids into the car to take a look at the rustic rancher that had occupied his thoughts for so very long. On the way there we said “at least now we can see it for ourselves and if it’s terrible we can put it out of our minds forever.” The day felt easy and exciting. It was a clear and crisp day in early February and the views of the local islands during the ferry crossing were stunning. We docked, drove to the house and stepped inside. We viewed it for probably ten minutes, the backyard too covered in snow for us to even really know what we’d be getting. Shortly afterward we were back on the ferry on our way home for nap time, instructing our team to begin compiling our offer.

And it was accepted! But first we had to sell our own condo, and fast. We cleaned, staged, photographed, and showed it as well and as quickly as we were able to and received a really fantastic offer after only a few days. We accepted it (whoop!), but it fell through. We accepted another offer, but it fell through as well. On the brink of losing our DIY dream house, we accepted a third offer. My anxiety was through the roof waiting for the buyers to get their affairs in order but thankfully, it went through. Miraculously, it seems, everything happened at the last moment when it needed to, teaching me all kinds of lessons about trust and letting go of things I can’t control. You would think I would already know how to deal with those things, having a medically complicated toddler, but it appears I’m a work in progress.

So here we are. Getting possession this week of a home which needs repairs we probably won’t know the full scope of until we’re up to our eyeballs in asbestos-laden insulation and rotting cedar beams (jk, probs). We head into it with a meagre budget, an inspection report so long it has a table of contents, and, thankfully, a sense of humour, at least for now. We’ve had so many moments when we’ve looked at each other, laughed, and said “what if we don’t even like it there because we still haven’t actually been?” but we’re just so sure that this is the right move for us that it hasn’t even really been a question on our minds. At the risk of being excessively corny and barf-inducing, I think I could live anywhere in the whole wide world with Tom Procter and it would still be the most stupendous life, so moving to a scenic coastal town where we can slow down and enjoy our kids and each other just seems like the icing on an already delicious cake.

For so long I existed in awe of the people I saw who were able to take a leap of faith and step forward into the unknown of a big adventure. This feels like that moment for us.

Wells Hardy: Six Months Old

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If I wasn’t an intelligent, educated person who understands the irrefutable science behind the passage of time  I would swear to you that there was absolutely no friggin’ way that six months had passed since I brought this baby boy into the world. It feels like it happened so recently and it’s so fresh in my mind that I can’t really believe it. The only reason I do believe it is because I’ve been awake for almost all of the hours in those six months and have had ample opportunity to witness the passage of each blurry, chaotic day and each painful midnight hour.

But here we are, six months and many, many cups of coffee into his young life, and my relatively new life of a mother of two. After Hennie was born I documented her growth and development like clockwork on this blog. With my second born I am just now sitting down to think about his life thus far, and here is what I have learned about him, about myself, and about being a parent of two (!!) kiddos for half a year.

  • I still believe that Wells is a happy, amenable baby under his many (admittedly minor) ailments. Since he’s been born there has really always been something that has kept him from being a truly happy baby – first it was reflux and constipation, then he needed his tongue and lip ties revised (ouchie!), and now his ongoing teething misery and hyper-short catnaps are ensuring that he’s pretty much losing it by the end of each day. But in between each little thing that plagues him he is the loveliest boy with a smile that beams brightly for his mama. And damn, it’s nice.
  • He absolutely adores watching his big sister and I think she’s part of the reason that he’s so determined to do what she does. He watches her eat, his little mouth mimicking her chewing motions, and demands we give him food also. He watches her run down the hallway and his feet kick like crazy as he hangs in my arms. It really seems like he just can’t wait to be a boy. It’s super fun to watch and we think once he’s able to keep up to her and play on her level she’ll really love it, too.
  • Just because kids are siblings doesn’t mean they’ll be anything alike (duh!) and every parent has to “start over” learning how to parent each new child that comes along. Wells hasn’t been nearly as good of a sleeper as Hennie was but he has really been keeping us on our toes in terms of his motor skills – we can’t believe how early he became mobile! It’s fun and challenging to see and adjust to the personalities and skills that emerge with each child. We just wish that the skill of sleeping through the night didn’t seem so far away for this boy of ours.
  • After just one kid I quickly realized that it was so important for me to take time for myself to not be a mom, and it didn’t really matter what that time was spent doing. Yes, of course my home life is wonderful and I have a lot of support and the best family ever, but this doesn’t mean I never need a break or miss my old self and my old interests! Despite suspecting from the very beginning that I would be a better mom if I took time for myself I have never taken that time away. Ever. In fact, the only night I’ve ever been away from Hennie was the night I was in the hospital labouring her brother into this world (and even then I was back just after breakfast!). After two kids it quickly became clear that making time for self care wasn’t just an option or even a priority, it had to be a certainty. My mental health and wellness directly benefit from even a few small outings a month. I’m still exclusively breastfeeding Wells and he hasn’t taken to a bottle yet so I’m kinda tethered to the homestead for now, but I make a point of getting out for a solo run, walk, coffee, drinks with friends, even just to get groceries solo (who knew what a luxury that would become!). It took me two years of motherhood but I’ve learned the hard way that this is absolutely imperative to my mental survival.
  • With two kids I quickly learned that the potential for the day to go completely to shit is much higher than with just one. But the flipside of that is that the potential for an amazing, stars-have-aligned, everyone-is-in-a-good-mood-and-we’re-all-having-fun-day is also exponentially higher. The high of seeing these two sweet muffins playing together, laughing together, looking at books together, having tickle-fights, and racing across the living room (Hennie is undefeated) massively outweighs those tough days with two kids. I’m still learning not to hinge my mood on theirs; when one or both of them wake up cranky I often feel utterly defeated right from the start of my day. But with the help of a few new tools I’m trying to counteract that and stay positive even when my babies are miserable (spoiler alert: this is not always possible).

Having two has been such a big learning curve for us both but our Wellsy Boy feels like he fits into our family so seamlessly and I can’t wait to see his personality emerge a little more over the next half of his first year!