Friday, 28 December 2012

2012 Highlight Reel

2012 has been a busy year of settling into routines, which has allowed me to try new projects and new ideas, this blog being one of them. Often at this time of year, after the big family festivities are over, I feel stuck in a rut, like I'm taking one step forward and two steps back. To help me feel a sense of accomplishment I want to look back over the year and think about everything that has helped me move forward on my life path.

When my children were very little most of my energies were devoted to meeting their immediate needs. I know that some women are able to balance their babies' needs and their own, but I am not one of them. Working part time and being a mother was pretty much all I could handle. As much as some say it might not be emotionally healthy, I am an all or nothing sort of person, as my husband will tell you. I think that in the past I have avoided getting into something new because I don't enjoy it unless I can throw myself wholeheartedly into it, which leaves little of my attention for anything else. Therefore it isn't surprising that looking after a baby took much of what I had to give.
My wee one when she was a newborn. 

My youngest daughter will be turning three in 2013 and I am finally beginning to feel like she does not require my full and undivided attention all day long as infants do. There are moments I can carve out for my own projects and passions that sustain me and fulfill my creative side, which I have been missing for a long time. Not for long, mind you, because she is a little monkey and into everything so much more than I remember my other daughters being. She has redecorated my walls with pens, added colour to my couch with juice, and added patterns to my carpet with a sharpie.

I want my daughters to see me being a life-long learner and meaningfully engaged in something because I believe that modelling is one of the best form of learning for children. It fills my heart to hear my daughters'  questions about what I am doing and see my daughters grab crafting supplies to make alongside me. I want them to be happy in life and I believe one path to happiness is to have interests and passions.
I am grateful that I have developed an interest in photography because it gives me something creative I can do with small children. Besides, what parent doesn't like taking pictures of their kids?!
My five year old in particular has followed in my footsteps and enjoys photography.

It is easy as a women to be overly harsh and self-judging. I could compare myself to the other mothers who always seem to be more calm, patient and together than me. I could compare myself to other crafters or gardeners who seem more knowledgeable and talented. I'm sure, though, that for every person I could compare myself to there is someone who sees me as talented and knowledgeable. I'm not saying I am talented because I know what is going on in my head and I am there for the behind-the-scenes daily grind of my life. I see my good, bad and ugly and therefore it is easy to judge myself. I must remember that every single person has that kind of messy life behind the closed doors of their life as well. There will always be someone who is more green than me, more eco-conscious than me, and I am working on seeing them as someone to follow and learn from rather than a measure of my inadequateness as an environmentally aware person.

So, as a reminder to myself of my highlight reel for 2012, I've compiled a list of things of which I am proud, things for me to read on my low days, when I am feeling overly judgemental of myself. This is my top ten list to read to myself to give me energy when I need a do-over.

1. This past summer, when my youngest daughter was almost two and a half years old she weaned. After struggling for the first two months with my first two daughters and having a rocky breastfeeding relationship, breastfeeding went very smoothly, one might even say naturally, with my third daughter. I attribute it to a spontaneous, unmedicated home birth in which we had immediate uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact for at least the first hour (as far as I can remember) of her life. Weaning my youngest brought to an end over 68 months of breastfeeding in total between each of my daughters. I know that I did my best to give them the best start in life that I was capable of and I am proud of what my body was able to do for them. I feel very good that I sustained them with the most Earth-friendly nourishment that I could (I am not judging mothers who made other choices about how to feed their babies by saying this). While I was ready for that part of our relationship to end, my daughter wasn't fully prepared and to this day she occasionally likes to climb into my lap and pretend to have her beloved "milky milky".
My wee one breastfeeding her baby - modelling behaviours at it's best!

2. We continue to search for ways to reduce our use of single use disposable items. We have not used paper napkins or paper towels for years (with a perhaps two lapses per year when we have a large party and know we will run out of cloth napkins for all the guests). I have used cloth feminine napkins for at least a decade now.

This year I added stainless steel straws to our home, along with an increasing number of stainless steel dishes and containers to slowly replace plastic in our home. I love how stainless steel cleans up and does not retain the smell of the food the way that plastic can.

3. We continue to find ways to detoxify our cleaning products more natural, less chemical-based ingredients. I have fully switched to vinegar and baking soda alone for the majority of our household cleaning needs. We use mostly soap nuts for washing our clothes, but I am finding that they are not great for removing stains. I found a link for making my own laundry soap and that will be something I try in the new year. The last two areas where I would like to find something more natural are in our dishwashing soap and dishwashing machine detergent.

4. This year we completely eliminated commercial air fresheners because of their toxic ingredients and links to a variety of health concerns. We currently use baking soda for kitty litter odour (open box near the kitty litter box) and drops of essential oil in high odour areas like the bathroom. Occasionally I put a drop or two of essential oil of choice the wax of a burning candle to diffuse the smell quickly. We used to use incense quite extensively but have not done so as much recently. I find the best way to freshen the smell in a room is to just open a window. One thing I would like to focus more on in the new year is the use of plants for room air quality. We have very few indoor plants because our cats are very naughty and kill them by chewing on the leaves.

5. I am slowly learning ways to detoxify personal care products such as creams, shampoos, toothpaste, deodorant and make up. We have used "natural" toothpaste for years but I would like to challenge myself to make my own at some point in the future. I have found some interesting links for making my own on Pinterest and I'm excited to source ingredients. This past year I found some very expensive make up (eyeliner and mascara) at a local natural foods grocery store. The ingredients seem to be good but the product comes from Germany and when I say it is expensive I am not exaggerating ($40 mascara anyone?). To compensate for this I am trying to go without as much as I feel comfortable. This means going au naturel on days that I don't go to work or have a dress up event (I'm somewhat vain and sometimes feel like I need a little more colour). I am slowly transitioning to natural crystal deodorant because the ingredients in my antiperspirant are horrible (including horrible fragrance, or "parfum", which is linked to a variety of health concerns such as asthma and other respiratory illnesses). I am finding this a challenge, however, because I am a very sweaty person. I have a phobia of sweat marks on my clothing and crystal deodorant just doesn't cut it in that department. Again, I am compensating by using the crystal deodorant on my days off work. One area in which I am most proud is switching to baking soda and apple cider vinegar to wash my hair (called the "no-poo"method).

6. I am almost ready to call myself a vegetable gardener. I have dabbled in container gardening over the past ten years while living in apartments and a townhouse. Almost three years ago we moved into our new home, our first single family house with a large backyard and I was most excited about having room to have a vegetable garden. This has been a very gradual process with adding a new raised garden bed each summer we have lived here. I hope to have a maximum of four raised beds in the backyard next summer. I did very well with just two raised beds this past summer, growing dozens of vegetables and this fall I planted garlic for the first time. I know just a little bit, in fact only enough to know how much I don't know, but I'm game to experiment and learn. It was interesting to participate in our local CSA to compare what we received with what we grew, and this has increased my desire to branch out and try eating and growing new foods (like fava beans). My mother gave me a subscription to a Canadian gardening magazine, and I have a subscription to an organic gardening magazine and I bought a how-to guide for winter gardening. Once the dust settles on the festive season I will devote some serious time to planning my summer garden.
My garden mid summer this year.

7. I am not a baker. A friend has blogged about there being cooking people and baking people. I am decidedly in the former camp because I like to experiment and substitute, which just does not work with baking. When I do want to bake I don't have the correct ingredients because I never bake. I do, however, like to eat baked goods. A favourite of mine is breakfast scones. For a few years now I have bought my scones at my local grocery store. The drawback is that they come in a plastic container that I then have to recycle. I have been trying to focus on reducing what I consume before recycling what I use because of the energy used to recycle paper, plastic, metal and glass. The plastic waste finally got to me and a few months ago I started baking my scones each week. With practice I am getting better and am starting to expand my repertoire of baked goods.  Another reason I feel good about this is because I know what has gone into my baked goods. I can make them as natural and healthy as I want rather than having a bunch of ingredients I cannot pronounce that are there to increase shelf life.
My delicious, home-baked cheese scones for breakfast.

8. I've been trying to use my bike more in 2012. As my children get older and more capable my ability to bike with them will increase, making it easier to get out on my bike for daily errands and local commuting. There have been some blips and blurps along my path, as I'm sure there will continue to be, but I'm trying. I hope that as the weather warms and dries up in the spring and summer I will be more exclusive in my bike use.

9. After pinning dozens of knitting and crocheting ideas on Pinterest, I finally dusted off my knitting needles and finished some beginner projects for Christmas presents. I value making presents for people I love and I made each of my daughters scarves and each of the ladies in my extended family infinity scarves. My daughters had fun looking through my yarn bin and we found a few incomplete projects from years ago that I am now motivated to finish. I hope to take a knitting course or two to help me make progress in knitting in the round, turning the heel on socks and pick up stitches so I can complete some more advanced projects. I used to knit and crochet, especially for baby gifts, but when my own children entered the picture I lost the energy and time to keep up with it. That, along with small hands getting into my things and pulling all the stitches off needles made me put my yarn and needles away for over eight years.

10. I have been mulling and pondering about creating this blog for over a year, but I have been intimidated by the talented men and women out there writing about and sharing their thoughts and reflections. I was also scared of a learning curve with blogging and didn't know where to begin. I finally decided to just jump in with both feet and not worry about whether anyone would ever read my blog. If I'm being honest I'd admit that I want someone to read this blog - otherwise I would just write my thoughts in a journal. I'm proud that I started sharing my journey, even if it just documents for myself what I'm doing. I do believe that it is making me feel more accountable and more clear in what I am doing and hope to do. Something that I'm pondering now is writing for a supposed audience, of which every writer must be thinking about, versus writing for myself, because the two are often quite different.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Merry Christmas & Holiday Blessings

I am frantically (well, not that frantically if I can find the time to write this post) getting ready for Christmas Eve and Day, finishing the last of the presents for family and neighbours. Later I will be cleaning the house and wrapping all the presents.

My favourite moment of the season? Christmas Eve, after the Santa cookies have been made (yes, we do Santa) and notes have been written, after the kids are in bed and everything is set up by the tree, when my husband and I sit down to a lovely adult beverage. We turn the lights down, put our feet up, enjoy the colourful lights and our holiday tunes playlist.

This is my favourite moment to savour because it is the calm before craziness of the next morning. I also anticipate the full heart I feel during the family dinner.

My second favourite moment of the season? Christmas morning, after all the presents have been opened, after everything that can be recycled has been recycled (damn all the packaging!) and I sit back with a coffee and watch everyone play.

Merry Christmas and holiday blessings!

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Advent/Solstice Spiral

In my quest to create meaningful time together as a family at this busy time of year, this year I decided to make one of the advent spirals that I have been seeing all over Pinterest such as this one, and this one, and this. Each year I try to add another new tradition to our Yule Solstice celebration, and when I saw these I knew the spiral would be this year's addition.

My children each have a Playmobile Advent calendar that they love playing with, and they often get little Advent gifts from family and friends. My daughters, like most children in North America, get worked up into a frenzy leading up to the present orgy we call Christmas morning. I want them to look forward, and talk about, the lead up the the longest night of the year when we celebrate the return of the sun and longer days. Creating a Solstice spiral seemed like the perfect way to count down the nights to the Solstice.

I love how we decorate our home for the holiday season and our living room is a particular favourite of mine. We do the ubiquitous tree and mantle decorations, as well as putting all the holiday knick knacks on shelves that I have collected through the years from students. My winter village that was handmade and handed down from my grandma will always hold a special place in my heart. I love sitting in the living room with Christmas music playing, the fire crackling, and all the twinkling lights and flickering candles. Sitting there one night at the beginning of December I had a flash of inspiration about how I would personalize the spiral and make it special for our family Solstice celebration.

I found some Christmas fabric that was passed down to me from a teacher friend who retired and was looking to give away all her stuff. I love the holly pattern and knew it would be perfect for a Solstice spiral. We have a circular side table in our living room, so I cut the coordinating fabric into circles to layer one on top of the other to fit the table. I'm a lazy crafter and my sewing machine currently resides at my mother's home, so I knew that this would have to be a no-sew craft. Enter the handy dandy pinking shears.

As I wanted a marker for each of the nights of December leading up to the Solstice, I cut brown felt circles for each night to be glued onto the top circle. I decided to have 22 places because of the fluctuating date for the Solstice. When I stepped back to take stock of my efforts, however, I was very disappointed. It looked like a pizza!
I supposed I should have planned it out on paper instead of just in my head, but remember, I'm lazy. The rest of the afternoon was spent making this look as unlike a pizza as I could make it!

After adding various buttons, sparkle glue and pinecones I was satisfied with my efforts. The last step was adding the candles for each night leading to the Solstice. I think most people agree that candles make any event magical. Light and fire seem to figure into most cultural and religious festivals, and celebrations in the winter are no exception. I love how candles represent the return of the sun in the lighter half of the year, along with the reverence that fire seems to inspire.

I have a two year old daughter, however, who is a natural-born scientist in the way she takes things apart (otherwise known as breaking or destroying them) so we have not been able to use real candles since she was mobile. I am terrified that if I turn my back for a second she will burn our house down. I know there are families that can have candles around little children, and once we could do this. For some reason we could just tell my oldest daughter not to do something and she wouldn't. Candles were off limits for her. Sadly we cannot do it with my third daughter. I know it isn't very eco, but for now we use the battery powered plastic "candles" that mimic a natural flickering flame. Hopefully someday we will be able to return to my beloved wax candles.

We have had a reoccurring illness work its way through my family for the past week so we have been hit and miss with the ritual of adding another candle to the spiral and turning on lighting the candles each night. I just love how the living room looks, with the tree lit and the new spiral glowing.

I look forward to the Solstice spiral becoming part of our December rituals in years to come. And I look forward to the final night of our countdown when we make our wishes for the new year and throw them into the fire, receive our new pair of pyjamas for the longest night of the year and enjoy a peaceful evening together as a family.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Crafting Memories

Welcome to the December 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Childhood Memories
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have talked about memories of growing up — their own or the ones they’re helping their children create. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

Even before starting a family more than eight years ago, I thought a great deal about the kinds of memories I hoped my children would have. Of course I realize that I am projecting my hopes and wishes onto my children, but isn't that what parents do? Some of their memories will be random moments and snapshots, as mine are, but some will be consciously created by us as adults.

Childhood memories seem to be ever present in people's minds this time of year, in the build up to the holidays people celebrate, be it Diwali, Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, St. Lucia Day, Las Posadas, St. Nicholas Day and so on. As adults we try to recreate the magic we associate with our cultural celebrations through our children's eyes. 

Clear in my mind is the ritual of homemade crafts. My grandmother always knit us sweaters for Christmas when we were young and then blankets as we grew up. My mother continued the crafting tradition and always made at least one present for me and my brother. To this day the most special present she gave to me, made or otherwise, was a homemade Paddington Bear. After all the presents were opened she pointed to an envelope on the tree. Inside was a note that a special friend was waiting for me in the dining room. I ran as quickly as I could and found Paddington sitting on a chair, with the famous tag saying, "Please look after this bear, thank you." As I got older she included me more and more in the tradition of making gifts and holiday crafts. One of my favourite memories of gift making with my mother was in my early twenties when we made amaretto chocolate truffles for everyone in the family. I think we drank more amaretto than we put into the chocolate. 

I continue to value crafting homemade gifts. I want my daughters to associate making things with the celebration because I want them to remember with fondness the time we spent together baking, sewing, painting and the conversations that happened. I want them to remember that in this crazy, busy time of year when we rush around to concerts, parties and shopping, we made time to slow down and make things. I believe that my own children look forward to crafting with me year round and especially at this special time of year.

My little family continues with the cultural celebration of Christmas, but I have highlighted existing Yule rituals and infused an increasing number of new Yule rituals into our December events. This is easy as many of the symbols of Christmas have been borrowed from pagan traditions (tree, wreath, mistletoe, holly, etc). I love the natural elements of Yule; the importance of honouring the beauty of the season, understanding the place darkness has in life and welcoming back the sun. Many of the winter plants are sacred and hold great symbolic importance. I like the natural connection to the earth and seeing everything as interconnected. We cannot just treat people as we would like to be treated, but also all the animals and plants. Everything has it's place and must be used mindfully. 

Many of our holiday crafts involve using natural materials that can potentially be biodegradable when we are finished with them. A favourite of mine that dates back to my own childhood is making pomander balls using oranges and cloves. The smell evokes Christmas memories and loving feelings. Last year my eight year old was able to make her own, which made her very proud. My five year old participated as much as she could and was pleased with her efforts covering most of one orange with cloves. Of course my then almost two year old was mostly content to sit on my lap and knock the cloves all over the floor watch what we were doing.

I love pinecones and always find a way to include them in our crafting. Last year we made pinecone tree ornaments and used them as present toppers for each member of the extended family. 

This year I hope to make felt mistletoe to hang around our home and reuse each year. My plan is to make some felt mistletoe as present toppers for family as well. My girls like having real mistletoe in our home, but this year I will buy it closer to Yule and Christmas as last year it turned brown quite early. I am also going to experiment with dried fruit decorations, which I found on Pinterest (link)

I am currently rediscovering my love of knitting but because I am out of practice, I am limiting myself to making dish cloths and scarves for the family. I am teaching my eight year old how to spool knit and my five year old how to finger knit and so far they love it. Perhaps their efforts will turn into bracelets for their grandmothers. They are fascinated when I knit, so along with their scarves, I will be giving them their first pair of knitting needles.

As a way to highlight important and favourite family memories through the years, we are decorating ornaments with events that have occurred each year so that when we do the tree decorating ritual we can talk about our memories. This year's ornament will include memories of our camping trip to Manning Park, my youngest beginning preschool, my middle daughter beginning kindergarten and learning how to ride a two-wheeler, and my oldest's increasing gymnastic skills.

It is undeniable that today Christmas is associated with Santa and consumerism. My children will be receiving a gift of their choice and so far it looks like they will be something plastic and technology related. I also hope for something plastic and technology related (Lifeproof iPhone case). But I like to balance that with homemade gifts and the time together that homemade creates, because I know that I do not remember most of the gifts I received as a child. I remember the rituals that were important to my family, the time we spend together, thinking about others and how to make them happy. I want to add to that with my own children. I want them to think about how they are connected to the environment and how everything they do, everything they make, has an impact. I want them to think about the waste they create with the presents, packaging and crafts they create, and what we do with this waste. Can the waste be recycled? Or is it possible to reduce what we need to recycle by using natural elements that can be composted? I also want them to think about the impact the environment has upon them; how the seasons change and our behaviour and natural rhythms change along with this. 

But mostly, I want them to remember our love. I hope that one day, should they have their own children, they will think about the memories they want to craft as a family.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
  • Childhood Memories of Peace, Support, Joy, and Love — Amber at Heart Wanderings wants to make sure the majority of the memories that her children have as a part of their family are ones that are positive and help support the amazing people that they are now and will become as adults.
  • Hand Made Baby Books — Destany at They Are All of Me talks about why baby books are important to her for preserving memories of her childrens first years, and shows how she made one by hand for each child.
  • Can your childhood memories help you keep your cool?Here's To A Boring Year uses memories of being a child to keep her on the path to peaceful parenting.
  • Inter-Generational Memories {Carnival of Natural Parenting} — Meegs at A New Day talks about her own childhood memories, and what she hopes her daughter will remember in the future.
  • Snapshots — ANonyMous at Radical Ramblings reflects on the ways our childhood memories appear to us, and hopes her own daughter's childhood will be one she remembers as being happy and fulfilled.
  • What makes the perfect parent? — In a guest post on Natural Parents Network, Mrs Green from Little Green Blog reflects on camp follow and camp no-follow...
  • In My Own Handwriting — Laura from Pug in the Kitchen talks about her journals and the hope that they will be able to keep her stories alive even if she isn't able to.
  • Candlelight, fairylight, firelight — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud re-discovers the ingredients for bringing magic to life, especially at Christmas.
  • Making Memories (or) How We Celebrate Christmas — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis talks about creating new memories at Christmas, and the joy their adventures bring to her whole family.
  • The Importance of Recording Feelings and Emotions and Not Just the Experience — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares why she puts pen to paper every day to record more than just her experiences as a mother and her daughter's experiences as a child. Jennifer looks at the importance of capturing feelings and emotions that accompany the experience.
  • Dredged up — Kenna at Million Tiny Things has been forced to recount childhood memories at bedtime, due to the failure of her middle-aged imagination. She resists, of course.
  • Crafting Memories — Handmade is what makes the holidays special for Christy at Eco Journey In the Burbs, and she wants to create the same connection with her daughters that she remembers with her mother and grandmother.
  • My Childhood Memories; beacons of light in the darkness Stone Age Parent shares the impact of her childhood memories on her life as a parent today, listing some of her many rich childhood memories and how they now act as beacons of light helping her in the complex, often confusing world of child-rearing.
  • 10 Ways I Preserve Memories for My Children — From video interviews to time capsules, Dionna at Code Name: Mama wants to make sure her children have many different ways to cherish their childhood memories. Dionna's carnival post features ten of the ways she preserves memories; check out her Pinterest board for more ideas.
  • Memories of my mother — Luschka at Diary of a First Child remembers her mother and the fondest moments of her childhood, especially poignant as she sits by her mother's sickbed writing.
  • Creating Happy Childhood Memories through Family Traditions — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells why family traditions are so important to her and her family and shares how she’s worked to create traditions for her children.
  • Traditional Christmas Tree — Jaye Anne at Wide Awake, Half Asleep remembers the great times spent with her family driving for the Christmas Tree and the lessons learned.
  • Wet Socks and Presents — Kat at MomeeeZen writes about her favorite Christmas childhood memory and why it's so special. And she hopes one day her kids will also have a feel-good memory of their own to look back on.
  • Stuff does not equal memories — Lauren at Hobo Mama learns that letting go does not mean failing to remember.
  • A Child's Loss- Will They Remember Dad? — Erica at ChildOrganics writes about their family's loss of their husband and father. She trys to find answers to the question: Will they remember their Dad?
  • Childhood Memories - Hers and Mine — Jorje of Momma Jorje wished for her daughter the same passions and experiences she loved as a child, but learns the hard way to accept whatever passions strike in her child.
  • Holiday Non-TraditionsErika Gebhardt enjoys her family's tradition of not having traditions for the holidays.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

A Love of Bikes: Update

It is now December and the Vancouver rain has fully arrived for the winter. This makes it challenging to get fresh air exercise. Sure it's just water and it will dry. I'm not afraid of the weather by any means, but Vancouver rain is cold and cuts to the bone.

Generally I'm game to be outside year round regardless of the weather. Because I don't have a gym membership I have to get outside for my exercise.

Back in September I stated my intention to get out on my bike more, to do more than exercise on my bike (link). I wanted to increase the amount of time I use my bike to commute for daily life. I wanted to leave the family car in the driveway more.

I knew that it would get more challenging to stick to this as the fall and then winter weather returned. With the shorter days of winter I would need more safety equipment such as reflective vests and lights. I said that I was going to be kind with myself if I struggled with this because changes and habits take time.

We had beautiful weather in September and October and keeping me off my bike was the problem. Who wouldn't want to ignore the growing piles of laundry and dishes and hop on a bike for a ride to Garry Point Park or along the Fraser River dyke? In the first month of my goal I logged over 100 km on my bike taking my kids to school and gymnastics, going to a meeting at work on my day off, going on scenic rides and grocery shopping.
A lovely morning bike ride at Garry Point in Steveston

Toward the end of October my work picked up and I had more errands to fit in. I began dropping the preschool pick up each week because it took almost an hour for the round trip. Then as the days grew shorter and the rain picked up I dropped the rides to and from after school activities.
Having a little play at a park waiting for big sister to finish her gymnastics class.

Into November, as I began writing report cards (which equals a full work week of overtime), I jumped into the car for quick trips that I could do easily on my bike because I was stressed and short on time with all my obligations.

It wasn't until the past couple of weeks that I began cutting back on the amount that I walked or rode bikes to school with my girls. I went from 12 km per week to less than 5 km per week for daily school trips. I am finding it so much easier to throw everyone in the car when the rain is coming down in buckets. It's funny that I am taking the path of least resistance for the morning school run because growing up getting a ride to school was a treat saved for snowy days only. All other days of the year, rain or shine, warm or cold, I rode my bike. In the suburbs there just isn't a bike culture that may exist in more population dense areas. There are perhaps a dozen bikes locked up each day at the bike racks at school. In fairness though, many families walk to school.

I have been feeling the difference of the reduced physical activity. Obviously I am having to fill up my vehicle a more frequently because I'm using it more. My stress levels are increased (that thing called my job has certainly contributed as well). With the weather change my daughters are less inclined to ride their bikes or walk, which may have something to do with how cold their hands and faces get when they ride in the biting rain. They're lucky we slept in this morning or I would have tortured them with riding to school in the rain. My sleep patterns are more disturbed and I am finding that I am less rested in the morning. You know that feeling when your alarm goes off and it feels like you've just closed your eyes? Weight loss was never my reason for doing this but my clothes are obviously tighter, which makes me uncomfortable, dissatisfied and worried that I will have nothing that fits me soon with all the seasonal eating coming up.

We find the time for things that are important to us and we make excuses for everything else. It was beginning to feel like I was making excuses for the choices I was making, rather than doing what I valued.

This has been bothering me and I was determined to make some changes once things settled down, which they did this week. On my first day off, which was yesterday (I job share 50%), I looked out the window and saw blue sky! I didn't feel exhausted and it felt like the stars were aligned perfectly. Unfortunately I cannot get everyone to school and preschool on time on Wednesdays without a car, but I was determined to do the preschool pick up on my bike. It also helps that the preschool teacher told me last week that my youngest daughter called out for me when someone rode by on their bike. That settled it!

The ride to preschool was perfect. I had an amazing tailwind that made me feel like a super hero speeding down the road. The cool December air felt refreshing. I made up my mind to go on an even bigger bike ride today.
At preschool pick up this week. It was cold but dry and I felt great.

The ride home, however, almost killed me. I forgot that if I had a tailwind going it meant I would have a headwind coming home. I was riding into the wind coming off the Fraser River for a good portion of my ride and I had the additional weight of my little one in the bike trailer. As well, my underused muscles seized up in the cold while I waited for my little one to be dismissed from preschool.

Even though I had boundless energy when I got home, which is what I love about building activity into my daily routine, by the evening my thigh muscles feel like I hadn't been on my bike in years. Surprisingly I don't hurt today, so that's a positive.

For inspiration over the coming months I am going to read more of The Velo Family Diaries (link), a blog written by a Vancouver mother, who along with her cycling advocate husband, has made the decision to live car free and bike ride everywhere with her two young children. I found them via Instagram and the cycle chic photos he posts (he is @cbruntlett on Instagram). If she can do it everyday here on the Wet Coast, certainly I can do it a few times a week.

I believe in honouring the seasons and our connection to them. At this time of year we tend to stay indoors more and nest with the shorter days and longer nights. Cross your fingers that the weather isn't too wet for me over the next few weeks so I can settle into my new-old routine of biking more. I know that if I can make it through the winter doing at least a minimal amount of biking then I can make this goal stick year round.