20 Hobbies and Skills To Learn Today!

Time. For some of us there never seems to be enough hours in the day but for many of us right now, it may seem there are too many hours in the day. If you find yourself struggling to the fill the day with constructive or interesting things to do, I’m here to help.

I’ve been thinking about how times like the current are always great for learning something new. Why not learn a new skill or hobby? While there is nothing wrong with binging Netflix, it can really help being productive to counteract feelings of depression or being stuck in your home. You might need to purchase materials for some of these so do your research before you commit to a huge project.

  1. Sew (When I finally learn to sew, this adorable pinafore apron will be my first project!)
  2. Crotchet (I may dig out my crotchet needles from college! This baby blanket project is so sweet!)
  3. Knit (though I have yet to learn how to knit, these slippers would be so fun to make!)
  4. Cross stitch (this might be a new hobby I try out soon! Amazon has tons of kits like this!)
  5. Quilt (A huge hobby to undertake but if you know someone who does it and can help you out, that might make it easier. Think of all the cozy things you could make!
  6. Whittle
  7. Woodburning (Woodburning kits are so easy to find on Amazon!)
  8. Can Your Own Food (up the ante using a pressure canner!)
  9. Learn to dehydrate food for your own snacks. We have this dehydrator and it’s great!
  10. Make your own jams and jellies. Once strawberries are in season, I’ll be making my own this summer!
  11. Perfect your baking skills. I just bought these adorable cookie cutters to make my own cheese crackers. My sons also love to use them with play dough. I just wash them in hot soapy water!
  12. Learn to fillet fish
  13. Learn how to make sushi
  14. Learn to paint with unusual mediums.
  15. Start a hydroponic garden (indoors). It’s never a bad idea to be able to grow your own food!
  16. Start a soil based indoor garden from seed and then transfer your seedlings to an outdoor garden once the weather warms up! A neighbour we had did this every year and saved herself so much time and money.
  17. Build something
  18. Sculpt with clay
  19. Learn photography. I bought my first Digital SLR secondhand and it was a great way to try something new without breaking the bank!
  20. Take an online course (Herbal Academy is currently offering courses at 50% OFF! There is a chance many other institutions are doing discounted courses at this time!) I started their introductory herbal course, it’s wonderful!

Take your new skills a step further a make something for a neighbour or someone in need. You don’t even have to see them to give it to them-just leave it on their doorstep.

It’s never a bad time to learn a new skill that might save you time and money in the future. Think about the Great Depression-an era that produced some incredibly innovative people because they had to learn to live with next to nothing.

What are some new skills or hobbies you’re interested in trying? I’d love to hear from you!

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I am here to share some tips today that will make you a total spartan, a thrifty, penny pinching goddess if you will. I’m always looking for ways to practice being frugal and as I figure out ones that work, I like to share them!

I have a great grandmother (my mom’s grandma) who is 107 years old. She was born the year the Titanic sank, 1912! This woman lived through the Great Depression and at one point in her life was a single mom to two children, one of which had severe disabilities. And while she’s never shared how she survived those times in her life, I’d like to think she was pretty savvy with her pennies. She had to be!

I also have a grandfather who came from a farming family of 8 children and when I say they were poor, they were dirt poor. They didn’t wear shoes during the summer and my grandfather was operating farming equipment at the age of 8 years old to earn his keep! My husband comes from a legacy of farming as well, both his grandfathers were hardworking and financially savvy men.

As of recently, our family situation is that we are living on one income. It’s what works for our family but it doesn’t come without sacrifice. We have to watch our money closely and while we live comfortably, we aren’t careless with our spending. We can’t afford to be! In order for me to stay home with our boys and devote myself to raising them while running our home, I’ve had to be very creative with our finances. I’m here to share some tips today that have enabled me to stay home without tanking our bank account.

  • Budget. The most typical way anyone will tell you to pinch your pennies is by budgeting. BUT when our family budgets, we see the most come from our money! If I can recommend ANY budgeting software, I would say YNAB is superior. It’s not difficult to use and it teaches you how to break the cycle of living pay check to pay check. It shows your where your money is going by making you track everything. Check out YNAB here. It’s worth the purchase! *You can even try it for FREE for a month!

  • Have One Car. We have only ever had one personal car. We’re fortunate that my husband has almost always had a job that provides a work truck. In the earlier seasons of our marriage when he didn’t have a company truck, he would bike or bus. One car means one car insurance payment and if you own the car outright, no car payment. Our car lease is our biggest expense right now but it is what it is! We look to save in other areas. I can make a tank of gas last for an entire month because we stay local and walk as much as possible in our small town.
  • Become A Skilled Worker. I have a lot of thoughts about the emphasis that is placed on degrees and University in society today but that is a post for another time. I think our society is lacking skilled workers and by skilled workers I mean people who can offer or a basic service or skill. I think of the trades or vocational schools as a valuable way to pursue secondary education. The Canadian government is literally paying people to pursue the trades and other skilled worker certifications.
  • DIY. This goes hand in hand with being a skilled worker. The more self sufficient you are, the more money you are going to save. You can save so much money by doing some of the following:
  • Bake your own bread and baked goods.
  • Can your own goods.
  • Sew your own clothing, bedding and linens.
  • Grow your own food. Hydroponic gardens and grow lights are making DIY gardening SO MUCH EASIER now!
  • Make your own home decor.

You get the idea! If you can figure out how to do it for yourself, chances are you will save some valuable time and money.

We have seen so much savings with these things! Is it more work? NO. Is it gross? NO. It’s all about perspective. We use disposable diapers and regular toilet paper but in times when our finances are tight, every cent counts. I have a collection of microfibre cloths I purchased on Amazon that I rotate through every week. They are superior at cleaning up messes than paper towels and have paid for themselves over and over. I’ve been asked if the cost of laundry against the cost of things like cloth diapers cloth makes it worth it. While I’ve never done the cost break down, I have made sure I have enough diapers, wipes and reusable rags to get me through the entire week without having to wash anything. I wash them all together in one load on the weekends. If you’re interested in cloth diapers, check out my post here to get you started!

  • Thrift.

If there is one thing you can do to save money it’s buy things secondhand. Anyone can do this! We are literally throwing away money when we buy things like clothing and other home goods, brand new. Why does it have to be brand new? Don’t get me wrong-we buy things brand new. But I LOVE thrifting. Our most recent thrifty finds were a bread maker for $15 and a BRAND new cat scratching post for $8. Our cat was going to town on some new carpet we installed upstairs so I was looking at a $40 scratching post on Amazon. My husband came home from goodwill with an $8, brand new scratching post. WIN. 95% of my kids clothing is given to us or purchased second hand. You can buy kid’s clothing second hand for a couple bucks or less. You have to do it right so that you don’t justify spending MORE money and buying more useless junk. Check out my post here on buying secondhand.

  • Stick To A Grocery Budget, Meal Plan Low Cost Meals.

This is unique to each family. My family does not eat organic. My personal thoughts on organic is that it’s a huge scam. Feel free to disagree, it’s ok! But I honestly consider true organic food, food that you raise (livestock) and grow yourself. We also have zero food allergies or intolerances so we don’t have to adhere to any kind of special diet. You can eat healthy and affordably by incorporating things like beans, legumes, and produce that’s in season. There are local butchers you can buy half a cow from that will feed your family for a year. My husband’s uncle raises his own pigs and butchers them every fall, so sometimes we get fresh pork. We sometimes receive fresh bear, venison or moose from when they go hunting. Meal planning ALWAYS saves us money! If I plan out our meals, I’m more inclined to cook with what I have-not run out and purchases random ingredients. My husband’s grandfather taught me many skills in the kitchen including how to grocery shop. I remember him telling me to shop my pantry first and then price match second. Always shop your flyers and try to price match (coupons in the US). Pinterest has a million ideas for meatless or cheap, healthy meals! One of our favourite meals is refried beans, rice and cheese burritos. It’s filling, cheap and delicious!

  • Trade Services

Earlier I talked about being a skilled worker or having basic skills that can save (or make) money. So, say you need something like childcare in a pinch and you don’t have extra funds laying around. If you have another skill set, you could arrange with someone to watch your kids while you offer your skills in return. It may take some negotiating and figuring out how to fairly trade services but it’s worth a try. That is why I so strongly believe in being a skilled worker and having a basic set of various skills. How many amazing businesses have we seen grow out of a basic skill that someone has? You never know what you can accomplish until you try!

  • Build A Depression Era Pantry.

Have you ever heard of this? It’s a lifelong goal that I have. Women had to be incredibly savvy to feed their families and stretch their dollars during the economic crisis of the Great Depression. Many of these women worked diligently to have a pantry filled with food staples that were low cost, nutritious and would fill the bellies of their family. Think things like beans, rice, flour, sugar, lentils, etc. Check out this article for more details on how to build your own depression era pantry!

  • Go Off The Grid.

What the heck? Ok, so my husband and I talk about being able to do this in our lifetime. What does this even mean? Basically being able to go off the grid means that you are self sufficient in terms of hydro, water, sewage, obtaining your own food etc. . This is a HUGE accomplishment when you consider how we live in society today. The average person today does not know how to find resources for their most basic needs and that is SCARY. My husband and I have spent a considerable amount of time researching what it would take to go off the grid. Call us crazy but we see so much value in being self sufficient in these things. People who know how to live this way will be in a good position should the time ever come that the economy collapses and our current way of living is made impossible by food, water and power shortages.

  • Unplug And Reduce Hydro/Water Usage

Literally though……unplug your appliances. Turn off lights in rooms you don’t use. If you’re home all day, use natural light from the windows and no electrical lights at all. Do your laundry, run your dishwasher and take showers during off peak times. Where I live in Canada, there are times of the day that it’s cheaper to use the electricity and hydro. Using less of these resources is such an easy way to reduce cost of living. We take it seriously since we are no longer renting and now we’re paying per use! Invest in a high efficiency furnace and take good care of it. I say that because my husband is in the HVAC industry but people costs themselves so much in service repairs by not taking care of their appliances. You should also always shop around for a better price when it comes to repairing things that you aren’t skilled to fix. Support small businesses by hiring the guy who does his own side work of repairs and installations. I can guarantee that you will pay a fraction of the cost!

  • Stop Eating Take Out.

I understand that every family budgets for what they consider important. In all my years of budgeting and cost cutting, I have only ever seen what a huge waste eating take out is. We still eat out as a family or grab the occasional coffee from Tim’s. But constantly eating out is a sure fire way to blow through any budget you might have. The average fast food lunch today is at least $10. If you’re eating out twice a day plus a morning coffee, you’re spending upwards of $150 a week on meals. That’s $600 a month and $7600 a YEAR of take out. WHOA. If you’re struggling financially, you literally can’t afford to eat out and it’s the number one way you’re going to see a difference in your finances. Eating take out is purely convenience. Try cutting back on that morning coffee to start with and make your own at home. Not only is eating what you have at home more affordable but chances are it’s also healthier!

  • Stop Going On Vacations You can’t Afford.

Ok, hear me out. I know we all work hard and we feel that we deserve a respite from our hard work. But here’s the big question-can you afford it? Our family can’t, honestly. If you have debt you’re serious about paying off, it’s hard to justify putting a vacation on your credit card. Again-this is unique to every family but no-one can deny that traditional vacations are a huge money pit. If you’re able to pay for them in cash, that is fantastic. If you need to get away, why not road trip or do something locally? There are lots of wonderful ways to rest and relax without breaking the bank or going into debt. My family all lives in the States and we haven’t been there in quite a few years because we can’t justify the cost of travel. But my family understands this and because it’s more affordable for them to travel here to Canada, they visit us! It works well for this season, though I look forward to making it back home at some point in the future.

  • Cut The Cable, Choose A Cheaper Phone Plan.

Cable is such a huge expense and considering the quality (or lack of) of what’s on TV today, is it even worth it? I remember one year we were paying $180 a month for CABLE. That included our internet but holy smokes, WHAT?! There is just no way to justify that for our family. We now have a low cost internet plan and we stream everything through Netflix, Amazon Prime and Youtube. Our phone plans are another story but since we don’t have cable, we can justify paying a little more for our phones at this time. We got rid of Apple Music because we can listen to all the free music we want on Spotify or youtube. There are lots of streaming options available today, it’s pretty easy to say bye bye to cable!

  • Stop Paying For Convenience.

I think about how we’ve lost the ability to do basic things for ourselves today. Think about how much money is spent paying someone else to do something for you that you could easily learn how to do! One time our neighbour asked my husband to install curtain rods for him and offered to pay him. It was the simple task of using a few basic tools. My husband didn’t charge him but I think those are basic skills people should have. I’m not talking turning your home into a complete hack job to save some money-that can be disastrous. My husband is in the trades and he is naturally skilled with tools, basic electrical, woodwork, plumbing etc. so maybe I take for granted the skills he has. But you can probably mow your own lawn, learn to change the oil in your car, put on your own snow tires etc. What about painting your own nails or cutting your family’s hair? You could learn to clean houses and offer childcare. Those are valuable skills to have if our family were ever in a financial pinch and needed to earn some extra cash! What is a new skill you could learn today? You might surprise yourself.

While I could go on and on about money saving tips-I admit I am no expert. But our family has learned some valuable lessons over the years due to our unique situation. When I immigrated to Canada, I had to wait over a year to obtain a work permit. My husband worked 3 jobs on top of full time school, to support us. Often times he would work a midnight shift at the youth prison and then go straight to school the next morning. Our families were generous and made sure we never went without.

But we did our part during that time to spend as little money as possibly while living as frugally as possible. We lived in a tiny 400 quare foot basement apartment, took public transportation. (all our cars died that year), grow our own food, and ate a LOT of pasta. My husband was back in school part time literally 2 days after my son was born. We were living off one paycheck per month. Again, our family made sure we didn’t go without anything but we sure tightened our spending and live as minimally as possible.

There is so much to be said for learning to manage our money properly and finding ways to cut costs. These are lifelong skills that we can pass along to our children and while education has it’s value, so does having basic skill sets by which we can live. What are some ways your family saves money? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Fall Capsule Wardrobe (For Stay At Home Mamas)

About a week ago (the first day of September to be exact) I woke up to rain, cool temperatures and falling LEAVES.

While it’s not officially autumn according to the seasonal calendar, it’s official IN MY HEART. We still have a few warm days coming but FALL I AM READY FOR YOU.

The pieces in this post can still work even if you aren’t a stay at home mom. If you’re someone who doesn’t need to dress up for a job outside the home but can wear comfy, casual clothing-keep reading!

I’ve stepped up my game, using a clothing styling app called Urstyle. You can select from essentially millions of clothing, shoe and accessory items to create and style a clothing board. It takes a little skill to use the app efficiently but they provide youtube videos to help! You can use the website from your computer (which I prefer) or from the app on your phone.

If you don’t have a capsule wardrobe yet but are interested in putting one together, Urstyle is a fantastic tool to help you do that. Keep in mind (as with the pieces I’m posting) I don’t own these EXACT pieces in the sets I’m sharing. The app links you to buying that item directly. I choose items very similar to what I already own. *Check the bottom of the post for a direct link to the entire wardrobe I assembled for pieces and prices.

I buy almost everything second hand because 1)It’s affordable and 2) It’s sustainable.

Let’s chat FIT. I am 5’1” and around 150 pounds. I carry most of my weight in my belly. I wear leggings pulled up past my belly button and all my jeans have an element of stretch to them. I wear soft, slightly dense materials that hang nicely but don’t overwhelm my body. High waisted pants do not compliment my shape so I wear flowy shirts or sweaters over leggings. If I wear a more fitted top with jeans or leggings, I offset that top with a cropped jacket, something I’ll share an example of below. I can’t rock showing my belly with crop tops and all that, just not my thing.

Let’s jump in and start with BOTTOMS. I own more than what is shown. I own 4 pairs of stretchy black pants/leggings, 2 pairs of grey leggings, 2 pairs of jeans (one skinny fit, one straight leg) and 2 sets of overalls, one light wash and one dark wash. That’s still 10 pieces which I find to be more than enough for me to work with. George brand leggings from Walmart are my favourite leggings right now, not see through but not stifling. My overalls are from Bluenotes (Canada) and my jeans are from Gap.

Can I get a holla for thrifting?! I stick with BASIC colours. I don’t know the exact # of tops that I own currently but I rotate through about 10 of the same tops. If you’re building a capsule wardrobe aim for something similar to the picture. There are 9 tops shown here 7 of which are enough to get you through the week. Start there! For brands I own a lot of Gap, Old Navy and H&M. I find these brands to specifically offer soft materials, a comfy fit and neutral colours.

In Canada where the weather varies, especially during the season of Fall. I don’t like being cold, wet or overly hot so I make sure I have a variety of jackets! Jackets can also be a key item that changes up an outfit. Another reason I like having a few different but functional styles of jackets.

Shoes don’t have to be numerous or complicated. I avoid heels and impractical shoes, especially during the colder months. If you’re a mama, you understand the need for a good slip on tennis shoe. The 3 shoes I wear the most during fall at my Timberland knit sneakers, Naturalizer slip ons and of course, my Blundies! I typically don’t find shoes while thrifting and it’s the one item I don’t mind investing in.

So as a mama of two BABIES I don’t really find accessories practical for my lifestyle right now. I rarely carry a purse and typically carry backpack style diaper bags. Sunglasses, a ball cap, knit cap or scarf would be the other accessories I reach for during fall. I also like a good, giant tote bag! If you are a messy bun wearing type of girl and haven’t tried THIS hat….you should check it out.

Here are some outfits I put together for some ideas! I don’t get too fancy but cute and comfy works well for me!

If you click the picture below of the full capsule wardrobe it will take you to the website with links to all the clothing items.

So there you have it! Whew! A labour of love for you guys. I don’t think of myself as a fashionista or even trendy. I aim for being comfy, cozy and maybe cute sometimes. A capsule wardrobe doesn’t have to be difficult to put together but it does take time. I started minimizing my clothing 5 years ago and finally feel like it’s becoming what I’ve wanted. When I realized that I was wearing the same items all the time, it made sense to minimize my clothing. Hopefully I’ve helped you gather some ideas to put together a cute but functional and comfortable fall wardrobe!

Do you work with a capsule wardrobe? What would you call your style? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Summer Capsule Wardrobe For Stay At Home Mamas. (And some thoughts on body image)

It’s the middle of August and dare I say that I’m kinda OVER summer?

I live in Ontario, Canada where our longest season is winter so it almost feels sacrilegious to say this. But deep down inside, I love fall the most of all.

See, I even get a little poetic about it. My heart actually beats a little faster when I think about the season of fall and all that it entails. ESPECIALLY this year as we just bought our first home and we’re moving in, just in time FOR FALL!

Ok, I digress.

If you’ve followed my blog at all, you know that in terms of clothing, I work with a capsule wardrobe. This means I have minimal pieces that I use in a variety of ways to maximize the clothing I already have. Every item (except my Birks) I share today is completely thrifted.

I already did a Spring Capsule Wardrobe where you can check out here. Spring and Fall are transitional seasons for me, in terms of what I wear. In the fall I’m getting ready for winter so I gradually transition to warmer pieces and in the Spring I’m coming out of heavy, thick and warm pieces as the warmer weather arrives. Summer gets to be all by herself because it’s a fairly distinctive season here.

In the past few years my body has changed, a lot. When I entered my 30’s I noticed that my skin elasticity said, “SEE YA LATER B!”. Currently, I comfortably wear a size 9/10 in bottoms and M/L in tops. I’m currently a stay at home mom full time. I also (TMI) have psoriasis in my thigh/groin area that flares up badly during the summer season, so COMFORT is key with what I wear. I don’t like to sweat more than I have to, have my thighs rub together (no booty shorts!) I don’t like wedgies from tight bottoms (who does?) and I don’t want to feel like my boobs are going to spill out at any given moment.

When I’m building up my wardrobe for the season, I keep things simple. I’m drawn towards neutral colours with maybe one to two prints thrown in. I stick with white, grey, black, browns and burgundy. I choose pieces that are not complicated, fit loosely and (hopefully) flatter my body shape. I rotate through the same 5-10 shirts a week. I have 3 different white tanks, two black tanks, one grey, two prints, and two coloured tanks. I have 4 pairs of shorts I also rotate through.

I like pieces that I’m able to use multiple times during the week because I don’t have a lot of time in the mornings to build an outfit. I’ve learned the art of things like tucking tops in with draw string shorts. Comfy and simple! If you don’t have a pair of Old Navy’s drawstring shorts, you should get yourself some ASAP. MOM uniform!

I keep my shoes simple and honestly, I wear my Birkenstocks 99% of the time. I have two other pairs of dressier summer shoes that I rarely wear because, I just don’t “dress up” that much. The shoes I have are neutral and can go with pretty much anything, which maximizes their usage. I don’t like having sweaty, sore feet so I aim for maximum comfort without looking like an 80 year old grandma wearing loafers. Although, I’ve seen some weird sequin loafers floating around. New fashion trend?

I’ve been challenging myself to branch out and put together outfits that I feel cute in, though still comfortable. My body has changed so much in the past two years that it has been HARD to accept who I see in the mirror sometimes.

Her thighs touch, rub and chafe. Her arms jiggle with cellulite. Her belly folds down in multiple rolls when she sits and sometimes spills over depending on the jeans she’s wearing. But this same body has lovingly carried and grown two babies in less than two years. She’s made milk and dried up milk and done it again. She bears stretch marks as sign of love and change. I’m learning to love her again, you know? She’s always loved me!

I’m learning to be kind to myself and give myself grace after all my body has been through in the recent years. I think our society mixes up “grace” with “excuses.” I have really pushed back against that mentality that motherhood is an excuse to not care about your body or that we use our children as an excuse not to achieve a certain level of fitness or appearance. That simply isn’t true, for me. I recognize that every person is motivated differently to do things with their bodies. Peak fitness might be a motivation for some and watching Netflix during nap time might be another mom’s choice. Whatever our choices, we aren’t lacking.

Do you what you have to (and want to) do, to accept the body that has always loved you, never left you and is still waiting for you.

I hope you enjoy this! I’m no fashionista or photographer. Just a stay at home mom sharing her everyday, normal coffee loving life.

When You Rent Your Living Space.

I sighed as I surveyed the path directly in front of our porch. There were SO many weeds.

As I began to pull the weeds that had grown between the spaces of cement blocks, I realized most of these weeds were not going to give up their residence so easily. While it was a cool summer evening, I soon found myself sweating.

It struck me. These weeds had made themselves a home in the most unlikely of places. They had embedded themselves in the cracks in the asphalt, between the spaces in the cement blocks and even out the sides of the steps on our porch. I was amazed at how I couldn’t even get to the root system of these plants, they were entangled so deeply.

My husband and I have been renters our entire 5 years of marriage. We’ve lived in basement apartments for the majority of our marriage and then finally on the main floor of a bungalow with renters below us.

I’ve learned a few things along the way. A physical house (apartment, condo, townhouse or room) does not make a home. Things do not equate to happiness. Money does not bring contentment. There is a lot of societal pressure to own a home. I’ve been told that it’s a waste to pay rent rather than put that money towards a mortgage. When I was pregnant with my first son, I was asked a few times if my husband and I were going to buy a home and I had to laugh at the thought of such a expensive baby shower gift!

Whatever the situation or reason for renting or buying, there can often be the struggle with being content with the season of life you are in. I want to share 4 things that have helped me make my house more than just a building I rent, when I’ve struggled with contentment.

  • Decorate. Something as simple as paint or hanging pictures on the wall can go a long way in making you feel “at home.” I keep our home decor simple but I aim to put things around me that I find aesthetically pleasing and calming. We’ve invested in furniture that is comfortable and functional. Cut the grass, trim the hedge and plant some flowers! Do things that make your space feel “homey.” I anticipate fall every year, because it is my most favourite time of year to pull out my fall decor, bake apple crumble and put pumpkins on the front steps. Decorating doesn’t have to be expensive as there are so many second hand things you can repurpose. 99% of my home decor is repurposed or handmade!
  • Minimize the clutter and clean things up! We are always in the process of minimizing our possessions. Having less to clean up and organize makes our home feel fresh. It also gives us more time to spend together as a family.
  • Practice Hospitality. I am not great at hospitality. I don’t clap my hands at the thought of entertaining and I’ll admit, I don’t do it often in this season of having babies. BUT it’s something I’m growing and being stretched in. I think something happens when you invite people into the space you live and take the time to make them feel welcome. You begin to take pride in your surroundings and become intentional in sharing your home.
  • Adjust your perspective. This takes time-trust me, I know. I’ve gone through seasons of hating places we’ve lived in. I made myself miserable and no one was to blame except ME. It’s a process but set little goals for yourself to do things that will bring about a more positive mindset. Prayer for a grateful heart has gone a long way in helping change my perspective.

As I was pulling those weeds the other night, I had the realization that I have a choice. I can choose to take no pride in where I live. I could cringe when I’m asked if we own our home. I could apologize for my modest, small brick rental when friends come to visit.

Or I could choose be like those weeds. Practically speaking, weeds aren’t great. Metaphorically I want to be like a weed, right where I’m at. I can choose to set my roots deeply and firmly in this season. I can choose to make a home exactly where I’m at. I can choose to take be a good steward of what I have, right now.

For every time I sweep my front porch, shovel snow off the path, clean my tiny bathroom or hear the old hardwood floors creak obnoxiously in my bedroom-I can welcome the warmth of gratitude.

I have gratitude for this house being the place where I brought BOTH my babies home. Gratitude for this home being the place where we became a family of 3 and then 4. Gratitude for my sweet friend who lives nearby and can walk to my home with her little boy for visits. Gratitude for living close to relatives. Gratitude that my husband doesn’t have to commute long distances to work. Gratitude for the view out my front window of the beautiful trees that change colour every fall.

Where we live and what we have (or do not have) does not have to determine our measure of joy in this life. I reckon if I can not learn to find joy where I’m at now, then I never will. Its a process, my friends!

At the end of the day, who is beside me matters so much more than where I’m living. My family has made this house a home. If you find yourself struggling with your living situation, I hope this encourages you to embrace and make the most of what you’ve been entrusted with. You won’t regret it!

Do you rent? What are some things you’ve done to make your place feel more like home?

5 Reasons Why We Need To Stop Playing The Comparison Game In Parenthood.

“Wow, he didn’t walk until 16 months? That is SO LATE!”

“My child had 20 words before they were 2. Isn’t that what they’re supposed to have?”

“Oh he isn’t crawling yet? Aren’t you concerned?”

“She’s still not talking in two word sentences. But your child is, I don’t understand why!”

If you’re a mom of young children or just a mom in general, chances are you’ve been a part of these conversations. You’ve probably had similar things said to you as you stand around at the park watching your child play with other kids.

It’s all too familiar isn’t it?

What am I talking about that makes me want to walk away from these conversations with other moms?

Comparison.

I talked about this very thing a few weeks ago in my instagram stories because it’s something that is as common as your toddler’s 10 AM poop every morning. We’ve all done it and we’ve all had it done to us. I’m not talking about having a chat with a close friend and discussing concerns you might have about your own child. That’s entirely different. I’m talking about feeling the need to constantly compare your child to other children in terms of what they are (or aren’t doing) to reassure yourself.

If you didn’t catch my insta stories, then I’ll tell you now how I really feel about it.

I think it’s a huge waste of time and it’s NOT important.

Today I’m going to share in more detail WHY.

  • Comparison can create unnecessary competition. This is inevitable . When parents stand around and start talking about what their kids are doing or developing in, it will without a doubt stir up feelings of competition. When did parenthood become about whose child does “X Y Z” the soonest, fastest or most efficiently? All of sudden we’re worried about our child performing in a certain way because little Bobby had 40 words before the age of two. This sense of competition can strain relationships with friends, family AND our own children. None of which is healthy from a relational standpoint.
  • Comparison can create unhealthy expectations. THIS is really important. If you don’t take anything else away from this post, please consider this point. When we get caught up in this comparison trap we can place heavy, unrealistic expectations on our own kids. This is not fair to them. As a former ECE, someone who studied early childhood development in college and then spent many subsequent years working with young children, I’m here to tell you that children develop uniquely based on a variety of factors. Is there a standard of development for babies, toddlers and children? Yes. I’m NOT saying you shouldn’t take your child to a doctor/specialist if you suspect developmental delays. What I am saying is it can be damaging to our children to continually compare them to others. Ask a therapist. Ask them what they counsel many adults about. It’s often the damage that person felt as child being constantly compared to others, never feeling good enough. That is serious. Consider the weight of your words and expectations with your children. What is most important to you as a parent? Don’t make your affection and love something that your child has to earn based on how they perform or what they do.
  • Our child’s development actually has little to do with our abilities as parents. We NEED to hear this as parents! We think that because we did (or do) X Y Z our children are little geniuses. OR it’s the reason WHY they aren’t doing this or that. Whether your child was walking at 9 months or 18 months does NOT make you a GOOD or BAD parent. It doesn’t mean anything. Children are intrinsically motivated to develop certain skills and abilities based on their OWN unique personalities. If you have one child right now, it might be difficult to see this. But if you have more down the road, you will see the differences in your children and learn that personality has so much to do with what children are motivated to learn.
  • Comparison can reveal our DEEP insecurities. This point is interesting. When I’ve had these conversations with other parents, I often start to see what exactly they are insecure about. I’m not a therapist or counsellor but it isn’t difficult to feel the weight of someone’s insecurities in the conversations you have with them. If you personally find yourself caught up in comparison, worrying about what your child is (or isn’t) doing and always talking about it, I would encourage you to seek counsel. Again, I’m NOT a professional but I think it can only do good to talk through our own insecurities as parents, if they are consuming us and negatively impacting our parenting. This is also why, when you have these conversations with other parents and start to feel overwhelmed you can say, ” Your insecurities are NOT my insecurities.” Maybe don’t say it out loud, but you can have some understanding as to WHY so many people struggle with comparison. It’s often deeply rooted in insecurity that can stem from a variety of causes.
  • Comparison is a waste of precious time, at the end of the day. Moms and dads, I’m here to tell you-it’s just not as important as you might think it is. I’m not saying you shouldn’t care how your child is developing. But remember, much of how children develop in their early years has little bearing on their lives in the long term.

What if you feel like you’re really stuck in this vicious cycle of comparison with your child? I have a few ideas that you could try to shut it down and start changing the way you think.

  • Look at your child’s qualities, abilities and skills as unique to them. Appreciate what they ARE doing, focus on those things and work with them.

  • Talk with someone about your own insecurities. I’ve been professionally counselled before and it was one of the best decisions of my life. I know two different (wonderful) local Psychotherapists who work with parents, children, and offer maternal mental health support, specifically. Contact me if you want their information!
  • Start purposing today to just love your child without expectations. Embrace who God made them to be. Let go of who you think they should be and what they should be doing. Imagine how freeing this can be for you and your family!

I’m on this journey, with you. I understand the trap that comparison can be. I understand the pride, insecurities and frustration that comes with parenting. We ALL want the best for our children! We want them to succeed in life. Don’t beat yourself up if you struggle with this, I’ve been there! A tell tale sign that you struggle with it could be that you feel the need to constantly prove to other’s that your child is developing normally. Hey, it’s ok. Just take a deep breath!

It’s a one day at a time process and we’ll all get there. You’re doing a great job!

If these thoughts resonate with you, I’d LOVE to hear from you in the comments.

10 Ways To Reduce Your Waste And Save Money. (#3 Might Gross You Out)

If you talk to your grandparents (or great grandparents if they’re living) you would probably find that the practice of things like cloth diapers, composting and reusable grocery bags were a normal part of their everyday lives.

Everyone is talking about Zero Waste living right now like it’s some innovative concept but it’s not. I love intentionally choosing ways to cut down on waste. I think it’s important to be conscious of excess but I have to be honest in that I’ll never be a Zero Waster. I believe that waste is unavoidable.

The answer is more complex than this though because things like monetary status, economics, and personal beliefs are going to individually impact the way we all view a zero waste lifestyle. What I’m learning is to do what I can with what I have.

So on my journey to cut down on our waste as a family, I’ve found Low Waste Living to be a much more practical approach. It’s not so extreme as much as it’s a thoughtful and intentional approach to reducing waste.

Here are 10 ways we are currently working on low waste living, in our home:

  • Cloth Diapers. If you’ve been following my blog for a bit, you know I cloth diaper about 90% of the time. The boys are in cloth diapers excluding nighttime and weekends. This has significantly reduced our garbage while saving us money! Something that really helps is that the city actually limits how much garbage each household can have. We’re allowed 2 large garage bags per family twice a month. We don’t have garbage pickup every week so that has really motivated us to use less disposable diapers. I don’t really enjoy having garbage bags full of stinky diapers sitting around for 2 weeks. Yuck! You can read more about my use of cloth diapers here.

  • Cloth Wipes. Along with cloth diapers, I try to use cloth wipes as much as possible for a few reasons. Our garbage is less when we use cloth wipes. I also find that they work 20x better than disposable wipes when it comes to cleaning baby bums. I use these baby wash cloths as cloth wipes. Check back here for an easy, non toxic baby bum wash that I’ll be sharing!

  • Family Cloth (reusable toilet paper). This is the most recent change we’ve made in our home. When I asked my husband if he wanted to switch to reusable toilet paper he surprised me by saying YES! Without going into great detail, I’ll just say that reusable toilet paper is 100x better at keeping things clean than disposable. Once we’ve spent a little more time using it, I’ll write a solid review! I’m no stranger to trying weird things.
  • Reusable Hygiene Products: I use cloth pads and a diva cup. I’ve been doing this for a few years now and can’t imagine going back! You can read more about that here.
  • No Plastic Shopping Bags: Using my own shopping bags (and produce bags) has become second nature. I just started taking my own containers to our local bulk bin store for things like honey, oats, pasta and more! It’s amazing how easy the switch can be with an adjusted mindset. My mother in law made me some reusable produce bags from repurposed sheer curtains, similar to these! I’m hoping to eventually sew my own snack bags, like these. If you’re handy with a sewing machine put your skills to use!

  • Unpaper Towels and Cloth Napkins. We now use microfibre cloths in place of paper towels. My initial reason for switching wasn’t actually motivated by wanting to reduce our waste. It was because I found these microfibre cloths to be much better at cleaning up messes. Since this pack comes with 3 different colours, it’s easy to assign a specific colour to a job. I use these for everything from wiping down household surfaces to wiping down babies faces. I also like these cloth napkins. I’m still figuring out to wash them and keep them nice but they get the job done, regardless.
  • Eating Leftovers, Smaller Portion Sizes and Composting. THIS is a tough one because it’s easy to justify throwing out moldy food. What I’m working on is cooking smaller portion sizes and having us eat leftovers a few times a week. When that isn’t possible, we compost. Invest in some reusable freezer storage bags to cut down on plastic bag waste.
  • Clothesline and rack drying: My husband strung up a simple clothesline for me between two trees in our backyard. I also have something similar to this drying rack.
  • Buying Second Hand: As much as possible we try to thrift items in our home. We also work on purging once a month and donating what we don’t use back to local second hand stores. Our garage is a work in progress. It’s easy to keep junk when you don’t see it! Check out my post here for tips on buying second hand clothing.
  • Refillable Water Cooler: So, I’m kinda weird about how my water tastes. A few years ago we asked for a water cool for Christmas from our family and it’s been one of my favourite gifts we’ve ever received. It’s similar to this one. About every week or so my husband goes to our local water refill station and for about $8 he fills 3 huge (reusable) jugs (I don’t know how big they are honestly) and brings them home. Our water from the refill station is free from nasty things like fluoride, so that’s a bonus too.

There are so many great ways to practically reduce your family’s waste output. These are just some of the things we are currently practicing. You can save money and simplify your things by implementing a low waste lifestyle. What are some ways you reduce your waste? I’d love to hear from you!

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