What to do with a Baby and a Toddler in Calgary (in the winter) – Activities for families in Calgary

A great list of 30 unique ideas for families with young children visiting Calgary during the winter – baby and toddler-friendly.

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What authority do I have?  Well, I’m the mother of a 3 year old and a 1.5 year old.  We’re all pretty active and go stir crazy inside, though I confess – I DO like my crafternoons by the fireplace as well!  All of these activities are tried, tested and true with my family.  We’re still learning a ton, especially about layering in winter.  Neither of us parents grew up with particularly outdoorsy families, and our skills in any winter activity are

All of these activities are tried, tested and true with my family.  If you want me to blog further or do a “field report”  on any of the experiences below, please leave a comment! We’re still learning a ton, especially about layering in winter.  Neither of us parents (Carina and Trevor) grew up with particularly outdoorsy families, and our skills / knowledge in any winter activity are pretty low.  But we have the right attitude and I think that’s all that matters!

XC skiing, skating, even toboganning.  Our skills are down there with our 3 year old – but that’s the joy!  We are experiencing all of this together and designing the family that we want to be.  

This is a good chance to comment on a sentence that stood out from a book I am reading, Tools of Titans (highlight recommended btw.) In one part of this book, there is a discussion on discovering who you are, versus creating who you are.

You don’t just go on living life and all of a sudden “discover” that you are a certain type of family or a certain type of parent.  It’s about designing and creating it, so that one day you “discover” you are precisely that.

And you know what?  This list of ideas all started with a pinterest board I started in 2010 that I titled “My Ideal Life” and in it, was an active, adventurous family.  I liked the idea.  Even though I hadn’t a clue whether I wanted kids, or how to do half of the activities on the board.  🙂

The biggest piece of advice I’d offer, especially with the outdoors activity stuff, is go into it with zero expectations.  Your kids may love it, or they may melt down 10 minutes in, and you find yourself driving 40 minutes back home, debating whether or not to surrender and just give them the damn iphone in the back seat to gain a moment of peace.  You may spend 20 minutes getting them into a snowsuit and then they announce they have to pee.  You may get to a hike and realize their snowboots are all of a sudden 2 sizes small, let alone impossible to get on when they do fit.  Been there, done all of that in the last two weeks.

The key is not to let expectations prevent you from doing things.  Because if there’s one thing we know as parents, our kids will also surprise us. One snow shoe could be terrible and leaving us questioning “why bother?”  Actually no, it’s more like “F*** why did we do this!” Yet, the following week, we have a magical time and our 3-year-old surprises us with her endurance and fortitude!

As you read every family blog where it seems they are out in these amazing winter adventures in and around Calgary, remember that there was a meltdown or two in there, and what seems like a day out, was probably just a short trip.  But regardless, they still did something epic and we still find ourselves looking at their instagram or facebook feed with admiration and a secret longing to design our lives more intentionally.

THAT is the goal of this post, to encourage you to stop liking others’ instagram posts and start creating your own – to embrace the beauty that is winter (sorry, I write this with ALL of the enthusiasm of a kid that didn’t grow up around snow and is still, to this day at 34, mesmerized by it.)   Design the type of life where you don’t have a ton of time to spend on Instagram liking other people’s photos and feeds, because you’re too busy creating your own adventures!

Alright, off of that soap box.  What is the point of today’s post?

I was asked by a work colleague for a list of ideas for a family visiting Calgary in January (deep winter!)  There are SO many on the internet and most of them are copied from the same few sources, so I tried to add some really unique ideas to this post, and went back through my own journals of what we’ve gotten up to in winter.   I will confess, my list does have a bit of an outdoor activity focus (assuming it’s above -15c, my threshold for enjoying winter with small children.)  I also believe that outdoor time buys you EXCELLENT NAPS AND APPETITES (read: you time!) so it’s a win-win situation. 

I hope this will give you some creative indoor and outdoor activity ideas when you are in Calgary with a baby and small toddler, as well as some fantastic bloggers to follow and websites to use as a resource.

Stay warm and have fun!

 

1.) Telus spark has an incredible section for young children, The Creative Kids Museum – with admission you have access to the main science centre (and) the childrens’ area.

2.)  Try out the lunchtime mom + baby yoga offered at the Holistic Institute of Health and Fertility in the south (Deer Run.)  Then, pop next door to the Cornerstone Cafe for the most amazing cafe food you’ll ever try (I love the vegetarian wrap.)

3.) Also in the same neighbourhood is a drop in yoga program, for both parents and toddlers OR toddlers unattended!  www.yogabears.ca – fish creek is also within a 5 minute drive, with Annie’s Cafe, and the Ice Caves (see list.)

4.)  Go west (1 hour) to Grotto Pond & Grotto Canyon on Highway 1A – this is a favourite destination of ours, because our children tend to tap out in the car before we get to Canmore (1 hour 20 min.)

Grotto Canyon and Pond are just a few minutes after Exshaw on Highway 1A.  YOu can take Highway 1 west most of the way until the 1X turnoff to Exshaw before Lac Des Arcs. Trail Peak Guide to Grotto Canyon

 

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Skating with my 3 year old on grotto pond in December 2016!

 

Natural mountain lake skating at Grotto Pond (ice rink in centre, loop around outside)

Posts by Tanya Koob on Grotto Pond.for Grotto canyon which is do-able for young children – so if your toddler or baby meltsdown, you have a plan B activity right there ready to go! We bought out sled along and skated with the kids in the sled, and then on the hike, we had b aby in a backpack and toddler walking.

for Grotto canyon which is do-able for young children – so if your toddler or baby meltsdown, you have a plan B activity right there ready to go! We bought out sled along and skated with the kids in the sled, and then on the hike, we had b aby in a backpack and toddler walking.

5.) In Calgary, Bowness park / lagoon has amazing skating on the river and fire pits to warm up beside.A sweet cafe is nearby, and if you love alernative / health food stores, the Light Room in Bowness is worth visiting.  Post from Family Fun Canada.

6.) Delta Lodge at Kananaskis – Fantastic family friendly resort with an icerink outside of the hotel and a massive outdoor hot tub that kids love.  Right beside the ice rink is a rental place, with xc ski, snowshoe, walking and bike paths.  You can also rent chariots with winter attachments there for risk-free activities.  Great blog post.

7.) Calgary Zoo Lights – Until January 8th –  you can buy a day admission pass, go at 4pm and stay until the park closes and the zoolights switch on, or go later (after 5 and just pay for the zoolights portion)

8.) Nomad Gear Rentals bring the rental gear to you and fit your children!  Or if you want to stay in Calgary, use Nomad Gear Rentals to rent a variety of gear for yourself and the kids, and explore Fish Creek Park, especially the Ice water falls and caves near to Annie’s Café just off of Bow Bottom Trail.   We just used Nomad this past week to try our 3 year old out on xc skis for the first time and Andrel was lovely to work with.  Rates are competitive with other local rental shops!    Winter Rental List including skis, xc skis, fat bikes and snowshoes.

9.) To warm up, Calgary farmers’ market is a fantastic place to go with a playground area, and adults can enjoy coffee and eat food since the foodcourt is adjacent to the playground area. I highly recommend the spinach and leek gallette (gluten free) from the little fresh crepe place!  At the playground area you can access free fire truck and car-shaped strollers that fit either one or two kids!  Combine that with an ice cream or macaron and this is my secret to getting shopping done there!

 

10.) A beautiful forested part of fish creek is Bebo Grove (at the end of 24st SW) Reviews of Fish Creek Park and favourite spots on Yelp. 

11.) Toboganning at Confederation park or St. Andrews hill (near University of Calgary)  great blog post by Family Fun Canada (another great site to check out.)

12.) Grab hot drinks and drive by the spectacular Christmas lights at Spruce Meadows (deep south of city)  – on until January 8th.

13.) Indoor / outdoor winter crafts:  Winter Playdough sensory activity.  Make natural playdough, go outside and collect pine cones, pine needles, etc and bring them back and make pictures by pressing the items into the playdough and letting it dry.

14.) Go to Calgary Central Library (downtown) to visit a fire truck! there is a full sized firetruck in there (Engine 23) stacked with books. On Fridays they have readings for children by local firefighters.

15.) Also downtown:  Visit the lovely Devonian gardens on the upper floor of the core shopping centre, which also has a playground.

16.)  IMHO, the best wave pool is Southland leisure centre (great baby area and toddler slides) and you can pay for 1 hour. They also have drop-in times for the Kinder room, active play and tots for $5.20 per child.

17.) Snowshoe in west bragg creek with your family!  (baby in backpack, toddler in sled or kids’snowshoes you can rent)  – get a wrap and hot chocolate at cinnamon spoon.

 

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Snowshoeing on New Years Day in West Bragg Creek with our 1.5 and 3 year old! (we plan on getting her some snowshoes!) 

 

18.) Go for a walk and Make maple syrup taffy in the snow. Recipe here. 

19.)  Go to Plant in Inglewood and buy the jar of supplies to make your own terrarium – there is one they have for kids! Or you can pick your own plants, rocks, mini figurines (sweet little mushrooms and gnomes) for about $50 you’d get everything you need!  Great article on kids’ terrariums on CBC! 

20.) Fish Creek library has an incredible play area including a closed of area for babies, a stage with moving backdrops, costumes, reading forest and sensory toys for both toddlers and babies on the 2nd floor, it is worth a visit!  There seats for the adults to relax while the kids play!  It is across the parking lot from Southcentre mall.  The Calgary Public Library also has a rotating schedule of sing along, counting and stories  depending on which library in the city you go to.  http://events.calgarypubliclibrary.com/programs/online-registration

21.) If you would like to shop, Southcentre mall in the south has a beautiful mall & there is a prechool where adults can drop off their children while they shop:  http://greendoorschool.ca/  Or you can rent a police car or firetruck (one or two children capacity) with built-in smart screens to keep the kids entertained while you shop.  I recommend starting at Analog Coffee and also visiting Rocky Mountain soap company for amazing natural, toxin-free products produced locally in Canmore.  The lemongrass bubble bath and lavender bum / diaper spray  is a favourite in our household!

22.) Indoor Crafts: Put snow into a large tub, and have a “snow painting” activity, or pick up a snow painting kit from Canadian tire and go outside to create art (not the yellow snow kind!)

23.) Try out skiing or tubing at Canada Olympic Park, you can pay for certain amounts of time if you are not sure how your child will react to a.) skiing b.) cold.  The 2-hour preschool age package is $14.99, younger is free.  For equipment, 2 hour rentals for preschool age is $9.95. The foot pass is $9.99 for adults to use the magic carpet to get the little ones safely up the bunny hill if you’re daring enough to try skiing with them 🙂  Rentals are

The foot pass is $9.99 for adults to use the magic carpet to get the little ones safely up the bunny hill / assist them  if you’re daring enough to try skiing with them 🙂

If they tap out on the ski hill, there is the bobsled track nearby or indoor skating in the Winsport complex.

24.)  Buy some snow shovels for kids from the loonie store and some “pretend” gemstones  or other treasures, draw a treasure map, and bury them in the snow for the kids to find with a bucket. The little ones love dropping.  Search ” winter activities, toddler” on pinterest to get started with an insane list of ideas and create your own activities / inspo board.  Pinterest is amazing for parents. Here is my own Kids’ Activities Board on Pinterest.

25.) Pick up a free copy of calgary’s child magazine at most grocery stores or anywhere where free magazines are distributed http://www.calgaryschild.com/family-fun/1581-115-things-to-do-with-kids-in-and-around-calgary they have a great events listing and amazing lists of ideas for activities.

 

26.) Visit Gasoline Alley  at Heritage Park (especially if you have shiny car fans in your family) and the old tyme candy / toy stores in the central plaza, then lunch at the Selkirk grille.  Glenmore reservoir is also nearby, you can walk along the path there.

27.)  Grab lunch and watch planes take off from the YYC airport runway (there is a great viewing area at the end of the runway) – the Edward Laborde Airplane Watching Area 

28.)  If it is nice out, check out one of Calgary’s many great playgrounds, Calgary Playground review has an excellent list! 

29.)  Round up everybody and Go for Dim Sum – our favourite is the family friendly Central Grand Restaurant downtown in China town (kids will love the koi carp fish pond at the entrance where you can feed the fish.) Avenue magazine has a great article on dim sum op tions in Calgary and advice if you are new to the experience (and its delicious food) which is in a kid-friendly format of “little eats” and is bought to you via steaming bamboo pots on carts. Children can also choose their own desserts at the desert area.

30.)  Go to a loonie store, pick up little figurines (animals, etc.) and build a winter car race track (for the little guys) or a winter forest for the animals (get branches and stick them into the snow) – kids have fun scavenging for rocks, branches, etc.

Favourite Calgary bloggers or websites:

http://www.rockiesfamilyadventures.com/ Great outdoors activities ideas for families w/ young children and also reports on conditions from different areas.   Family adventures in the Canadian rockies is a facebook group worth joining with a great community happy to offer suggestions based on the area of the city you are in.

Calgary Playground Review http://calgaryplaygroundreview.com/ 

Great infographic on dressing babies for cold weather

Why you should reject the “OMG I AM SO BUSY” Busy Mom Mindset

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In my professional job at a Canadian University, I design and give seminars on a variety of topics that help students be successful at University.  It’s one one my favourite parts of the job and it has some selfish benefits – I get to learn and experiment with these principles in my own life before I share with clients.  I get to read books and research and then teach principles to others, that help me, too.

At this year’s class of 2020 induction the University brought in NYT best selling author, Psychologist & TED Talker extraordinaire Kelly McGonical speak to the class of 2020 on her new book, The Upside of Stress.

At its core, this amazing book is really about how to reframe stress and use the power of our own perspective and our own mindset, to reframe stress into a good thing. Chock-full of anecdotes and research, The Upside of Stress demonstrates the power of mind over body – and mind over life.

Those Books that Make a Difference

Often, the books that resonate with us the most, are the books that simply frame in English language, some kind of principle we’ve understood or known all along, but couldn’t fully frame. I think that’s why the book did so well.  The Upside of Stress hit home in so many ways. I only wish I had read it when I was in undergraduate studies myself.  It would have saved me so much self-imposed “I’m soooo busy!” drama.

I didn’t figure out my stress stuff until the age of 30, when I experienced really heavy stress.

In the spirit of this book, and the approach McGonigal takes on reframing stress, I wanted to talk about how we can re-interpret stress & the cult of “busy” in the journey of motherhood. We can’t change events or circumstances, but we can work on how we viewtalk about and decide to interpret things.

 

Mom 1 to Mom 2:  Hey…are you a member of the cult?

Mom 1:  wtf?

Mom 2:  The cult of busy of course! WE ARE SOOOO BUSY! (takes off chasing toddler)

 

Whenever I mention to people that I have two small children (toddler and 1.5 year old) the first thing they do is shake their heads and say “oh, that’s busy.”  I often don’t even mention that I have children because I don’t want to induce such worry!

Sometimes I get “oh my god, you must be so busy” with a shake of the head, other times, slightly more worringly, it is with genuine concern / resignation.  I catch myself thinking  “oh?” and sort of start to doubt myself, like I should be more stressed than I am.  Maybe I’m not working hard enough?  Am I not doing something right as a parent?  Because I feel actually ok? Am I being a horrible parent because I’m obviously taking time out of parenthood to work on some business goals and people don’t do that?  Oh yes, they creep in.  As much as I keep them out, they creep in when someone looks at me with an alarmed look on their face with the mention of two children under three.

The problem is, I kind of don’t want their perspective.

If bought into this whole “my life is so horribly busy and I work so hard and I am exhausted and omg” it would be a bit of a disaster.  I would have immersed myself in the cult of busy. I’d probably be on a really high SSRI dosage.  I’d be in counselling.  I’d be struggling to deal with the left curve balls that sometimes get thrown my way.

It’s a devious cult, this cult of “busy” and it is hard to emerge from because it takes over the way you see things.  It’s a mindset.

If my mindset is like this:  MY LIFE IS MAXED OUT, I AM SO BUSY AS A MOM HOLY SHIT, I definitely would not be giving myself the mental space for anything else to happen, ever.  Because I’d be red-lining on everything, all the time. I wouldn’t have done any of the things I’d done on mat leave, or started any businesses or projects.

It led me to wonder, how come everybody says “you must be so busy.”

Why?  There’s tons of influences. In coaching we call it societal discourse.  It’s the hum of conversation around a topic that seems to be widespread.

First, it might be a cultural thing.  There’s a sort of pride, achievement in saying how busy you are.  If you are busy you must be super productive and successful.  I must be super productive and successful.  Therefore I must be busy. That’s the underlying assumption that occurs out there in the world when you have a lot on the go.  The ego likes that.  Then it doubles down when you are a Mom, because we have this weird guilt thing where we feel like we have to justify our very existence with double the hard work, right?

Some people are genuinely maxed out with life, and that’s totally cool.  I’m not judging.  But I write this post to help others who want to “catch” themselves in the mindset and take the edge off of it, because I think a lot of opportunity opens up with just a shift in mindset.

Where else does this whole busy mom thing come from?

There’s movies about the harried, flustered Mum.  Commercials that want you to think you are busy because then you’ll need their product.  Capitalist society wants you to be busy and stressed, because then they have solutions for you for only $10.99.

Moms are always portrayed as stressed and frazzled, aren’t they?  Everywhere we go, everything we see.  And it’s kind of our fault.  We don’t look up from our phones to pay attention to a mom calmly playing with their kids in the park – we only notice the exceptions.  They’re more interesting.  The 5 minutes in the day where the kid has gone bat shit crazy, and is about to take down a shelf at the grocery aisle, with Mum valiantly trying to save the kid from himself.  But we don’t notice the quiet moments – not the other 1440 minutes where they are doing well and things are calm.

The exceptions become the norm, then media and society immerses us in that norm.

 

Because of reading books like McGonical’s – books from different people with different mindsets, who all experience the same things we do yet see them in a different way –  I discovered that there is more to it.  There are people out there who achieve amazing things as parents, and they think differently.

The key is if we want to be something, or do something, we need to study those who are successful at it, and look at their mindsets.  

We are not resigned to this fate of busy, harried, stressed out moms.  We can be busy, yes but we can be in control and cooly, calmly and pleasantly say no if we need to, or yes if it’s a priority. We can choose yes or no and make our lives as busy, or quiet, as we want to.

The luxury of choice also extends to our own minds.  We have the luxury of making a choice of whether to believe we are busy or not.  With two under three, I decided that I was not busy; I still had time.  And with that time, I could pursue goals and dreams and projects and priorities.

Sure, free time was compressed from 3 hours (luxurious evenings pre-children) to 1 hour (while children or napping, or while I am on lunch break at work.)  but I still had an hour free time each day in some form or another.  Free time is free time.  I sat down and looked at my week, and where the gaps of free time happened (6-7am, lunchtime at work, and 8-9:30pm) and decided what my most deeply held goals and values / priorities were. A crystal clear priority plan I still have on my iPhone notes when I need to remind myself what I want to say “YES” to, and as a source of strength when I have to say “NO” to things.

In this or that hour of free time, there went the goals and projects.  Writing a childrens’ book.  Running an Etsy store.  Reading and learning.  Finishing my coach training and launching a coaching business.  But they weren’t OMG JUST MORE SHIT TO DO.

These were all consciously chosen and pursued dreams and goals that I looked at as my idea of fun on free time.  I wanted to do these.  That’s just me. That’s what I define as enjoyable and rewarding.  Others may be Netflix or catching up on laundry, that’s okay too!  But do you tell yourself “AAAAGH!” or “COOL, IT WILL BE NICE TO SWITCH IT UP AND DO THIS INSTEAD.”

Is your approach an “ I HAVE TO” approach or a “I WANT TO” approach?

I don’t mean to be a jerk but I do mean to give a cold hard dose of reality with this post –  if you came back and said to me NO SERIOUSLY I HAVE NO FREE TIME I would debate that. I would want to see a week’s breakdown of your life, and I would ask you about your mindset.  I would ask you about what you said yes to, what you said no to. I’d ask you to put “yes and no” in the box according to what you said when that opportunity came up.

What qualifies in your life as free time?  What activities are you designating as “I have to” and  as “I want to.”

Let’s take this external event, I’ll show you an “I have to” and “I want to” mindset.

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Deciding to take the kids to the library.  Two different experiences.

Mum 1:  Agh I have to get them out of the house and this is my to do today.  It’s just one more thing on this massive list of things I am supposed to get done today. Work work work! Busy busy busy! I have to get this done!

Mum 2:  Ah awesome, with this hour I’m going to decide to take the kiddos over to the library, that’s a treat for us, a fun excursion and a break from the day’s routines. I want to do this !

SAME external life event for both moms.  Two TOTALLY different ways of perceiving it. No wonder when you come across people in the library everyone is in a totally different state of mind; look at how different their beliefs can be.

Mum 1 is living in the  “holy shit I’m so busy / stressed” narrative. Mum 1 feels that everything is outside of her external control and she’s just dragging herself along.  Mum 2 is living in a more in-control narrative that doesn’t see everything as obligations and duties.  Mum 2 is operating by choice.  They may both have busy lives and the same schedules, but they have different mindsets and ways of perceiving the situation.

What do you think Mum 1 and Mum 2’s lifestyles look like?  Do their thoughts serve them well?  Do their mindsets move them closer to goals they have?

 

 

When you wake up in the morning and you have a particularly big day of activities coming up – whether you work or stay at home, do you feel that anxious energy and think “I JUST WANT TO STAY IN BED OMG LIFE IS SO OVERWHELMING AND THIS IS JUST CRAZY”  Or do you feel that anxious energy and think “cool, this is a little tingle of excitement and anticipation getting me ready to execute a big day!”

The brain quite literally  changes its wiring and neural pathways to accommodate your thinking patterns.  Each time  you choose to think a certain way, you are either reinforcing the pathways present – or helping the brain to reshape itself and habitually think a different way.

If you start reading books by all of these cool women who have kids and have achieved awesome things, youll notice that most them tend to go through the exact same scenarios that we moms do – but they frame it differently.  They make the choice to think things, and form their brains in ways that will help them toward their goals. You as a mama know how quickly time passes, so think about what you want to achieve.  Whether you use it or not, time will pass.  You already know this better than anyone, as you sit with your baby and think “where did the time go?!”

If you want to join the cult of busy and the stress narrative, that’s your choice but ask if it serves you and gets you towards your goals.  There’s an alternative that will help you take on new things and grow.  You just have to choose it.

xo

 

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Extra reading *and viewing

 

Amazon link:  https://www.amazon.ca/Upside-Stress-Why-Good-You/dp/1583335617

McGonical’s online course through Stanford University http://online.stanford.edu/course/upside-stress

Kelly’s personal website http://kellymcgonigal.com/

 

How to Have a Great Maternity Leave: Create a Vision Board on Pinterest – It May Change Your Life.

 

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Do you remember watching the Secret years ago, when it came out?  John Assaraf, one of the entrepreneurs talked about setting up a cork vision board and he’d pin magazine pictures, etc. to it.  Back in the 90s I had what was like the early predecessor of a pinterest board or vision board.  I had a black journal and in it I added pictures of Britney Spears, dream wedding rings, TONS of nail polish art and urban decay makeup swatches, my dream car, my wedding dress, all that usual teenage dream stuff.

Hold-the-vision

The strange thing is, I found it the other day and I was more than a bit taken aback by the photos of women I wanted to look like, and the engagement ring I had pinned all the way back then.  I have that wedding ring.  My husband chose it out independently.  My dream car in that book. I am driving it now.

At the time, when I added those magazine pictures at the age of 14 these were all just pipe dreams.  Yet, so many images from that book, I have in my life now.

This brings  me to today’s topic:  How Pinterest has been an absolute game changer for me in strategically and intentionally crafting my goals and lifestyle.

I started Pinterest about 3 years ago and have accumulated thousands of pins and hundreds of boards.  One of my most active ones and a regular practice to this day, is pinning images from the future that I would like, to a board I called “My Future Life.”

It is the most relaxing, enjoyable activity. I could have the worst day possible and aside from having a nice craft beer, lol, this is one of the single best tools to lighten my mood.  But, my pinterest habit has turned out to be more powerful than that.  My life is slowly becoming that board.  I am skeptical and I don’t like woo-woo. I shut down at the mention of feelings, emotions and heart chakras and dreams.  But there is most definitely something going on here.  So what is it?

Actively pinning images onto a vision board has profound effects in the brain, and your own awareness/energy flows.  The act of immersing yourself in visualizing a future life that excites you is good for the body, the mind, the emotions. It turns your attention to your goals and a place of deep motivation.

After an evening of pinning, imagining the future life you will have, it is implanted both in your conscious and subconscious. You can’t help but subconsciously and consciously make small decision that will get you closer to that vision.  I have one beautiful image of the hot tub at the  Willowstream Spa, up here in the castle of the Rocky Mountains – the Banff Springs Hotel.  It is VERY fancy, VERY expensive and something a bit outside of my lifestyle.  But, I pinned it to my board as a future goal, a future vision.  And I wrote under it “one day I will be doing my work from a laptop here with a glass of wine.”

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Pins from my future life 

 

 

I pinned that 3 years ago, and this past March, I found myself sitting in the hot tub at the Willowstream, sharing a day pass with a good friend and business mentor, having a business strategy summit.  The moment I realized it, an excited chill went down my spine.  This stuff works.

The beauty of that hot tub and spa never left me after I pinned to that board, and as I went along my in my day to day life it was there, sitting in my unconscious.  When an opportunity to go there came up (that required some shuffling of schedules) I didn’t even hesitate.  On the secret they talk about how events, people and things are attracted to you if you put the intention out there. Is it a coincidence of all people, my friend asked me to go to the Willowstream Spa with her to do some business coaching and strategizing?

The brain takes in a lot of data, both on the conscious and subconscious level.  It is estimated that it is crowded with more than 50,000 thoughts per day.  We are always thinking of random things we want to do , or see things that make us think “oh wow I want to do that!!” but they disappear just as quickly as the thought arrives, lost in the mass of brain activity. What if we took that thought, captured it on a pinterest board and came back to it once in a while, to keep it there, and present, floating on the surface?

 

Let yourself be absurd. Interior design. Exotic vacations. Laughing family winter pictures.  A hike that looks like it belongs on an outdoor magazine.  Pin it, and in the notes write down how it makes you feel, or something about that image.

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Underneath a hiking family I wrote “our best adventures will be outdoors” – my values and dreams wrapped into one image, and at that point my family was unborn. You can probably guess what we do these days.  I go back and review what I pinned and my weekends with the kids are anything but dull in the pursuit of these dreams.

So try it.  Pin it.  The activity of just pinning is so enjoyable, to let your mind dance among dream places, things and people.  And let your soul go to work on achieving it behind the scenes, because one day you will wake up and realize, holy shit.

I am here.

I Didn’t Have a Motherhood Mentor or a Mom to Help Me – But Everything Worked Out.

Most of the motherhood and entrepreneurial podcasts I listen to emphasize again and again the importance of finding a mentor.  Someone whom you can learn from, look up to, aspire to be, and converse with along this complex journey.

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I couldn’t help but think that this is  an area of life in which I have not had a lot of luck / success.  I’ve had an interesting life path in which I haven’t had many mentors in my life other than my god father and grandfather (family.)

When my daughter was born, I was fresh out of losing my Mum to cancer and swimming in a world of overwhelm and grief and total lack of knowledge in the whole motherhood world.  I was terrified and insecure.  Unprepared, I was thrown into the deep end without water wings. I didn’t know how to bathe her, dress her, or anything.  (We chose not to do birth and babies classes because we were so busy caring for my mum through chemo, medical emergencies and the hospice process.)

In those few months of the fourth trimester, my friends all banded together and supported me in various ways, whether it was showing me the ropes, explaining the totally overwhelming world of baby bottles, or how to dress a newborn (this was totally intimidating to me.)  I also did SO MUCH you tubing, from figuring out my stroller, to installing my car seats in the car.

I have become pretty open to (and comfortable with) asking for help, knowing the day will come when I can help others.  Asking for help is hard, because you never want to be the one draining resources, but there is something more challenging than asking for help – finding a mentor. It is a two-sided process.  The mentee has to seek out or expand their social networks in the search, but the mentor also has to open up, and voluntarily step into that role, which is a commitment in itself, because it asks the mentor to open up and share their insights, successes and failures.

Last year, I met a wonderful friend who also became a business mentor – from whom I have learnt an absolute ton, which I am so thankful for.  Mentorship in this area has been deeply foundational for me as I step into the entrepreneurial world.  Mentorship can be as simple as a voice that says “I believe in you” and “these are some of the ways  you can do it” – someone to learn from as well as bounce ideas from.  The value of mentorship is being able to have open, honest conversations about strengths, weaknesses, fears and excitement.

Do you have a mentor in any area of your life?  In your spiritual life?  Motherhood life?  Self development life? Athletic life?

I longed for a motherhood mentor whose style I looked up to and identified with.  Being one of the first of my social group to have kids, was in it alone.  I had a few friends with older children, with styles of their own, who gave me tips and tricks which was wonderful, but the deeper stuff was experienced internally and at counselling.

People like to complain about the internet but I am SO thankful for it – for vloggers and websites like the pregnant chicken – who kind of became my mentors as I figured things out.

Eventually, I found my groove and the confidence to try things out myself and get a system going that worked for me.  But it was a lonely journey.

But then, looking back, maybe it was a good thing I didn’t have a mentor.  Because, in the absence of information, I went out looking.  I read about RIE parenting, I read about mothers bringing up babies in foreign countries, I created a Pinterest board with about 10 different lifestyle / mom blogs, and threw friends and older parents a million random questions.  I listened to podcasts and searched the internet for different perspectives.  The best way to learn is to seek out the information yourself.

I gathered information, sifted through it, picked a few things I liked and tried them out.

 

But there was a second piece to developing my motherhood style:

I went through a process of journaling, strengths exploration and values exploration with a life coach. I figured out what I really stand for, who I am and what I am good at.  What kind of life I had, and what kind of life I want for my children.

Knowing what your foundation is is so important.  It becomes your own compass – a compass upon which I base my parenting and all decisions regarding the life I am creating for these lovely children. No decision feels 100% correct or secure, but if the compass is pointing in the right direction, I just go for that decision with no regrets.

Mom mentors are wonderful, but if you don’t have one, don’t worry – you’ll find your way and you will develop an internal compass within a few months – or maybe a few years.  As long as you keep exposing yourself to information, exploring yourself, learning about who you are, and reflecting.   Who knows, maybe one day you will be a mentor to another mama.  Maybe they will look at you and think “I want that person in my life.”  Maybe they will look at you, and admire you, and want to understand your journey.

And the thing is, you’ll understand how they are feeling and what they are going through.  And that is what makes the best mentor.

The challenges you go through now – including feeling isolated or lonely – are meant to happen to you, because they are forming who you will become.

And maybe the person you are becoming, is going to help another mama somewhere down the road.

 

 

 

How to Have a Great Maternity Leave – Listen to Podcasts (Like Tim Ferriss and Tony Robbins)

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As usual, listening to the Tim Ferris podcast this morning blew my mind wide open.  Sure, it could have been the bulletproof coffee too, but the combination of the two are magical on a morning commute.  Especially when he has Tony Robbins on.

Like me, Tony Robbins is a life coach, albeit a very experienced and world famous one. 🙂

If you haven’t heard his work, maybe check out his TED talk, “Why We Do What We Do” with more than seventeen million views (!)

Early in the podcast, Tony asks Tim an important question.

Usually I just sit and listen to the podcast, but the moment he asked this question,

I was off in another world, contemplating my 34 years of life up to that point.

I love it when Tim Ferris is stumped on his own podcast =)  There was some serious contemplative silence on the podcast.

(insert suspenseful silence here.)

When I work with a client and they don’t answer, are stumped or say “I don’t know” it is so exciting. In coaching this is gold.  

One of the main goals of a professional coach is to help the client dig deeper, discover and become aware of things they were previously unaware of.  It’s like walking into a dark cave, but this time, you have a flashlight, and as you shine it into the dark, you see pictographs on the wall, stalactites and stalagmites, perhaps the sparkle of some crystal formations.

All of a sudden the story of the cave, and everything about the cave has changed.  Your perception of the cave and your expectations of it have totally changed.  And now, your experience and actions inside the cave are going to change.  Instead of afraid at the entrance, you are immersed in exploration and wonder at the natural world.  Because of a flashlight.

Life is a bit like this, too.  These are “ah hah” moments which are precipitated by powerful questions.  Which is why Tony is so good at what he does.

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Rock formation inside the cave Magura near, Belogradchik, Bulgaria – Image from Colourbox

 

A coach like Tony Robbins shows you how to pick up the flashlight and switch it on, and as you explore the cave, and undergo discovery, adventure, and reassessment of everything you thought you knew, the coach is there, at your back.

 

So back to the podcast…

What was the question that stumped Tim Ferriss?

Tony asked “whose love did you crave growing up

 I thought about this in my own life.  As should you.

My Mum was love itself.  I don’t remember craving it from her, but like Tim, I do remember craving love from my dad.

 

Next, Tony asked this gem.

 “Who did you have to be for your parent, to have his respect/love.” 

“gut reaction, no filter…”

 

This takes a while to answer because it is deep in our subconscious.  We’ve never consciously thought about it.  Ah hah.  Here’s a dark cave.  And Tony’s question is the flashlight that has just been handed to you to shine into that dark abyss.

I don’t mind sharing my personal  life here, if it helps you examine your own questions.  And I admire Tim for going there with Tony live, on a podcast.

In my interpretation, I had to be brilliant, intellectually of high calibre, and also athletic, to  have my dad’s respect / love.  

I think back to childhood, I remember the pride and recognition I received from my dad on my first black diamond ski run, his frustration at my slower learning curve, disappointment when I was cut from teams in my teens or when I cried on said ski runs.  The hard pushes beyond my comfort zones in athletic activities,  and his focus on learning, pushing higher, doing better in mathematics, homework and study time, bring home good grades, the hours spent at the dining room table trying to grasp math and counting coins.  Lots of pushing.  hard.  To be extraordinarily talented was to be loved.

He wasn’t around much from the age of 11 onward, but I do remember all of those phone conversations, the first thing I’d bring up was sports and academics, in a bid for his love and attention, which with an absent father, was so craved.

What about you?  Think about what you needed to be for the parent whose love you craved?

Then Tony asked, what about your other parent?   What did you have to be?

Tim, like myself, felt like he didn’t need to be anything with his Mum.  He could just be himself and she embraced and encouraged it.  Same boat with me. The love was there, unconditional, no strings attached, but most importantly, my mum rolled with who I was and encouraged it.

 

Why do these questions matter so much now that we are parents? 

Because we are in the journey of learning about and thinking about the love we express to our children, and how to nurture and encourage them. These questions make us realize that we carry things with us forward into the present day, that were established long ago in the past.  We have the power to become of aware of them, and change them if they do not serve us.

Until 2010 I unconsciously struggled with the impact that my father left on me.  Hard driving, hard pushing to achieve, and show him I am smart. I can do this. A masters degree, no doubt completed in part as one final attempt to get some love and acceptance which I so craved from him (we have an estranged relationship.)   Now I can just accept that pushing myself so hard in grad studies and the difficult journey in 2007-2010 was in part, due to this dynamic in early childhood. I was able to let this go after 2010 through a heck of a lot of self reflection and exploration, but Tony beautifully encapsulated and explained it today and finally gave me a better framework with which to understand the process.  He also made me much more mindful of what I want to do with my own children, and the importance of unconditional love and celebration, and encouragement of who they are instead of who I would love for them to be.

I’m going to guess there’s at least a few people, like me, who are winging this parenting thing and learning as they go, and what a beautiful lesson this morning that I stumbled on by chance as I drove to work.

We go through this world carrying a master assessment.  Our interpretation of our life.  Our story.  It’s like a filter through which everything, every event and situation, flows.  Even our parenting decisions.

To be a great parent, is to know ourselves, and be aware of that which was previously automatic, unconscious.  So that we can make the decision to either continue, or upgrade.

Aside from googling random shit on parenting, poops, and feeding, we can ask ourselves:

Where do our master stories begin? Where do we start to craft our view of the world? What influenced it?

The earliest place is in the home and in our earliest interpretations of love and recognition from our parents.

You are born a blank slate (though my spiritual beliefs include the journey of the soul through various lives) – I like Tony’s words:  “You are born wide open.”

A beautiful, wide open human, open to experiences and learning.  There is no filter yet. Babies and children are simple, pure human beings, operating with pure emotion and authenticity, from day one. Their world is their family and the love surrounding them.

I see this every day in my professional work coaching students.  They walk into my office with a proverbial suitcase rolling behind them.  Before I even work with them on study skills, as a coach I work to unpack and understand the master story they walk in with.

 

Just like the body learning motor patterning (like learning to catch a ball,) we begin emotional patterning. We see and interpret things, craft a master story and then walk with it the rest of our lives. Sometimes it serves us well, sometimes it no longer serves us and we desire change.

I love this idea.  It is beautiful.  

It’s not even an idea, I’d say it is a truth.  

As we think about how we express our love to our children (when, where and how)

we can begin to think about the imprinting that is going on.  What are we passing on? How are we modelling love to them.

It’s such a tricky balance between passing on great morals, values and shaping them into good people, but also embracing and encouraging who they are.  Allowing them to be them selves and the best version of themselves.   That’s why parenting is so diverse!

Ask yourself the questions above.

I’ve said from day one that maternity leave, and parenthood cracks you wide open and you are in a state of deep learning.  There is no more powerful time in your life to explore, understand and reconfigure.

Which brings me to close this long form blog post.

With your child, are you working to model them, or are you working to embrace and let them go with who they are?  It’s a fine balance between passing on great values, morals and shaping them into good people, but also embracing who they are and providing a font of unconditional love.

Good Time Management is About Embracing Your Strengths

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Today I wanted to talk about an important component of time management that I have noticed successful people (especially Moms!) doing, and have been trying out the last two months or so.  As always, I try out different things, and experiment / apply them to my “mom life” before I share them here.

In my last post I talked about how the quantity of time is reducing in our day to day lives, which we can mourn, or we can embrace by shifting our mindset. 

This is a complementary post, because this post is now getting into “cool, let’s talk about the quality time and analyze it further.”

We all have things that we are amazing at, and other things…well… it’s like pulling teeth. We either procrastinate hardcore, or get it done but with a bit of pouting, attitude, or even body language that is designed to indicate to everyone around us we are not enjoying it, lol. I definitely stomp around with the laundry basket.

Successful / Engaged people are incredibly realistic about what they are good at and enjoy (today we will call these “enjoyments”) and what they are not that great at and just have to dig deep to do it (we will call these “duties.”)

Have you ever sat down and listed all of your daily and weekly responsibilities – just like you would write up a job posting / job description?

And then, have you looked at that list, and decided what your enjoyments are and what your duties are?

DO IT. 

 

Here is my list of roles / projects that fill my day-to-day rhythms.  I’ve put beside them whether it is an enjoyment piece – energizing and rewarding.  Or, a duty piece.  Don’t enjoy it, just get it done.

 

Professional Job  *Enjoyment

Commuting *Enjoyment

Exercise (running) *Enjoyment

Exercise (strength) *Duty

Laundry *Duty

Clean surfaces *Duty

Organizing / putting away *Enjoyment

Cleaning *Duty

On-Demand Cooking *Duty

Advance Food Prep *Duty

Grocery Shopping *Enjoyment

Social Media *Enjoyment

Blogging *Enjoyment

Childrens’ Book *Enjoyment

Quality outdoors time with kids *Enjoyment

Quality indoors time with kids *Duty

Quality time with husband *Enjoyment

Finances and household budgeting *Enjoyment

Social planning *Enjoyment

Relationships / Communication *Enjoyment

Research / Learning *Enjoyment

Building Coaching Business *Enjoyment

Write down the list of ongoing daily responsibilities / projects that you have in your life, and assign duty or enjoyment to each one.  

The next part is deciding how to manage all of these critical activities with our time.

I am a firm believer that you embrace and work with your strengths, and partner with your (partner) on weaknesses (your weaknesses may be their strengths.) Even just the conversation around your strengths and not-so-strengths is valuable.  After a talk about our cleaning strengths and weaknesses, my husband and I decided I would be the organizer / put stuff away person and he’d take care of the cleaning jobs.  After years of us disagreeing over things this has been a big improvement for us!

Make a conscious decision about which will be your daily activities (a little, often) and weekly activities (a lot, sometimes.) 

The secret to being productive (and pretty happy about it) is tackling all of the enjoyment pieces of our life on a daily basis.  I crack away at each of these, a little bit every day.  But the “duty” items drain me, put me in a bad mood and just straight up take willpower.

Recently I made a conscious decision to tackle duty items  in one big day, once a week instead of facing them down every.single.day.   That works for me – and that’s what I want to stress: decide what works for you. What works for you? Do your “duty” items feel better tackled a little bit at a time every day? or would you rather roll up your sleeves and get ‘er done in one big blitz?

My husband’s strengths complement my weaknesses in cooking and cleaning – but when I do them, I try to blitz them so that most of the week, that precious time is spent in my strengths, dialing in our budgets, building businesses, planning social events, organizing and putting things away, etc.

One big cooking blitz, one big laundry blitz, one big cleaning session. I am totally okay with letting these to- dos stack up during the week while I engage with strengths, like getting my kids outside and doing cool stuff and quality time.

(Sometimes other people do not think this is okay – I’ve had my fair share of other people’s judgements –  but I think you just have to steel yourself against criticism and hold fast to the fact this is what works for our family and lets us engage on a daily basis with our priorities and places of engagement and enthusiasm.)  

“But if you are deciding put off important items, how do you keep track of them?”

You may want to ask that.  Here’s another thing I do to make this system work.

 JOURNALLING.  

I could write an entire post about journalling. I’m a passionate journaller.

I’d love to write about using it to keep track of projects, inspiring your life with bucket lists, tracking how you are doing mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually with daily check ins, intention and goal setting, or even just helping your memory out by transcribing dates from iCal into a written journal.

(I promise I’ll get to a post on this.)

Anyways back on track –

On Sunday night I sit down and set intentions and goals for the week, but I also write a comprehensive list of important things to get done, and I add to it as ideas randomly pop in my head, or as I suddenly remember things (I don’t have a great memory.)  I’m known for remembering random things we need to do, and it’s only because I carry around this journal and get it down the moment it appears in my mind.

This technique also helps me maintain focus on my work by not getting sidetracked.  Thoughts pop up, I put them into the journal to be deal with and evaluated later.

Depending on whether it is a duty or enjoyment item, I either tackle things daily, or I save the duty pieces to one dedicated evening / morning or day at when I have a chunk of free time and can tackle them all at once.

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(This is what an ENTP journal looks like, if you know your MBTI types)

 

LET’S TALK!

I am dying to know – what are your systems, how do you manage the great work and the grunt work?  Are you a little every day, are you a all-or-nothing type? Have you ever sat down and thought about this?

If you have, is your system working for you so far?  Any unique tips?

Let’s chat!  I’d LOVE to know.

What Are the Best Ways to Increase Happiness On Maternity Leave? Tell Me About Your Happiness

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It’s an important question, isn’t it.  How do I feel happier on maternity leave?

I know all of you are out there working hard to have a beautiful, fulfilling and happy maternity leave.  It’s a journey that’s for sure.  There are amazing days, and not-so amazing days.  It’s kind of shit sometimes.  Even if you have all of the happiness tools in your tool kit, it can be tough to come by because of the hormone ride and massive life adjustment we are on.

One thing I noticed is that many women have fond memories of maternity leave, and the power of hindsight is something really worth talking about.  Author Gretchen Rubin talks about this phenomenon,  which she called the fog of happiness.

Where moment to moment, we may be feeling like we are about to go crazy, and it sucks.  Yet with time, all of those moments create a thick peaceful fog – a feeling of fulfillment and overall happiness.  We remember the crappy moments, but they also seem to be shrouded in a gentle fog of happiness. 

I can only write about it now in July 2016, because I sit here two maternity leaves later, having experienced this fog not once, but twice.

 “Fog is elusive. Fog surrounds you and transforms the atmosphere, but when you try to examine it, it vanishes. Fog happiness is the kind of happiness you get from activities that, closely examined, don’t really seem to bring much happiness at all–yet somehow they do.” – Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project.  

This concept changed my life and how I get through the moments of my little guy popping his first molar and wailing in my ear at 2am.  Because honestly, “this too shall pass” sometimes doesn’t cut it.  The deeper knowledge of the overall fog of happiness, which will cloak those tougher moments, is what gets me through.

My biggest goal is to take a scary, intimidating time of intense learning and challenges, and help you turn it into one of the most deeply fulfilling years of your life, where you have great experiences and adventures, but also retain your identity and a sense of who you are.

Today, I ask if you can answer a couple of questions about what made you happy on maternity leave.  It’s a fun one, you get to think about happy memories, and it’s less than five questions.

Your participation will help others mamas, too.

Just pop over to this link to answer, no sign up, and your answers are anonymous.  

Thank you so much.