awareness of others

We have a pretty ordinary life, days in and out we keep to our usual routines, besides works, time is mostly spent with our little family.  Life in general is very good.  However, I always have this nagging sadness (?) or discomfort bothering me.  When we eat I often feel so thankful to have food in my fridge and I thought about those that don't know when their next meal will be.  Or when we are out and about, I thought about people who don't have that kind of freedom, time or money to do that with their family.  

When I said I am sad, I don't mean I have depression.  I am quite a happy person who finds joy in all I do.  What I mean when I am sad is - this took me a while to figure out & was confirmed during a sermons - is the awareness of poverty around me. I am very well aware of how fortunate I am for having health, food, shelter and a job to pay for them.  I am also mindful of all the unfortunate things in the world, children going hungry, parents working 2 or more jobs to provide for their family, women struggles with domestic abuse, kids without loving home/guidance, just naming a few.  The awareness is there to constantly remind me to be grateful, to be appreciative and to be thoughtful of others.  The awareness is there for me to also help out where I can.  We can live comfortably in our own little bubble and it's ok and fine and life just go on normally.  But with Jesus, He desires us to reach out of our bubble.  We can't just live for ourselves and hence this awareness is felt very loud to me.  

This discomfort and awareness is always there like a help signal, "Do something.  Anything" it said.  Until I figure out what that "something" the Lord wants me to do is, the best thing I can do now is to help in anyway I can.  I can pray, can volunteer my skills and donate money, these are all I can afford at this moment.  I am asking the Lord to reveal more to me, to help me see what I can do to help others.  As a mom of 3 kids I feel I am limited in what I can do !  But the Lord is ever the creative one, I am sure if I let Him He'll come up with something pretty awesome !

As I continue this this post a couple weeks after, re-reading the above writing, and it dawned on me, we can serve as a family !  We can help the kids and others to learn of Jesus' love in small projects.  Yay for this little insight !!!!! 

My desire is to serve the Lord and as a mother I desire for my kids to find Jesus and love him.  In loving Him, they will learn to have compassion for others, be responsible and accountable people, learn to stand firm for what they believe in, and not to compromise.  In loving Jesus, we know that we can disagree with a person, disagree with a point of view, and disagree to a certain lifestyle while still loving them as a person.  

DIY Wall Organizer/Command Center

School have since started for Bee.  She's also in Awana this year.  Lately I found myself forgetting "fancy day" at school or when Awana store is open - the 2 events that Bee looks forward to.  I sometime use the calendar on my phone for all these but since I don't have the phone with me all the time and don't usually check it first thing in morning, it doesn't do me any good.  Fed up with too many missed events, one afternoon I asked C to make me a command centre !  aka wall organizer.  I doodle out what I like, a wall of pictures frames - one would be a white board, one a cork board, one frame will frame-hooks for jackets/bags, and one frame for art work.  I shared my design with C and he suggest he build me one big one from wood so it's less work, less holes on our wall and keep everything together in one place.  We spent the next hour brainstorming what we want, what's easy/fast to do; then sent C off to Home Depot to get the wood slats.

The outcome of C's hard work !  A wall organizer for our kids' stuff.
What C did:

  • Pcked up 5 pieces of 1" thick by 6" wide and 8 feet long (ask store staff to cut the 8 feet into 2 (so they are 4 feet each)
  • For the trimming of the wall mount (the part where I painted gray), you can use whatever wood width thickness you like (hubby used the same wood size and cut it down to frame the wall mount, this wood is also what he used to nail all the 4 feet slats together, lay side and side)

Less than an hour of banging nails away in our garage, C got the wooden wall mount done.  I then painted the trim with Fusion Mineral Paint's grey paint left from my dressers project.  I highly recommend this brand.  Great coverage, non toxic, water based (I accidentally got paint on the wall many times ! and I just have to wipe off after with a damp cloth).

Using a stud finder, C located 2 solid beams and used 4 long nails to screw the wood wall mount onto the wall.  It's very very sturdy.  I made a mistake with the hooks though !  We were so eager to put it up we forgot the check.  I bought some beautiful ceramic knobs to use as hooks but the screw is back in not front in !!!!  It was too late to use because the wall mount is already screwed to the wall.  Too late for me but not for you.  So make sure you check the knobs or hooks you're using for jacket/bag holder first before securing the wall mount to the wall.

I bought a roll of cork from Rona to glue onto the middle exposed area and made that into a cork board (I discovered much later, you can get the cork roll from Dollarama too, for fraction of the cost).  I also bought a small white board and nailed it on the cork board.  I used a permanent sharpie and ruler to draw in the lines for calendar and the standard whiteboard marker to write in events and appointments.  

Almost a month in now and this board has been serving us very well.  It took a few days to train the kids to hang their bags and lunch bags and Awana vests here though !  So far so good.  We post all school notices and permission slips on the cork board.  Write important events on the white board.  Some day I leave message for C there (I go to work before him) because I know it's what he checked every morning before taking Bee to school.  The fact that it's being used and used often, that to me is success.  Very happy with the outcome !

Gratitude changes attitude

I love Thanksgiving, the day off from work, family get together, and best of all, a specific day dedicated to giving thanks !  It encourages all of us to take out time to count our blessings.

I have heard of intentional thanksgiving countless time and took it to heart how important it is to be thankful.  I have always been thankful to the Lord for the family I have, our health, our friendships, and the job I love.  It's something I carry in my heart.  However, saying "thank you for..." and really giving yourself the time and space to think, realize, and fully absorb why you are thankful is quite different, for me at least.  I only been making time for intentional thanks giving in recent years and it's quite mind changing.

I don't go to bed feeling all content and blessed every night !  Who does ?  Some night I lay in bed feeling upset or frustrated or tired or worried.  When I pray it's quite easy to start pouring out on all that's unfair, that's wrong to the Lord; but since making a habit of giving thanks first (I actually learnt about this when I was a tween but I never understood the whys), lingering on at this phrase, giving it more time, (before moving on with prayer requests) I noticed it changes my perceptions of things.  

At the start of prayer, I would list out what I am thankful for.  It start with one thing, then usually that one thing linked to another and then another, and somewhere during this time, the attitude of my heart change.  I don't know how to explain it, it's the mystery when conversing with the Almighty !  I just know it to be true.  I can feel the Lord telling me to be at peace and cast all my cares on him.  If I was upset or frustrated, I am now more calm and collected and gained new insight of the situation.  If I was tired, well I am still tired :) but I see purpose to my tiredness (I am growing a family after all and that takes efforts and plenty of sweats) and understand that it will go away with a good night rest.  If I was worried, I am reminded of all the times Jesus provided, how faithful He is.  I might feel I am at a dead end but He's got a way out.  HE ALWAYS have an awesome plan for me.

I understood now why we give thanks first !  because it takes us out of the little black hole we are currently in and shows us a bigger picture.  Remembering how the Lord took care of me in past circumstances gives me hope for whatever trials I am facing.  This changes my perceptions of the situation I am in, changes my attitude, changes my approach, and changes the course of my prayer.

While I don't always go to bed with a smile on my face, I always always wake up feeling grateful and peaceful.  It's a habit I do so often that it's slowly becoming a part of me !  I give thanks through out the day,  thankful for the break in the rain when I walk home with Bee from school, thankful for long nap Peanut took so I can write this post, etc etc !  This is probably one of my favourite habit and one that I want to keep.

Kid toys books storage ideas

When I was searching for storage ideas I found so many great suggestions.  Bins and baskets are the way to go, to keep all those knick knacks out of sight !  We have so many little toys, soooooo many.  Like the toy shop threw up in our house :-(  Even after the kids clean up something is always forgotten behind the chairs, tables, baskets, dressers, on the table, tucked behind a shelf, etc.  They are kinda really bad at cleaning.  At least they clean so I don't complain and always thank them for their hard work.  Then when they sleep, C and I would organize and clean and complain about them kids.  We protest whenever they want to make a mess but we actually like (and hate) that they have so much ideas !  And often we can't help but get down and dirty with them and that's when the whole house is a huge mess !  Ah, this is the life with kids and it's all good !  

The few times when my kids made my blood level rose and I am ready to smack someone's behind, I usually give myself a prep talk in my head - Tracy, you want kids !  You love them, this is what life with kids is like, it's a crazy roller coaster, embrace it, scream if you need to, then get over it as this time shall pass.  

To compromise with our kids, I am have gotten some baskets and toys trunk to throw everything in, quick and easy and we all can do it !  Now I just need to pretty them all up.  Anyways, until I get to it, here are some ideas I like and hope to incorporate into our play area.   Keep in mind that all these pictures are probably staged for photo ops.  They must be right ?  Who's house look like that ?   OK maybe theirs. Maybe just our kids are messy :-(  can I return them ?  :-P

Mud room entry way storage ideas

I don't have a mud room :(  I wish I have a mud room.  I am planning on converting my entry area into something like a mud room.  It will house all the kids jackets, shoes and backpacks.  Since we don't like clutters, I think we will have baskets and cupboards so we don't see all the stuff.  No matter how organized an area is, if I see too many colors, too many types of items and too many holders it makes me go a little nuts inside.  I like storage that's uniforms, not too many things hanging out and about !  We are thinking of building something maybe this Christmas holiday or the spring next year.  We'll see if we get to it !

Here are some ideas of what I have in mind:

This is something I think hubby will like !  Wood and white !  I would use all rectangle woven baskets on top and have all the bench solid and the seats can open up for storage (shoes :-) the kids have so many shoes).

*Pictures are courtesy of PinInterest

Why do we have 3 kids ?

Lately it seems we find ourselves explaining so often why we have 3 kids.  People want to know our reason (s) because some are thinking of having more kids, but many of times, the question is asked out of sheer curiosity or nosiness :)

Our answer to having 3 children is that, because we want to.  How do we know we want 3 kids ?  We don't.  Simple as that.  I don't think there's a satisfying answer for it other than because we want more kids and we stopped at 3 because we feel 3 is good for us, we can't handle more.  I do want to give people advice on how do you know if you want kid or more kids, because I get asked that question so so often.  I just feel it in my heart.  Does that make sense to you ?

While pregnant, I asked a mom at the playground what it is like with 3 kids.  She said very loud but fun.  Her 3 girls get along very well.  Around the same time, I came across a blog about a mom with 3 and she was having a hell of time, in the not good way, and it freaked me out.  With answers on both end of spectrum it is obvious the answer to such question is very subjective.  Too many variables are at play here.  Who we are, who our kids are, where we are at in our life/career/relationship, and who are in our support system play major roles.  When deciding to have our 3rd child, we didn't make our decision based on other's experiences and opinions.  We wanted one more kid as we wanted a big family.  We both are in our late 30 so 3 is our cut off # :D  Having my mom available to help out is an added encouragement.  I think having 1 or 5 kids is manageable if all your ducks are somewhat in a row.  It's quite obvious, if there are money or marital issues, you won't try to bring a child into that picture.

The thought of having a child together make C and I both giddy with joy.  A life long collaborative work that we will be taking on together, we will both be parents. Children are so precious. It is an indescribable feeling mixed with joyful tears each time we welcome our child to the world.  Some people said we're crazy having our 3rd. I guess 0 or 1 or 2 is the norm so if you got 3 or more, people think you're crazy to have that many.  3 is actually quite manageable.  I think if you already have 2 kids, 3 is doable.  The transition between 1 to 2 kids is tough and once you managed that, you have the skills and experience for another.  I think the biggest challenge we faced now is working out the time to spend with each kid, as before our time was divided by 2 and now it's by 3.  But Bee makes it a little easy for us as she enjoys being on her own more, exploring lego and crafts and writing/drawing in her journal.  So back to the question, why 3 ?  No reason for 3.  We didn't set out to have 3 kids.  After our first baby, we would love to have another sibling for her.  We thought once we are long gone to be with Jesus, our children will have each other as family.  Then when we have 2 kids, we decided to have one more child.

Before having children, C and I did a lot of talking and discussing and evaluating.  If you are thinking of a 3rd child, talk, listen, and talk and talk and listen and listen to your husband or wife.  It's important to be on the same page as bringing a child into the world is a huge deal !

Having kid is a major decision, whether you're having your 1st or 3rd, you need to ask yourself some realistic questions.  Before having kids, we asked ourselves if we can provide a loving, safe, stable environment for our child to grow up in, if our marriage healthy, and how about our parenting style, do they match up ?  Then we need to think about our finance.  Can we feed and clothe and school another person ?

Being ready for a child is more than just `wanting`them.  I think it's good to ask ourselves some realistic questions.  Are you at a stable point in your life ?  Are you emotionally happy/content ?  Do you have time to care for another person ?  Do you have support ?  Are you financially stable ?  Having children is a life long commitment, much like marriage, it is for life. 

If your reason for having kids is because they bring you joy, I can assure you that you will be greatly disappointed :)  Not to say kids aren't fun but they also come with insane amount of work and at all stages of their life, they will drive you bonkers !  Kids will challenge you, push you past your limit, make you curse, make you do things you thought you will never do and they will change you !  My kids bring out the best and worst in me !!!

Once we have kids, then the hard work kicks in.  As parents we want them to grow up healthy and happy.  I believe a healthy marriage makes for a healthy family life and hence, healthy children.  Our relationship with our partner (good communication, share the same values, goals, committed in marriage, etc) play a very important role in growing a healthy family.  Healthy marriage here doesn't mean "perfect", healthy here means it's a growing relationship, where you choose to love each other over and over again, choose your family over all else.  We strongly believe having a healthy family will give our kids a stable life filled with love and security, a good foundation for them to built their life on.

Life with kids is a constant learning curve.  Our experience with our first baby was rough.  We were struggling navigating the world of "parenting", who gets to eat first, wake up first, who's turn is it to change diaper, hold baby, bathe baby, feed baby, put baby to sleep !  these are just a few of the million of chores we took on once we became MOM and DAD.

When baby #2 came along, we get to start all over again !  This time, this little baby girl came with different challenges as she's nothing like her sister !  We grew a little wiser and discovered more about ourselves.  We learned to do things at our own pace, at our own comfort level, and we could careless about what the "EXPERTS" said.  Those Experts do not have our kids :-)

Now our #3 is here, we thought we are pros at this mommy and daddy thing, but nope, it's new water we are treading :D  He's a boy so it's all new for us, as we have 2 girls before.  It's interesting seeing how each kid is so unique and different and has their own quirks.  They have different feeding habit, like different food, like different teething toys, etc !  Seriously, how it is that they like different teething toys ???  But they do !  Bee like plastic teething toys, Lovebug loves Sophie the rubber giraffe, and baby Peanut likes gnawing on a big piece of fruit.  C and I learned that as long as we stick together, we'll survive our kids :D  makes us closer too as some day we talk late into the night conspiring against the girls !  It's kinda US vs THEM at the moment.  Quite entertaining watching our kids trying to work on each of us !  Those buggers !  Love them so much !  Each of them is a colorful arc to the rainbow of our lives.  We wouldn't have it any other way.

Family weekend jaunt to Victoria

Victoria is great for a weekend jaunt across the water.  Close to home but far enough to make you feel like you went away.  We went there many times without kid, then with 1, then 2, and now with 3 kids in tow !  The day before we go I like to print out a map of our hotel and surrounding places (restaurants, point of attractions, convenient shops, etc).  I also jot down a tentative itinerary for our four days there.  Listing things we can do and places we can go if the weather is nice or if it's cloudy and rainy.  I do this every time we travel, to give us a frame work to shape our day, to save time and to ensure all the must do items are covered.  For me, I want to visit Hatley museum while the girls said they must visit the bugs zoo.

For this trip, I booked it through BC Ferries Vacation, which includes ferry reservation, ferry rides, and hotel. It's convenient and now with family of 5, I need that extra booking help of an agent with finding us a family room for a steal !  My agent, Kathie, was friendly and helpful.  When posted pictures on fb about this trip, I realized a lot of people don't know that BC Ferries has a travel center that grouped hotel and ferry cost into an affordable package. We saved a lot booking through them vs booking hotel and ferry separately (if you know me, I am all about price comparison and finding deals :)  We saved close to $100 per night at the hotel we picked and also saved the $15/day hotel parking.  I worked out, with the package, ferry ride both way is over $200 so hotel works out to be about $200 a night.  The hotel website quoted me over $300 so this is a deal !  The room we booked is a suite, with full kitchen, so it's a plus.  We will definitely go this route again with BC Ferries.

The ride

The drive to ferry was smooth and put baby Peanut to sleep.  Yay !  When we about to board, C realized he forgot the stroller and I realized I forgot my ergo carrier at home :(  No no no no no !  I can't believe it !!!  The most important item to take and we both forgot ! I even walked around the house to ensure we got everything too.  Oh well, we'll have to pick up a cheap one once there.

We had lunch on the ferry, trusty Triple O :-)  Can't go wrong with chicken tenders and greens.  We had our fill then let the kids blow off their energy at the small play area.  There's free wifi so we quickly logged in to check on the weather and news then logged off.  We want to limit being connected, just so our brain can really rest.

Hotel check in isn't til 4 so we went and check out Hatley castle.

The castle is quite magnificent !  I was picking between this one and Craigdarroch but I opted for Hatley when I read the latter one was reportedly haunted and I am not into that.  Hatley's ground is very well kept.  We went on a Friday so it was quiet.  They were setting up for a wedding and Peanut is wide awake so we decided opt out on the tour.  He would be agitated and we can't see everything due to the wedding anyways.  The visit was a nice stop on the way to hotel.  The girls ran up and down and around this place.  They should be tired and ready for dinner !

We arrived to our hotel, Parkside Hotel & Spa Victoria, a little before 4pm but they let us check in early.  Front desk staff was super nice and friendly.  Our suite was nice and quite huge, over 600 sq. at least.  I like the modern decor and the kitchen with a breakfast counter.  The kids love the huge pool and hot tub and the koi fishes.

Right in front of this hotel, cutting through beautiful yard of St. Ann's Academy, is Beacon Hill park !  Our kids will love the green space.  From here, it's a walkable distance to all other main attractions.  It's just right at the skirt of the downtown core, no car fumes, less crowd, and not noisy.  Quite peaceful here !  The coffee shop downstairs make a delicious Americano.  My husband planned to visit it twice a day.

After touring the hotel and settling in, we went out for dinner then back to our room.  The kids were excited to go swimming at the hotel's pool.  We were excited to use the hot tub.

Hotel guest area

Khoi pond that's a hit with our kids

The big pool, starts at 3 1/2 feet deep

Our suite, queen bed in the bedroom with queen pull out sofa.  Fully equipped kitchen, dining area, laundry closet with a small washer and dryer,  and living room with a big screen TV. 

Bedroom connected to bathtub that's connected to a bathroom (with a standing shower in there)

Private patio with a patio set

Hotel roof top area with benches and patio sets for guests use
Day 2

Morning we went wandering around downtown Victoria, grabbing some warm drinks to keep us toasty !  My phone reported 17 degrees but the city is surrounded by water so it's quite cool and windy at times.  I love the charming heritage look of Victoria city.  No tall glass high rises and no box like buildings.  There are many local brands/stores on the main shopping district.  You don't find Starbucks at every corner.  I sense there's a strong support for local shops here.

Picked up a carrier from Walmart.  I was hoping to pick up a used Ergo on Craigslist but couldn't find any.  Still mad at myself for forgetting my Ergo at home :-S

After lunch we head to Beacon Hill park, about 5 min. walk from our hotel.  This place is a beauty.  It's the highlight of this trip for me.  The kids love the petting zoo with loads of goats and peacocks wandering around.  After petting the goats, we went on a short hike and let the kids run wildly up and down the hills.  Admission to the zoo is by donation and the lady at the gate gave us a peacock feather for souvenir!  How nice is that ?

After dinner and some rest in our hotel, we headed downstairs to the pool.  The kids love swimming in there !  Even more so after they discovered the swimming wings (allowed them to swim in the deep end).  I like the pool here because it is not very crowed.  Usually there're 2-4 other kids and less than 5 adults.  C especially liked the hot tub !  He and I switched holding baby so the other can have some soaking time !

This is the first trip as a family of 5 and the kids behaved so well !  Yay for future road trip !

Day 3

We went to the bugs zoo as per the girls request.  It's a small little place with lots of creepy crawlies.  The kids went nuts, screaming and cringing.  I was lining up to touch a tarantula spider but Peanut was hungry and won't stop whining so we left.  We all got our hands stamped on the way out, this way we can return later in the day.  The admission price is for all day access !

After feeding Peanut, we went for lunch then back to the hotel to pack for the beach !!!  Willows beach is a 10 min drive away, a really nice sandy beach with loads of drift woods.  I fell in love with it the moment we set foot on the sand.  Quiet, not crowded, fine soft sand, and free parking.  I walked around exploring the beach with baby Peanut, while C and the girls collected drift woods and built a hut !  C always built something at the beach :)  He is made to be an architect.

While waiting for our food at Red Fish Blue Fish, we watched the water boats coming and going.

Red Fish Blue Fish's taco !  Seriously delicious.  We make a stop here every time we're in Victoria.

After the beach, we went out for dinner then back to the hotel for a visit to the pool :-)  No matter how fun the day is, it isn't quite complete without swimming !  For our 2 girls that is.

Going home

We went out for breakfast on our last day then back to hotel to pack up.  Before heading home we wanted to visit Willows beach again.  We hang out there for a couple of hours, enjoying the hut C built the day before !  Our time were spent lazying around !  The beach was quiet today.  The sky was blue, calm and clear.

Waiting for a seat at John's Place.  It's so crazy busy here.
Story of my life !  Always late for the camera !!!