Last year, something that began simply, with little planning, using paper, scissors and colour pencils, created what became the activity advent calendar. Made up of ideas that our little family brainstormed during a drive, we created the most wonderful December leading up to Christmas.
The activity advent calendar was born, and we loved it so much, we’re doing it again this year.
I love the idea of an advent calendar that adds to the season through doings. In a time that is already hyper stimulated with stuff, this is a beautiful way to feel joy in giving/making/doing things together as a family, for others, and spreading joy in activity; an activity advent calendar.
Inspired by this idea, I have lovingly made some Christmas Village theme calendars that are available to buy through my shop, but it’s also something that you could easily do using materials you can find at home.
Inside every card, space to write a daily activity that the whole family can look forward to completing, either at random order, or you can choose to (secretly) number them by date too, if there are specific ones you want to complete on certain days.
With last year’s activity advent calendar, the kids absolutely loved knowing that each day there was an activity lined up for the day, and they are already asking when we’re starting the calendar this year. Below, some activity ideas, and if you have some fun ones too, leave a comment below.
For the gardener, for the flower lover, finding ways to extend the season of being outside with the plants is always a welcome activity.
After the reward of the blooming season, there is still joy in preparing the soil and the spaces for the season to come, but the pleasure in knowing that nothing is wasted, sigh, the life of the flowers extends.
In gardening zone 3 where I live, there are a few particular flower types that are both abundant in the landscape, and dry oh so beautifully in the fall; masterwort, meadowsweet, queen of the prairie and hydrangeas.
There is a beautiful acquaintance that happens with the garden in the practice of making fall wreaths. Knowing which flowers don’t wilt, but rather dry beautifully. What plant to prune that won’t affect the spring growth. The shape and colour of a plant past it’s bloom peak. The whole experience is just wonderful.
Materials ● pruners ● gardening wire ● a wreath/embroidery/any kind of hoop ● plants from your yard
Group your plants by type and start creating bunches. The bigger the bunch, the more full your wreath will be.
Secure the first bunch onto the hoop by wrapping gardening wire around the stems, leaving one of the wire ends uncut.
Overlap the next bunch to cover the stem of the previous one, wrap wire tight three times, and repeat. Remember to leave the wire end uncut, you’re using one continuous piece of wire to secure the whole wreath.
When attaching the last bunch, tuck the stems underneath the first bunch and secure.
Using the lose wire end of the first bunch, secure and attach to the last.
It’s one the easiest things to do to mark the fall season, and to know that it was made from all the work you put into your summer garden makes it even more satisfying. Believe me that once you make one, you will be making many.
It looks beautiful displayed on the front entrance, inside the house, as a centre piece for a Thanksgiving dinner, and would even make a most beautiful and thoughtful gift.
And so I encourage you to go out and get to know your fall garden, the opportunity for beauty is endless.
If you are inspired to make a fall garden wreath after reading this, please make sure to tag me @our_everydays on instagram or use hasthtag #oureverydayswreaths so that I can see your beautiful creations.
This time last year, I was finishing up the last little details of the Elephant costumes I sewed for Penelope and Oliver. At the time, they were both obsessed with the movie “Dumbo”, so making them Elephant costumes seemed fitting. I made a pattern using one of their bigger fitting pjs. I improvised, sewed and resewed. Cut an old baby onesie to make a quilt pattern for the ears, but mostly, I made them with love, so much love.
They were Elephants for Halloween, and they were the cutest little Elephants ever.
I had every intention of putting together a Woody and a Barbie costume this year, as per their request, but last week cleaning up, I pulled out their Elephant Costumes, and Oliver specifically, has been wearing non stop since.
I asked them if they wanted be Elephants again this year – they said a very happy YES!
As a lover of nostalgia, having them choose to wear their elephant costumes again this year, makes my mama heart so happy.
Next year, they definitely won’t fit these handmade costumes anymore. I’ll look back at pictures in years to come, at those two Halloweens in which they were elephants. I will remember how they loved those costumes with as much love as their mother had making if for them, and well, it touches my heart in ways I can’t express.
We put the costumes on today and did a dress rehearsal; added some make up and a few little new details, can’t wait to see them go trick or treating with this tomorrow.
Somehow, and always, Oliver and Penelope always find the most beautiful ways to show their affection, and the simple and beautiful ways to say I love you.
Trying to make the best out of the nicer days we have left this season, the kids and I went for a bike ride this week.
It’s been 6 months since I went back to work full time, and after being a stay at home parent for 3 years, a part of me, a big part of me, still grieves for my stay-at-home mom days. Days where spontaneous possibility of what we could do with our days seemed limitless.
While wearing Oliver on my back, and Penelope seated on the attached bike seat, bike rides became our thing. We explored our neighborhood, visited the farmer’s market, got ice cream, went to have picnics or to the playground. My children and I riding a bike, and together feeling the wind in our hair and faces – it was special… still is.
Today, my Oliver sits on the seat Penelope once did, and my beautiful girl rides beside me on her big girl bike. Though arrangements are different, the joy of the experience is the same.
As a full time working mom, these spontaneous adventures are now more few and far between, which at the same time, make them that little bit more special when we are able to go. I am so very lucky and grateful to have found a job that allows the flexibility to balance work and personal life, especially when being a parent. And so this week, I left work early to take the kids out for the afternoon.
While the sun was still shining, we rode our bikes together. I heard squeals of joy from both of them, laughter at the bumps on the road that made their voices skip, their singing, which is really the most beautiful expression of happiness in a kid; them just singing away.
In our adventures, we came across this park, and wearing their bike helmets, they ran , rolled and played in the most wonderful blanket of yellow fall leaves.
Part of me will always miss the years I spent at home with them. They were after all, some of the most beautiful years of my life. But then, there are also days like yesterday, and one day, I will miss those days too.
I never imagined that this little room in the west corner of our home would hold such a special place in my heart. It is just a room, but symbolically, it’s much more than that. It’s the space my children have shared since Oliver was one month old.
At one point, this room had two cribs and a glider for middle of the night feeds, and now, a big girl bed and only one crib left; a space transitioning just as quickly as my children are growing.
And in that growth, so is their love for each other.
I remember researching articles (the few that were out there at the time) about room sharing before having Oliver, and reading about the benefits of children room sharing.
From a practical side, it’s incredibly beneficial.
Putting laundry away takes less time. They share a drawer so space is limited, but because of that, it forces us to only keep the clothes they actually wear. Bed time routine is done once with both of them at the same time, in the same space.
Financially, the kids sharing a room allow us the possibility to have a house with fewer rooms if we needed to reduce the financial load of a mortgage. Also, we only needed to invest in one of everything; one sound machine, one changing mat, one monitor, one diaper pail, because again, it’s all shared.
From the emotional side, the kids room sharing has given them, and us, more than we could have imagined.
A few weeks ago, when doing my nightly check in on the kids before going to bed, I shined the light on my phone towards Penelope’s bed, and it was empty. I walked over to the crib, and there they were. My babies, lying with their feet towards each other’s heads, in the most peaceful sleep you could imagine.
As a mother, walking into that scene filled my heart with so much happiness, love, and just pride.
This was all them.
We didn’t ask Penelope to climb into the crib after bed time.
Oliver didn’t have to share his crib with her.
But they did.
With no sound or protest, they both quietly feel asleep together in each other’s company, sharing not only the crib, but their safety, peace and love for one another.
Children room sharing really comes down to this…
Kids are adaptable. Create a routine that is consistent, put love and joy into it, and the kids will love it. Make bedtime something that you all look forward to, and go to bed with both your cup and their cup full. Love them so much, that they learn to do the same with each other, and then just watch.
Is it doable? Absolutely.
Is it a routine that needs tweaking every now and then? Of course.
I always wondered what the equivalent of a Man Cave would be for women? Do we have one? I’m calling it “Lady Cave”. It both hints to a space where women can have conversations about womanly stuff, and lady cave of course hints to our feminine part, which will be talked about a lot on this series.
The name seems fitting doesn’t it? Lady Cave- I like it, and we’re starting that series today!
Based on what I have gone through recently, I polled on my Instagram stories as to whether a pap test/ women’s health related post was something women wanted to read about, and the response was a big, unanimous, YES!
As women, we should be talking about this more. We all get pap tests done. Abnormal result are common, and yet, I realized I didn’t have much knowledge on what to expect when one gets an abnormal result. And I wasn’t alone – after I ran the Instagram poll, a few women messaged me saying they would like to know more, or some had experienced the same and had felt unprepared because of lack of conversation about it. I hope sharing my experience opens up a dialogue that can be helpful to at least one of you.
At the beginning of this year, my husband and I decided we wanted a more permanent method of contraception. I must admit, for the first year of my son’s life, contraception wasn’t really a priority. First of all, I didn’t have much energy in that first year to have sex anyways, ha! Second of all, as a mom of two under two for a while, making the time for anything, let alone making time to go to the doctor for birth control, seemed impossible. After a year of condoms, timing and “pulling out”, it was time to start looking at something more permanent and reliable.
Mothers have sex. Crazy right? [sarcasm]. This is a subject I also feel we don’t talk enough about. In becoming a mom, we automatically inherit a sort of virginal quality (ironically) and it’s hard to think of nurturing mothers as sexual beings – but these roles coexist. As women, and should honor that we may have sexual desires too, and that’s a good thing – but I digress.
I booked a doctors appointment, and as common practice before getting any form of contraception, I had a pap test done. The doctor did the swab, and I was done.
The experience I just described is where the process ends for most women after a Pap test. For others, an abnormal pap result will be received, which isn’t immediately bad news, it just requires more follow up.
What happens when you get an abnormal pap test result?
Depending on the severity of the abnormal cells found on your pap test, monitoring may be all that’s needed, or it may require treatment.
For a low grade of abnormal cells, a pap test every 6 months for one to two years will be recommend, and this is very common. The body will usually get rid of these cells on it’s own, and the tests are for monitoring.
For a higher grade of abnormal cells, a colposcopy will be recommended for further examination.
What is a colposcopy?
Anytime one hears complicated names in doctor appointments, things can start to seem a little scary, but after some research, turns out colposcopies are a lot more common than spoken about. It is basically a more thorough pap test/ examination of the cervix using a colposcope (a fancy microscope).
What to expect?
I arrived to the colposcopy clinic and was taken to a room to change. I had to remove everything waist down and put on a gown. I watched a video explaining the colposcopy procedure, and then spoke to nurse for further explanation. Once in the room where the procedure would take place, you lie on a bed the same way you would for a pap test, a speculum is inserted by the doctor, and the colposcope is positioned in place. My cervix area was dyed with a solution that tints normal and abnormal cells differently, and a small biopsy was taken for testing. A cream like solution was added to the area to reduce any bleeding afterwards , and that was it. The whole procedure took about 5 minutes, and I had very minor cramping afterwards. I left the clinic with a follow up appointment in 6 months time.
For most, a 6 month follow up is all that is required after the colposcopy procedure, with monitoring every 6 months for a year.
For others, like me, further treatment was required.
A week after my colposcopy appointment, I got a call saying that the biopsy sample taken during the colposcopy showed a high level of abnormal cells, and I required a Leep procedure.
What is a Leep procedure?
A Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (Leep) is a type of cone biopsy. The Leep tool removes parts of the cervix that have abnormal cells.
What to expect?
Similar to the colposcopy appointment, I arrived to the clinic, was taken to a room to change, removed everything waist down and put a gown on. The procedure was explained by a nurse, and I was then taken into the room for the procedure. Once I was lying down, a ground patch was placed on my leg which is required for any electro surgery. A colposcope was used to view the area, and local anesthesia was administered through injection right onto the cervix; it felt like tiny little cramps. I experienced a few of the symptoms they said the anesthesia would cause, but they passed almost immediately. The cervix area was dyed so that normal cells showed differently to the abnormal ones, and then with the Leep tool, part of the cervix was removed. Once the cut was done, it was cauterized to stop the bleeding. I felt minor discomfort and no pain. The entire procedure took less than 10 minutes.
This is an outpatient surgery, and you are able to leave the hospital after your procedure. You do required a ride home, and have to take the day off work. A follow up appointment will be scheduled before you leave the hospital.
Once the anesthesia passed, I did feel cramp like pains, and some burning sensation which I assume was from the cauterizing. I took tylenol and the discomfort quickly passed. I bled for a few days afterwards, but the pain and discomfort didn’t last long.
Healing and Recovery
The healing process after the colposcopy and Leep procedure was similar in my experience. I had some mild bleeding afterwards, cramps here and there, and dark coffee like discharge from the solution applied to the cervix to reduce post surgery bleeding. Otherwise, I was able to continue my days as normal. The mental part and anxiety of the unknown was the more difficult part of the experience. After either a colposcopy or Leep procedure, the area has to be “undisturbed” for 3 weeks, meaning no tampons, sex, baths, etc. Possible complications like heavy bleeding or infection were discussed prior to each procedure and I was told to go to the ER if I happened to experienced any of those symptoms.
Why am I sharing my experience?
When I was going through this, I was worried. Anything that could potentially hint to cancer is scary, naturally! It’s important to remember that pap tests are screenings to detect changes of cells early so that they can be treated before it becomes cancer. Hindsight is 20/20 of course, because I was definitely worried when I was going through all this. Taking to my girlfriends about it though, I found out that in my circle of friends, five – FIVE- of my girlfriends had gone through the same and I didn’t even know! As women we don’t talk about these things, but it’s so helpful to talk to other women who have gone through the same, and it also shows that this is more common than spoken about.
I am currently 3 weeks post Leep Procedure, and have a follow up appt in August.
I hope this post was helpful to read. For more information, the recommended pap test schedule in Alberta listed here and information on the Alberta Cervical Cancer Screening Program here.
When was your last pap test? Have you had a colposcopy or Leep? Let’s talk!
The wheels on the bus go round and round. A song that as a parent of young children, I know well – and listen to way too often, ha!
Lately though, I am happy for that song.
This is my third week back at work after being a stay at home mom for 2.5 years, and it’s been a harder transition than I imagined. Much harder than I thought. I miss the kids so much more than I ever imagined and I often find myself questioning if this was the right choice. Was this the right time? Is this what I want? There are things happening in the background that I am hesitant to share, in case I jinx it, but hoping for a better balance soon *sending the universe all the positive energy*.
The weekends have become my fuel for the week. I cherish every second I have with the kids in the week day mornings and evenings, but the weekends are my heaven. I immerse myself back into what once was our everydays, and we pick up right where we left of. I lay in bed with them a little longer, I look at my phone less, I listen to the new things they tell me, the new words Penelope learns, the new sounds Oliver is able to make, and I make sure that I try reeeeaally really hard not to miss a thing.
The kids are doing well. They are happy to visit with Grandma everyday (thank goodness for my mom being able to watch them- makes the transition a million times easier). They are also making new friends, and I hear Penelope talk about her favorite when she comes home, which makes me smile.
For my first weekend after going back to work, we decided to spend a day out, differently. We bundled up, left our car keys at home, and explored the city for a whole day on the bus. Sounds like a very simple thing to do, but it was so much fun.
Whether you take the bus often or not, there is something about taking the bus when there is no pressure of making it from point A to B on time that makes the ride so enjoyable. My husband and I could cuddle and hold hands while we heard the children’s laughter, watched how they made other people on the bus smile, and witnessed the joy on their faces for simply doing something new.
My favorite moments of the day were the transitions. The moments of dancing and entertaining the kids while we waited for our next transfer. The walks from the bus stop to our many destinations that day. The moment Oliver fell asleep nursing, and the moment Penelope slept on my lap on the way back home.
It’s beautifully ironic that it was the transitions – of all things- what I loved most about that day, yet I can’t wait to pass the life transition I am in right now. I have to find beauty in that irony.
And so I go back to the song, the wheels on the bus go round and round.
The wheels on the bus go round and round, and they do. But I like to think I have found an underlying message of perseverance in that song. In a metaphorical sense, with my return to work, the wheels of my life are going round and round, and I’m going to be making stops along the way, making transfers, trying to find the best way to go through this transition in my life, and I will persevere because well… the wheels go round and round, and so will I.
Edmonton is a great city. A perfect mixture of urban and country, and the river valley is hard to beat! Depending on whether you’re a city or a country person, Edmonton really has the best of both worlds.
Then I had children, got to know the city so much more, and now I REALLY love Edmonton as a city.
Whether it’s to find resources to make the early postpartum days easier, or finding things to do with the kids (that doesn’t require breaking the bank), Edmonton has so much to offer to parents of young children, and it really is such a great city to raise your kids in.
With a limited “going out budget” while on maternity leave, or on a single income as a stay-at-home parent, there is so much you can do with kids in Edmonton, and it’s affordable and available to all families.
As I reminisce on my years at home with the kids, all I am left with is feeling grateful for the wonderful time I spent with them, and for being able to raise them in such a great city.
And so below I share my list on how I had the best Stay-at-home Motherhood / Maternity Leave Days in Edmonton (but a lot could apply to your city too!)
Set your intention to have the MOST AWESOME stay-at-home parenthood/ maternity leave. I’ve said this before in my “Two under Two” post, and I really believe it. Attitude is everything. Whether you’re at home with your child(ren) for a year, two, three…etc, set your intention to have the fullest, most fun, and awesome days, and you WILL!
Join a Mommy Group. When Penelope was 6 months old, I joined a mommy group through Mommy Connections, a program that does exactly that: connect moms with other moms and programs in your community. I met a wonderful group of mamas, and I still see them today… 2+ years later! Having a mommy community is so wonderful for support, play dates, or for text messaging back and forth on the hard mama days. Definitely a must for a happier maternity leave or stay-at-home motherhood.
Go to Mommy & Baby Yoga Classes. I was so happy to have found this Mommy and Baby Yoga Class run by Hapie Yoga & Fitness and did the program with both my kids. It was such a great way to make some time to relax, to work on strengthening my core and pelvic strength after baby (which is something we don’t make enough time for, but should!), and an awesome way to meet new mama and babies. I love that this was part of our postpartum experience and definitely recommend it! New sessions starting January 16th!
Go to La Leche League Meetings. I started going to La Leche League meetings after my second was born, and as a breastfeeding mother (twice), these meetings were invaluable when it came to education, community and support with my breastfeeding journey. For more information on when and where their next meeting is in the city, visit their wesbite https://www.lllc.ca/find-group-alberta
Follow Box Social Events.One of the best things I learnt about while on maternity leave, especially with an energetic toddler and a baby, is Box Social Events. They organize kid friendly events all over the city, their events are ah-mazing, and most of them at no cost to the public! The kids and I have enjoyed so many great ones this summer and it’s definitely a huge part to why my stay-at-home mom days were so awesome.
Visit the outdoor playgrounds around the city. It’s very easy to get in the habit of visiting the same outdoor playground often, and so I gave myself a challenge to try and visit as many outdoor playgrounds in the city with the kids. And there are some great ones! Fun and budget friendly, plus outdoor time for the kids; all around win! A list of great outdoor play grounds by Just Another Edmonton Mommy here.
Visit the Edmonton Riverboat. Perhaps I’m biased because we got married there, but the Edmonton Riverboat experience is truly beautiful. A gorgeous view of downtown Edmonton and the River Valley, and the newly renovated boat is gorgeous!
Visit the Edmonton Public Library often. We love the Edmonton Public Library and have attended so many of their Baby and Toddler activities, and the kids love it! EPL provides a “Welcome Baby” package when you get your baby his or her first library card. You receive a bag, a book, and helpful information about the programs that the library offers children and parents, perfect for new mamas! And for any bilingual mamas like me, EPL is a great resource. More info on early literacy for bilingual babies here.
Visit the Edmonton High Level Bridge Streetcar. I’ve lived in Edmonton for 10 years, and only visited the Street Car after having kids because it seemed like it would be something fun to do- and it was! Round trip fare is $6 per adult, and children under 5 ride for FREE! A great way to explore your city, learn about it’s history, and the kids loved it. Check out their website for more info.
Learn through play at home. We have loved following Live it All In for inspiration on activities you can do at home with the kids using materials you already have, or that are easy to get. The kids not only have fun, they learn in the process too. One of our favorites ones for letter matching here .
Go to the Pub…with your kids. Because sometimes, it’s nice not to have to go to a “kid friendly restaurant” every time you want to have a family dinner out. Edmomton has a great list of kid friendly pubs in Edmonton here , and it was actually through that post that I found her blog! We have enjoyed some lovely family lunches/dinners in some of these pubs, and, if someone judges you for drinking a beer while holding a baby, tell them it helps with milk production, ha!
Go on family bike rides. Edmonton is a great city when it comes to bike trails, and though we may not be able to bike all year round, the beauty of the trails make up for it when we are able to go on them. Edmonton has so many bike/multi use trails around city and it’s such a fun, healthy and inexpensive activity to do with the kids. A map of Edmonton bike trails here.
Spend afternoons picnicking in your backyard. I found so much beauty in having simple afternoons like this one with the kids in our backyard. As moms, we put a lot of pressure ourselves to feel like we have to have a full itinerary for our children e v e r y d a y – and we just don’t. Some of the best afternoons the kids and I have had, have been picnicking in our backyard, and having the most special times doing nothing special.
Explore your city and find the most unexpected places. One of our most memorable moments from this summer was discovering Cotton Tail Corner , a clothing optional beachnear Edmonton. We went on a hike, stumbled upon it and made an afternoon of it. Goes to show there is always something new to find in your city, you just need to go and explore!
Explore the city with Edmonton Transit Service.Exploring the city using Public transit is often. The day is more intentional, not as hurried, and it makes for a day full of adventure – like a day we had this past winter, read more here – ALSO, children under 12 years old travel for FREE!
Take pictures in front of the murals in your city. During the walks the children and I would take, we found so many cool murals, and so we made it a thing to find more. Outdoor family time, exploring your city AND Instagram worthy shots – hashtag win!
Make a nature theme mobile. Using materials you can find outside, make a nature theme mobile with the kids. How to here.
Relax, Read and find Inspiration. Pick up a copy of YEG Inspired magazine at various locations around the city, and find wonderful local inspiration and resources for parents.
Break the rules. As a stay at home parent, it’s very easy to burnout when there is so much pressure to do everything perfectly and “by the rules”. So don’t. Give yourself a break, and break the rules. Have breakfast for lunch one day. Have a pj’s and movie day with the kids. Do whatever feels right for that day, when you need it.
Follow Alberta Mamas.If you’re a parent in Alberta, you need to follow Alberta Mamas. A great resource of information for parents across the province. Whether you want camping tips, ways to encourage your kids to read , or want to know how host a clothing swap (a must for all mamas!), Alberta Mamas has you covered!
My list could go on forever, and I’ve probably missed a few things, but I end with one last one.
ENJOY. The days may be long sometimes, but the years are short. The years with my babies have really flown by, and though I feel I’ve lived every moment intentionally, I already miss the time we spent together. So, slow down. Enjoy your babies, watch them play and laugh. Give them that extra hug and cuddle, and enjoy the days together.