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Fitness Friday – The Importance of Stretching

 

fitnessfridaystretching

Since the start of September I have been exercising consistently. It has felt amazing to get back into living a healthy lifestyle. I have gradually increased the exercises I am doing, I have even increased the laps I am swimming. I was feeling so AWESOME!

I took a teeny tiny break while we had company, I went for a swim but other than that I was pretty relaxed and indulged a little food wise. When I returned to exercising, I guess I over did it a little and my right foot burned with pain. For a week now I have been limping on and off, icing, heating, stretching, going for a massage and not running. It is so not fun.

The lesson I am taking from this experience is that I really need to give more focus to my stretching and flexibility. I have often looked upon those who don’t have to stretch with awe and envy. However I am working on changing my mindset on that.

Clearly, my body wants me to stretch. When I do not pay particular attention to my cool down and stretch my muscles my recovery time is longer, I am more tender, I tend to be susceptible to injuries.

So why is stretching so darn important?

  1. Stretching increases your flexibility and your range of motion. When you are swimming, running or strength training, range of motion is so so important.
  2. When your muscles are tight and rigid, exercise is not fun and rather painful, stretching releases some of that tension and tightness.
  3. Helps you improve your balance. Tightening muscles throw your whole body off kilter, by stretching those muscles out you regain that balance physically. Honestly, mentally I feel more balance after I have stretched, especially after yoga.

After reading tons of articles on the internet there are a lot of “facts” out there on stretching. From what I can tell (without diving way deeper into it, pulling academic articles etc), there have been mixed results from studies on whether stretching improves performance and helps avoid injury.

My own personal experience has been, if I spend more time and energy stretching, I feel better, recover faster, get injured less and experience less muscle tightness and shortening.

Some tips on stretching that are working for me:

1. Focus on the muscles that are the tightest and sore. For me that is usually my quads and calves. That doesn’t mean I skip my upper body stretches, however I do spend more time holding my lower body stretches. My osteopath recommended holding my quad stretch for 2 minutes (which is so LONG, not really but it sure feels like it!) I tend to do this stretch in the pool, after my laps. I sip my water, listen to tunes and hold my quad stretch for two minutes. My legs feel so awesome after!

2. Schedule one or more long flexibility sessions in your week. I am still working on this one. I always feel so awesome after I go to a yoga class, doing so even once a week will help so much. I tend to do short bursts of yoga, early morning or after running. However adding a longer session to my week is so a priority.

3. Set a positive intention to your time stretching. “Arg I am so tight”, “Stretching sucks” should be replaced with better, positive mantras such as, “Damn this is soooo what my body needs” or “Seriously I am getting more bendy and flexy every time I do this stretch, RAWR”. I have found, if I take the approach that stretching is my way of rewarding my body for working out so hard, my flexibility session goes so much better.

4. Dim the lights, set the tone. They do it at yoga all the time right? So when you have worked your tail off, set the stage for your body and mind to relax, let go and stretch. When I work out at home, I always listen to music with a good beat, when it is time for that cool down, stretch I slow the music down and turn off the lights.

 

Ok so we get it right? Stretch. Loads. The following are a few of my favourite stretch and flexibility routines you can find online.

I have mentioned Flexible Warrior Yoga before, I absolutely love love love her approach to yoga, flexibility and sport. She shares some awesome Youtube videos, running yoga, foam rolling and more. The videos are all like 10-15 minutes long, she is super positive and down to earth.

The ToneitUp team also has a video for stretching that feels great and works a lot of muscles.

Do you stretch regularly? What are your favourite ways to work on flexibility?

 

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Personal Reactions to the shooting in Ottawa

jacklaytonquoteI was on my way home after a morning of errands, as usual I was tuned to CBC Radio, when I heard that there were shootings in Ottawa, on Parliament Hill. I felt the anxiety bubbling inside me. Rationally I knew that I was not in imminent danger, however my fight or flight response was working in overdrive. I texted then called my husband, who was blissfully ignorant busy with work. I was actually relieved when it was time to walk through the wind and rain to get the kids from school. By the time I got there, that heart racing panic had subsided, I spoke briefly to people about the situation at the school but none would be the wiser that I had been hyperventilating and shaking half an hour before.

I plan to talk to the kids about what has happened, the little we know so far. We typically listen to the radio at home so they will hear bits and pieces and I think it is best to talk about these situations openly, if your children can handle it. I am grateful we do not watch television, the children will never se the terrified faces of the people involved and yet to witness the police head towards the danger is pretty amazing.

This is a great resource on how to handle the situation with your children, written by the Peel District School Board. At dinner tonight we talked about what happened and answered the kid’s questions. It was so sad to share such tragic news with them. I was amazed how much they have absorbed from the radio, especially the older two.

I am still in a state of shock. These things simply do not happen in Canada. I feel like my security is shaken and it is so not fun. I feel for the people that have been in lock down, all the parents that could not reach their kids, spouses that could not connect with each other. I find it unsettling how much anxiety this generates for me.

Do you react to these events? How are you dealing with the Ottawa shootings? Do you talk to your children about news like this?

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Halloween Mantle 2014

halloweenmantle2014I haven’t always decorated with the seasons and holidays (well Christmas of course but the rest, meh). And yet, I always envied people that did. There was this one lady, in the very first mom’s group I was in that was fabulous at it. Every holiday, season, etc her house was dollied up and fabulous. My envy never motivated me to change, since up until 6 years ago we were always on the move, living in apartments and seriously with my book addiction, his music delights, and the children’s toys, we had enough to pack!

mantle

I love love love, have I mentioned I love Halloween. Every aspect about it (well not the candy but eh nothing is ever perfect) I adore. Dressing up, spooky delights, pumpkin carving (old fashioned, like carving triangles, no special drills for this girl), scary movies, ghost, goblin and all the like. I like to create the costumes for the kids, this year I got off easy since two of them are going in previously made costumes for a party. The youngest I am sewing up a new costume for her.

pumpkins

This year I decided to decorate our fireplace mantle, Halloween style. It is a pretty basic mantle I built myself and had the husband mount on the brick for me. We are not entirely sure if we will do more with the fireplace so this was the easiest way to add a little spunk to it.

skulloldbooks

The decorations are a mix of previous finds that were in storage, old books from the bookshelf and new finds from Michaels. I had printed off the printable a year ago (I found it on Pinterest of course!) I absolutely love the cage (Michaels) and the bats I had cut out a few years ago (although I need to make new ones next year, I used construction paper and it is fading).

printable

Do you decorate for Halloween?

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Summer Ends and Autumn Begins

As the new season starts, it is time for me to start writing again.

Most of my summer was dedicated to house renovations. I am so grateful we were in a position to get some things done, so I could not bring myself to write daily how frustrated I was that things were getting done. Looking back at the process, I see that the stress and anxiety were not entirely warranted. Everything worked out beautifully and I am extremely happy with the results.

Before

Summer Renovations

After

 Summer Renovations

I posted more Before and After renovation pictures on my Flickr account.

Not only is the exterior of the house different, the inner routines are different too. All my children are attending school now. My youngest entered into Primary (kindergarten) bravely, with her cute, sassy, creative, intelligent way that is completely her own. She adores her teacher and has a close friend in her class.

I confess the first few days were very lonely. I missed them all and longed for a few more summer days with my happy children. Sadly the weather here has turned chillier so our days at the beach are over (although we did sneak one last trip out to a local lake with friends after school once!)

Now, my tan is fading and my days are filled with volunteering at the school, working out, catching up with friends on runs or dog walks, organizing closets, cleaning and all the other things I have done even when the children are home. However now I can listen to music that does not refer to the alphabet or the colours of the rainbow while I do what I do.

In my mind, I am trying new recipes, sewing halloween costumes in advance, planting tulips, reading constantly, knitting toques & mittens, always wearing makeup and my house is spotless.

My imagination is fun that way!

I am in a good place, doing what I enjoy.

How was your summer?

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The Summer of Yes

the summer of yes

You may have noticed that once Suzanne and I posted our Summer Bucket Lists, our posts screeched to a halt. My list was long, Suzanne’s was pensive. Both of us dove into our lists to make them a reality. Note neither of our lists including blogging about our experiences! Oops!

So far there has been a resounding theme in my household, that this summer is the summer of Yes! My children hear the word “no” a lot. They also ask for a lot of screen time, so that negative response is warranted. However, when it comes to adventure, creative endeavours, trying new things, changing course and those things that would be a positive thing in our lives totally warrant a “Yes!” However there are times when chores are mounting, or I have not had enough sleep, or I am hungry or generally stressed that I have over used the word “no”. Seriously sometimes it is really hard to say yes to that super messy craft or to set up the sprinklers. Change is hard for me. If I have something set in my head, it takes me a moment (or two) to switch over. Sometimes that comes off as super negative. I am working on that.

The theme of The Summer of Yes, extends beyond the children. I am also saying yes to me. Or rather I am trying to. I am struggling to find my footing, one friend said it sounded like I was trying to force things like exercise and healthy eating, rather than flowing with, accepting it. That really resonated with me. I can feel a shift in my life occurring, I am just not sure where it is taking me yet.

So in the meantime, I am saying Yes! to polymer clay, painting, bike rides, swimming in the rain, that glass of wine (for me not the children), to quiet times reading a book or exploring some yoga. It has been a great summer so far, which reinforces that this theme of saying Yes! is totally working for us at this time.

How is your summer going?

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Just Another Summer Bucket List


Suzanne posted a super awesome Summer Bucket List yesterday. Seriously the concept is all the rage lately on Pinterest. Part of the reason I wanted to write again was so that I was accountable and did stuff that I longed to do. So I am jumping on the Summer bucket List bandwagon and will share with you our list for the summer! I made this one printable, so I will order an 8×10 print and frame it, so we have a visual to refer to all summer!

Summer-Bucket-List

  1. Go on a road trip (or two) – We have a super awesome new vehicle that will be awesome for road trips. I can hardly wait to pack up and GO!
  2. Head to the BEACH! – YAY! One of the best parts of living here is all the amazing beaches, both at lakes and the ocean!
  3. Enjoy our new Deck – Ok so it hasn’t been built yet however I am super hopeful that it will be before summer ends.
  4. Take more photos – I have been seriously slacking taking photos. We have THREE amazing cameras (including one that takes photos UNDERWATER). There is no excuse. I must take more photos.
  5. Build a Sandcastle – See #2
  6. Make a summer soundtrack – Every year we end up with a list of songs (some super cheesy, think “I can Feel this Moment!”) that become part of that summer’s memories.
  7. Make some friendship bracelets
  8. Run through the sprinklers, set up the slip & slide, put out the kiddie pool – Enjoy all that we can in the heat!
  9. Have a Silly String war on the trampoline!
  10. Go camping – Hopefully as much as we can!
  11. Star Gaze – We have a telescope that we must learn to navigate this summer
  12. Paint the treehouse – The outside is painted, but I thought it would be fun to paint the inside with the kids this summer!
  13. Go for bike rides
  14. Pick Blueberries! Mmmmmm
  15. Have a water balloon fight
  16. Host a Potluck BBQ on our new deck!
  17. Watch Fireworks
  18. Read, Read, Read – The kids will join the summer reading program at the library and i have a summer book list too!
  19. Visit a museum
  20. Family movie night
  21. Visit a farmer’s market
  22. Head to the valley for fresh veggies
  23. Try some new recipes
  24. Kids cook dinner
  25. Make Smoothies
  26. Paint rocks
  27. Go beachcombing
  28. Visit the library, often
  29. Play catch
  30. Blow Bubbles
  31. Head to a variety of playgrounds
  32. Visit an Amusement Park
  33. Have a few lazy days
  34. Make some chalk art
  35. Get together with friends – so often summer goes by and we are so into ourselves we do not hang out with many friends.
  36. Go for a picnic
  37. Head to the movie theatre
  38. Roast marshmallows
  39. Take Farley for loads of walks
  40. Most of all, have fun, relax and bond as a family

Do you have a Summer Bucket List?

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My Summer Bucket List

My Summer Bucket List.jpgWe have one week left of school…and schedules…and trying to get kids out the door on time…and eating lunch in a rush, right at noon…and I cannot wait!  I love the freedom the summer brings – I just hate how fast it always goes by.  This year, I’ve made a bucket list of sorts, so that when it is all over and done with, I’ll look back and be happy with what I accomplished.  They’re not all tangible items, but that’s ok because they’re all things I want to focus on over the next few months…and it’s my bucket list, so it can be anything I want, right?!

  1. Enjoy every. single. day. –Even if the weather isn’t perfect (which is often the case in Nova Scotia), I’m going to make a point to enjoy every day during the summer break.  I have to remember that each day is a break from the scheduled insanity that is the rest of the year for us and therefore, is truly a blessing.
  2. Make a summer reading list – and then actually read the books on it!  I always read a book here and there throughout the summer, but have never made an actual list.  The kids are old enough now that I can take a book and get in a chapter or two when we’re out enjoying the lake or ocean, so this is my year! :-)   (I’d welcome any suggestions for great summer reads, btw!)
  3. Try stand up paddling – this was something I had hoped to try last summer, but it never happened, so it’s on my list for this year.  I’m hoping we can buy one to use on the lake at the cottage and then I can work all summer on becoming an expert. Ok, so I’d settle for being able to stand and paddle on it for more than five minutes without falling off!
  4. Enjoy plenty of quality time with my kids – this goes hand in hand with enjoying every day.  With the kids growing up at what seems (lately) to be an exponential rate, I want to be sure to say ‘yes’ more often to them during the summer.  I want to work on less of “we can’t do that until I get everything else finished”, to more of, “sure, we can go to the beach!” When they’re all at the point that they don’t want to be hanging with mom in the summer, that’s when I can get all the ‘other stuff’ done.
  5. RELAX!  I love the lack of schedule in the summer, but it can get a tad stressful with the kids home every day, wanting to do different things, in different directions.  My goal this summer is to relax more (something I have to consciously teach myself to do, sadly), not get stressed out so easily (again, need to learn) and add a yoga class once (or twice) a week to my life.  I’m trying to convince my hubby to do the same!

What’s on your summer bucket list?

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Decisions, Decisions, Decisions – Building a Deck & Planning the space

Decisions,-Decisions,-Decisions---Building-a-Deck-&-Planning-the-spaceIt has been a dream of mine since we purchased our home five years ago, to build a deck off our second story dining room. It is a big project, outside the scope of our DIY scope. I am super excited to finally make this dream a reality.

I am also super stressed about the entire process. We are investing a lot of time and money so everything has to be perfect. While I think we totally picked the right contractor for the job, which eases the anxiety a lot, there are still so many decisions to make. We chose to hire an engineer to design the structural aspects of our deck. There are some tricky aspects, like how the deck is secured to the house when a large portion of our house is brick. What I think is awesome about having an engineer, is that he will be overseeing the construction of the deck , to ensure it is built to his specifications.

Now I am freaking out over what patio furniture to purchase for our space. It is a rather large deck 12″x27″ so we have space to fill. Initially I was determined to purchase a table and chair set, large enough for us to all sit to eat at. While I still think that is important, I would also love to have a seating/lounge area. I want to be able to curl up and read or knit or have a glass of wine with my honey.

Patio furniture comes in all sorts of designs and materials. I would hate to get steel framed furniture when we live next to the ocean, the thought of it rusting out quickly is frustrating. I suppose I just haven’t found the perfect set for us yet. I also feel the pressure of the stores ending the summer season before it starts, leaving even less options.

Despite all the stress involved with all the decisions, when I close my eyes and envision our future deck, I smile and feel so calm and happy. Perhaps we will not have the deck in perfect design, it will be such a blessing to have the deck built, our very own outdoor oasis to enjoy. I wish I could enjoy this process more, instead of allowing the anxiety to work through me so much.

Do you agonize over design decisions? Where did you find your outdoor furniture?

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Summer Experiences – Classic 1970′s or Not?

Summer-Experiences-Classic70s-or-notA few days ago I came across the article 10 Ways to Give Your Kids an Honest-to-Goodness 1970′s Summer. Since I was a kid in the late 70′s I read it smiled and thought heck yeah that is the summer I want for my kids …. except do I? When getting ready for this post I came across another well written post, Why My Kids Won’t Have a 70′s Style Summer. While I am not going to let the kids unlimited amount of television, I am not going to have a lesson plan for every week of the summer either.

I absolutely love the concept of expecting the children to be outside ALL DAY. However when we were kids, we had an entire neighbourhood, an entire town to explore during that day not our backyards. We have a treehouse, a trampoline and a wilderness like backyard yet it still has its limits. Our kids cannot walk to their friend’s houses to see what they are up to, then wander off to the store to buy candy then back home to eat some lunch. It is not what is expected in society today. I have just started allowing my children to walk to school in the mornings (afternoons I still go and meet them). I had full on anxiety letting them do it. What if someone hit them while crossing the road? What if some one kidnaps one of them or both? That fear has been ingrained into our psychs and honestly we are judged if we dare go against that. There is a ton of pressure to hover over our kids, never allowing them an opportunity to think for themselves, or heaven forbid make a mistake on their own. When did the stakes get so high?

I try so hard to enable my kids to figure out things on their own. I have a strong desire for them to be creative, thoughtful and imaginative children. I want them to have the freedom to make mistakes, get scared and problem solve. I remember watching Goonies with them for the first time. My children were absolutely MORTIFIED that the children in the movie, left home after their mother told them not to, ALONE; they did not wear helmets when riding their bikes; and they stayed out ALL night without calling their parents! The other aspects of the movie were not all that scary compared to having that much freedom.

Granted the flip side of all of this doesn’t really work for me either. Oh sure I stalk Pinterest, and pin all these super awesome things. And seriously I have maybe complete 10% of what I have pinned. I do love to decorate and organize parties and Pinterest is awesome for that. I cannot buy into planning our whole summer out with lesson plans (I also am not bothered if I don’t, totally respect people’s differences, do what works!) While the kids do well with a schedule, as much as I wish on every star I don’t schedule well. I do well with routine but hard core scheduling my inner rebel totally and utterly (scoffs) and does not stay on a strict schedule, ever.

Our summer will probably land somewhere in the middle, while my kids will not be drinking kool aid, chances are they won’t be acting out Macbeth either. We will go to the beach when the sun shines, we will turn to Netflix when we are tired of the rain. We will make homemade pizza and eat tons of fruit freezes and run through the sprinkler. I do hope they will have plenty of time on their own to explore, not only for their benefit but mine. Yes I am a self centred mom. This is my summer too. I want to read my summer book list. I want to swim in the ocean and camp and walk my dog. I want to watch the house renovations unfold and welcome family for a visit. I want to drink wine on my dream deck and gaze at the stars.

Where will you land this summer? Lesson plans? Free range kids?

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Six Awesome Year-end Teacher Gift Ideas (that won’t break the bank!)

6 Awesome Teacher Gift Ideas.jpg.jpgThe school year is almost finished (YAY!) and with that brings the need to get teachers’ gifts.  It seems like I’ve been buying teacher gifts forever…at least almost forever…and every year I try to come up with something a bit original and/or that the kids can have a hand in creating.  Now that I’m at the point that a lot of the teachers have already had one or two of my children, it’s getting harder and harder not to repeat ideas!  These are some of the cool ones we’ve done and also some I found searching for what to get this year:

  1. Painted Clay Pot and Annual Flower – This was a perfect idea for little ones and all said and done, it was easily under $10 per gift…when I did these, I had four and five teachers to buy for, so it really helped keep the cost reasonable. I bought the pots and paints from the dollar store and let the kids go at it all on their own, painting the pots however they wanted to decorate them.  After the paint dried, I let them plant the flowers. This is a picture of one I found from My Happy Place (ours weren’t quite as fancy!).

    Painted flower pot

    Great teacher gift idea from http://myscraphappyplace.blogspot.ca/

  2. Paint Your Own Pottery – As my first two got older, they weren’t as interested in painting dollar store pots (or planting flowers), but they loved the idea of going to the local ‘paint your own pottery’ place.  I gave them a limit of $15 and let them pick what they wanted to make and sat reading my book while they did so…a win for everyone!  I also get the kids to paint their name and school year on the back or bottom of the piece…the teachers loved that.  The only thing with this one was that it required a bit of planning, to make sure I got them in there early enough to allow for the time between painting and pick up, after they had been baked in the kiln. paintyourownpottery
  3. Bookstore Gift Cards – This is definitely one of the easiest gifts we’ve given and likely a favorite of the teachers.  It’s not all that original, but it’s great when the insanity that comes with the month of June gets overwhelming (and you haven’t allowed enough time for ‘paint your own pottery’ ;-) ) and you need something quick and easy.  I always get the kids to make their own card to stick the gift card in, so at least they’re still able to add a bit of a personalized touch to the gifts.bookstore gift cards.jpg
  4. Beach towel, Magazine & Sunscreen Wrap – I found this idea on Pinterest, from Sprinkle It With Fabulous and I think it’s so cool!  Such a simple thing to put together – a beach towel, magazine and bottle of sunscreen, wrapped in a ribbon – but a perfect gift to kick off the summer break.  If you know your teachers’ interests, you can include a specific magazine for those, but if not, I’m sure there aren’t many teachers who wouldn’t appreciate anything they can flip through while relaxing by the pool or at the beach!

    towel:mag:sunscreen wrap

    Awesome teacher gift idea from http://heidiswapp.typepad.com/

  5. Summer Relaxation Buckets – I found this awesome idea from Coffee Cups and Crayons.  She did it as a group gift from the class (which I think is a fabulous idea that, unfortunately, is never done at our school), but would also be great individually.  Grab a couple gift cards from a coffee shop and/or bookstore, a magazine, a bottle of sunscreen, and maybe a small bag of chocolate and stick them in a sand bucket (from the dollar store).   Teacher-Gift-Idea-Summer-Relaxation-Bucket
  6. Double Walled Straw Cup with Gift CardEveryday Savvy had this gem of an idea and I think it’s perfect for the summer.  Grab a double walled straw cup (Bed Bath & Beyond, Walmart,Target) and stick in a gift card from a coffee shop, or a variety of tea bags/coffee samples.  These cups are perfect for anyone on the go in the summer, fit in most car cup holders and won’t sweat in the heat at the beach!

    Affordable-Teacher-Gift-Tea-Double-Walled-Cup-e1367442054736

    Teacher gift idea from http://everydaysavvy.com/

Now I have to go and decide which of these great ideas to get for our teachers…the beach towel/magazine/sunscreen wrap and the double walled straw cups are my favorites, but I’ll leave it up to my kids!

What are you getting for your teachers this year?