Thursday, August 18, 2016

High, Low, High

What to write and where to start? So many random things to share! Some great, some 'meh' so I thought a High Low High post (inspired by would be appropriate!

Finally feeling in the groove in my new position at work. It's been 6 ish weeks but this week I finally feel like I was able to cross off some of the "to dos" that have been sitting on my desk since I started.  I actually have time now to tackle some of the side items that don't require immediate attention. Nothing makes me happier than crossing things off a list! I'm still struggling a bit with some scheduling issues with staff but with 40 people in the department I'm not sure that will ever change. It's a balancing act for sure! We have accreditation coming up too so the various committees I sit on have been busier than usual as well. I'm still learning so much, and still have a lot to learn but the curve doesn't feel quite as steep! I think the most important thing I've learned so far is how to be decisive. I'm usually so bad at this, and it takes me forever to make decisions! But I have people coming to me for answers now and I need to be able to make split second decision and stick with them.

My beloved Macbook that I've had since second year university is officially dunzo. I was watching the Olympics and set it on top of Max's dresser while I was getting him ready for the day and turns out it was within his reach because he grabbed for it, it fell and smashed to the ground. The screen is barely hanging on by a couple wires but the plastic is shattered and there is no repairing the damage. Remarkably, it still functions! The Olympic canoe/kayak events I was watching at the time didn't even skip! We had JUST gotten internet back after not having it for the summer too! I hate things like this because  they feel self-inflicted.

In 2 weeks I'm going home to see my fam jam! We're flying into Toronto and then heading to Montreal to see Chris' family. It'll be a whirl-wind trip (like they always seem to be) but I'm super excited. Flying with a 19 month old doesn't sound particularly fun but my sister is on the same flight as us so there will be lots of helping hands. I want to take Max to the zoo while we're home but I think our schedule is pretty booked solid! I'm sure we'll still squeeze in lots of fun stuff though.

I've been feeling like poop lately. It's 100% because I haven't been exercising regularly or eating well. Another self-inflicted low. I'm not sure why but I just can't seem to get into a groove with either this summer. My workout buddy is moving to BC next week which is also a little bit tragic. Hay River is so transient and despite knowing this, it doesn't make it any easier as one by one all your friends move out of town. I was doing well while I was training for the triathlon but they postponed the race to September when I'm in Ontario so I kind of just stopped training since I couldn't race. Watching the Olympics has made me miss training so much. But it also made me appreciate the life I have now.  In an interview about retirement, canoe/kayak super star Adam Van Koeverden commented that he "derives almost all his happiness" from the sport. I get it, I've been in a place where my whole life revolved around the sport and I had to face moving on. But when I heard that it made me feel so lucky that I have Max and Chris and the life we've built that makes me so happy. I can't imagine how hard it must be for him to retire after so many years of training and being the top dog in Canada (and the world!) for so long.

Lets end on a high note! It's still summer! This summer has gone by so incredibly fast! I feel like we haven't had time to do as much fun summer stuff this year but we went camping at the beach last weekend and it was awesome. These last few weeks soaking up the rest of summer will be spend biking with Max, building sand castles and playing in the waves at the beach, spending as much time outside as possible while we still can, and taking the time to slow down and enjoy this stage of life. Oh and I guess another HIGH is that we got legally married on Friday! It's official now and not just pretend! Once we get our marriage certificate, I can start changing my last name, which is exciting and terrifying at the same time...but that might be a post on its own haha.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Learning Curve

I’ve been MIA for much longer than I anticipated! And while I’d love to tell you it’s because I’ve been too busy doing fun things that would only be half true.

The half-truth – I have been doing fun things! My Sister-in-law, her husband and my niece are in town visiting so we’ve been busy playing host. The last week has been filled with beach bonfires and cookouts, quading trips, sidewalk chalk, gardening and quality togetherness. 

The other half – work has been a bit overwhelming. I think I underestimated just how much more my new job would demand of my time and brain power. My work days are longer, I’m mentally drained at the end of the day, and I am on call 24/7 for any issues that arise. By on call I mean that my work cell phone is constantly buzzing with messages of employees calling in sick or no-showing or requesting time off.  It’s rough time for staffing. It’s summer holidays, we’ve just moved into a new hospital, I have 2 vacant positions and there’s a flu going around. I’m definitely been thrown into the deep end! But on the bright side it will settle down, I will get the hang of it, it will get easier. I expected it to be crazy for the first little while. Having family visiting at the same time has just been an extra challenge.  He’s picked up all the slack at home and has done literally all the cooking and cleaning since he got home. He understands when I’m rushing to work at 7am after a work phone call wakes us up.  I’m sad he’s leaving tomorrow for another 2 weeks. But I’m hoping I’ll have found my work/life groove in his absence. I’m also planning on taking my meal prep to the next level to make eating healthy over the next two weeks possible for both me and Max man.

I have so many ideas for posts and of course I’m keeping a list of them all so that I can write them eventually. But for now I just wanted to pop in mostly to reassure myself in writing that this job won’t be all consuming forever. Every day gets a little better and I am anticipating being a total rock star by this time next year :)

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Having it All - Life as a Modern Momma

There are so many blog posts and articles about having it all. About achieving work life balance. About how moms in particular struggle to achieve the elusive equilibrium that allows them to have fulfilling careers, time with their kids and families, time to work-out and stay in shape, time to volunteer at their kid’s schools and time to be a great partner and wife.  These articles provide tips and tricks to make it happen, they provide  encouragement for letting go of expectations and the guilt associated with feeling like you should have it all, and they provide a shared perspective and camaraderie among moms.

But what does having it all look like? I admit that I always imagined myself with an ‘important’ job, a job where I would be missed and where I couldn’t be easily replaced. I imagined myself staying fit and continuing to hit up the gym and running and fitness classes. I imagined myself throwing Pinterest worthy kid’s birthday parties and cheering on little league soccer and hockey games. I imagined myself as the type of wife that takes care of the household effortlessly while also getting meals on the table every night. I think the key word here is imagined.

Fast forward to real life with a toddler. I have an admin job that doesn’t even come close to utilizing my skills or education, or ignite my passions. But it’s easy. It’s a 9-5 without ever being expected to do overtime. I have great benefits and lots of vacation time and I go home at the end of the day and don’t stress about work. I am never caught up on laundry, my house almost always needs to be cleaned, and I rarely have fancy meals on the table. I try to do weekly meal prep and keep the house tidy but I inevitably am always falling behind. I go to the gym a few times a week but often the intensity to do an actually hard work-out just isn’t there. While I have Pinterest boards pinned and have lots of ideas, parties and events tend to get thrown together at the last minute with some streamers and a boxed cake.

I have one child, and a stress-free low maintenance easy job. And yet home life still suffers from there mere fact that I am out of the house all day. It makes me wonder how having a job with more responsibility and more stress and longer hours might impact this further. Would having a job I’m passionate about make me more productive at work and at home?  What’s the saying…love your work and you won’t work a day in your life? Something like that.

I just got offered a new job. A job I am hesitantly excited about. It will be challenging. It will potentially require more hours at work. It will likely mean thinking about work when I’m home. It’s not exactly in my field but it’s closer than my current job. It’s a career instead of a job. I’m excited but terrified at the same time. And while it sounds like this might take away from home life, I actually think it will enhance it. It will hopefully get me one step closer to the elusive balance we all seek. 

Despite the dishes in the sink, the muddy paw prints on the floor and the Mount Everest of laundry that never seems to shrink, home is a pretty great place to be these days. This is one step closer to my imagined version of having it all. In ten years I'll be glad I took the risk and made myself a priority by going after my career aspirations as well as my family goals.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Love Where You Live

What a wonderfully productive and summery weekend here! This weekend reminded me why I love summer so much, and how amazing Hay River can be.

Friday night we had some friends over to celebrate Chris’ birthday next week and a friend’s birthday a few weeks ago. We BBQed burgers, smokies and hot dogs and hung out on the deck way past ours, and the kid’s bedtimes. The kids played and ran around the yard together, and the adults sipped beverages and had some laughs. It was so nice having a few of our ‘family’ friends over!  Most of our friends haven’t hit the baby stage yet and while I like to think we’re still young and ‘cool’, having a toddler is a total game changer when it comes to structuring social events. Having a few friends with kids makes it so much easier to host and attend toddler friendly functions without being the only ones with a toddler in tow. And as a bonus, all the kids get along great!

Saturday we took the boat out for the first time this year. We ordered pizza and had a floating pizza party with my sister and her guy. And of course Max and Penny came too. We went up river hoping to jump out at this little tiny beach (aka sandbar) that’s in the middle of nowhere so Max could play and we could hang out but the water was too high and it was nowhere to be found! The river gets ridiculously low in the summer since it’s usually pretty dry up here. This year though, we’ve had TONS of rain, which is great for boating and forest fire prevention.  We headed back down river onto the lake to find some sand and then headed home before the rain hit. We stopped to fish for a bit but had no luck catching anything for supper. It's still a bit early for fishing the river.

Floating Pizza Party!
Penny :)

Sunday was rainy and dreary out. We had a super lazy morning but then ended up hitting up Home Hardware to get painting supplies.  We’re painting our master bedroom and I’m so excited! It’s a dirty beige right now and we’re lightening it up with a light mint / turquoise-y colour. Slowly and surely our house is being fixed up room by room.  There’s still a lot to do, but a fresh coat of paint goes a long way! It finally cleared up after supper time so we put air in the bike tires and had our first family bike ride of the year. It was a leisurely pace, I’m counting it towards triathlon training ha!
After a weekend like this I am reminded how amazing it is to live in the Canada's North. Our backyards are rivers and woods and trails and lakes. So much of our neighborhoods are untouched by humans and are still in their pristine, natural state. We don't have traffic or smog. The mosquitos are a different kind of problem ;) I couldn't help but think how fortunate we are to raise Max in a place where he gets to go boating and biking and swimming and fishing and dirt biking and skidooing on a regular basis. We are minutes to the beach and I can already see how our love for the active outdoors has permeated Max. 

And now it’s Monday, the start to another work week. With rain in the forecast for the week I don’t mind being stuck in an office all day.  This week should be a fun week full of triathlon training and time spent at home with my boys. I’m also hoping to hear about a job I interviewed for last week…fingers crossed! 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Friday Favorites

Happy Friday!

I'm so excited for the weekend! We're hoping to cross some things off our Summer 2016 Bucket list and spend time outside. And the best part? Chris is home from the mine this weekend! Weekends are just way more fun when he's home. Plus it's his first set home of the summer and his first set home as my husband! I have a wedding post planned but I'm still waiting on a few more pictures to come back from the photographer (aka Poppa Parkes).

Our plans for the weekend include a BBQ with friends tonight, boating, yard work and hitting up the beach with the toddler and the puppy.

So to celebrate Friday, here are some of my favorite things over the past week!


Max Enjoying a Kale and Avocado Smoothie. It's his favorite way to consume tons of leafy green things.

Waiting for Dad's plane to land. He decided to bring toy planes with him, one for each hand. It's crazy how much he understands now! 

Gardening his Auntie Ally. He's super helpful..for about 30 seconds. Rose bushes for days!

How I feel about my running buddy here in Hay River. Please note I am more often the dog of the duo. I laughed out loud when I saw this and it still makes me smile.

Some miscellaneous perennials I've got blooming. Anyone know the name of them? I'm sure I bought them last year. Why didn't I keep that plastic stick thing?

Spring Tulips! Tulips always remind me of Mothers Day. We used to pick yellow tulips out of my moms garden for her.


How the over glorification of motherhood hurts us all

Why I'm not trying to raise an exceptional child

10 truths of motherhood from a fathers perspective

My kids watch way to much TV and I don't Care

Signs of life

10 ways to make (and keep) friendships as an adult

A Place Called Freedom by Ken Follett (an audio-book I'm listening to and really enjoying! He's my favorite author!)

When you lose weight, where does it actually go?


All things rhubarb! I made these Rhubarb muffins this week and they've been a hit with the whole family.

I've also been munching on these protein pancakes and Max loves them too. I usually add some kale or spinach to them as well to up Max man's vegetable intake.  It was a recipe I found on Carrots n' Cake which I loosely followed and can't seem to find again.  It's nice to have a protein pancake recipe that doesn't require protein powders. They're expensive and not something I want to feed to Max all that often since they can have weird additives or sweeteners.

Oatmeal Protein Pancakes
In a blender, combine: 1 egg, 1 banana, 1/3-1/2 cup rolled oats, a handful of leafy greens (kale or spinach are my favorites).
Blend until smooth, pour into a frying pan and cook like a normal pancake! Top with fruit, yogurt, maple syrup, jam or whatever your heart desires.

Happy Friday Everyone!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Virtual Coffee Date

Hello Friends!

If we were having coffee today, I’d hope it wasn’t at the new lunch deli in town. My beloved She Takes the Cake CafĂ© has drastically reduced their hours and don’t open until 10:30am.  The new place opens at 7 so this morning I swung by to grab a latte on my way to work as a treat.  It’s not delicious. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to finish all $5.25 worth of it, but I’m not sure I’d order fancy coffee from there again.  Although in their defense, they are a) newish and b) they had donuts. I didn’t try one but donuts are the new cupcake so I applaud their trendy baking ways and will one day eat a donut and provide proof on Instagram that I’m trendy too.

If we were having coffee this morning, I’d tell you that I waiver between wanting to actually do this blog thing and giving up on it completely. Part of me wants to go all in, and get a real URL (sorry blogspot, you’re just not really legit anymore), some linked social media accounts, actually try to get some readership and consistently blog some real content that people might actually want to read. And then I think that I’ve been writing for the past month or so knowing that literally NOBODY is reading this, so what’s the point? Do I have to be all in or all out? Or can I just write here for the sake of it? I’m not sure I’m ready to commit to taking it on for reals, or being vulnerable and having my thoughts / writing advertised to the whole world. Do I even have anything worth reading to write? Anyways, I’m thinking about it. Pre-contemplation for all of my ‘stages of change’ peeps.

If we were having coffee this morning I’d tell you how excited I am for Chris to get home today! I miss that guy. Home is just so much better when he’s there. I love watching him with Max because they are actually best buds. I love working on house and yard projects together. He works so hard, and even when he’s home he literally never stops all day long. It’s also his birthday and Father’s Day this set out so there are extra things to celebrate! And the river is high this year which means we’ll get out on the boat and go to the beach and maybe even go camping.

If we were having coffee this morning I’d tell you how nervous and excited I am for a job interview I have tomorrow! It’s for a position as the food service manager at the hospital here in town. It’s a big job (19 staff, 3 kitchens) and I feel like it’s out of my league. But I do have internship experience as a food service manager and it’s technically a dietitian position. I’m so excited at the idea of being challenged at work again! And using my RD skills which have been in ‘retirement’ since I went on Maternity leave. But it’s scary too! This job will look amazing on a resume for when we’re ready to leave the North and I know I will learn so much doing this job.  But there will be a learning curve. I’m sure I’ll make a lot of mistakes along the way. I’ve always worked in Public Health since moving here and I’ll be sad to leave my co-workers here and work across town. I’m not sure I feel completely qualified either. But I still need to make it through the interview – I’ll keep you posted! Wish me luck!

If we were having coffee this morning I’d tell you about my garden! I’m a newbie gardener but I feel like I’m keeping things alive this year! I’m trying to create a self-sustaining low-maintenance garden full of perennials. I have way more in my garden then I thought I did! And see things bloom makes me so happy! I spent all weekend transplanting some stuff, making my baskets and cleaning up the yard and I have to admit, I’m pretty proud of myself.  I still have some big shrubs to move and want to buys some more flowering perennials and annuals to fill in some spots but so far so good! I also need to figure out the names of all the plants I have so I know what I’ve got. I’m hoping for some delphiniums this year and I just had some yellow poppies bloom yesterday for the first time! I should write a post on my garden but it’s pretty amateur right now!If we were having coffee I’d tell you that I started triathlon training last week.  So far I’ve got 3 runs and a bike ride under my belt.  This weeks plan: Monday-off, Tuesday-6 km run, Wednesday-45 min swim, Thursday-10 min bike, 5 km run, Friday-40 min Bike, Saturday-off, Sunday-something…not sure what.  I don’t have a structured plan yet but I have a friend working on one for me.

Have the most fabulous day! Coffee dates are my favorite J

Friday, June 3, 2016

Summer 2016 Bucket List

Summer is here! Hay River's annual track and field championships finished up this afternoon which means that summer officially starts TODAY in the North. It's a generally known truth that it's not safe to plant anything in your gardens until after track and that it won't be consistently warm until after track.  So I guess it's safe to say that track is our first day of summer, and I could not be more thrilled.  It was a long winter this year. I have been celebrating by spending the last few evenings pulling weeds and doing yard work and spending as much time as possible outside.

I was thinking about this summer and all the events and activities I am so looking forward to this year.  This summer is particularly exciting because Max is at an age where he understands more and finds so much JOY in all the little things. Everything will be new and exciting for him this year.  All of the family centered activities in town that we never fully participated in are now events to look forward to bringing Max to.

And since I'm actually obsessed with lists and have a million lists on the go at any given time, I present you with (drum roll...) my Summer 2016 Bucket List! I'm looking forward to crossing things off and adding more to it as the summer goes on.  This will be displayed in full force on my fridge all summer :)

Lots of fun things planned! I started training for the town's Sprint Triathlon this week so that's my major summer fitness goal. Otherwise I want to enjoy summer in the North to it's fullest! That means hanging at the beach, in the boat, fishing, camping, quading, bonfires. 

Can't wait!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Rio Olympics and Zika: Perspectives

Earlier this week, the World Health Organization (WHO) released their public health advice regarding the Olympics and Zika virus. Based on their assessment, they stated that changing the location of the Olympics wouldn’t really change the spread of the virus since either way, there will be thousands of people travelling between Zika affected countries. While Brazil is definitely one of the more prominently affected areas for the Zika outbreak, it’s only one of 60 countries that have reported transmission of the virus by mosquitos.

Based on the WHO press release, the best way to reduce risk of disease is to follow public health travel advice. There is no public health justification for postponing or cancelling the games.

The WHO travel advice for anyone considering travel to the Olympics includes:
·         Pregnant women not to travel to areas with ongoing Zik virus transmission.  Their sex partners returning from areas with circulating virus should practise safer sex or abstain throughout pregnancy
·         Follow travel advice provided by their countries’ health authorities
·         Whenever possible, protect themselves from mosquito bites by using insect repellents and light coloured clothing
Practice safer sex or abstain during their stay and for at least 8 weeks after their return
·         Choose air conditioned accommodation where windows and doors are kept closed
·         Avoid visiting areas in cities and towns with no piped water or poor sanitation where the risk of being bitten by mosquitos is higher

With the Olympics and Paralympics kicking off in just 2 short months, many health experts have petitioned to have the games cancelled or postponed in fear of the virus spreading further and affecting poorer countries with inadequate health systems. I’ve been thinking a lot about this issue recently as I now have a background in both high performance sport and public health. I happen to know some of the canoe/kayak athletes competing in Rio and have been following both their journeys to qualifying and the epidemiological spread of Zika.

From a public health perspective, it appears to be a bit of a disaster. Despite the fact that Zika has already been transmitted in 60 countries across the world, having thousands and thousands of people travelling to a high risk area and then travelling home again is going to nothing but spread the virus further. Yes people travel globally every day and the virus will spread that way regardless. But this is an event that attracts thousands of people from almost every country on the planet. Zika isn’t the only public health issue with the Rio Olympics. It’s important to remember that money being funnelled towards the games could have been used  to help develop infrastructure, better schools and housing and to fund social programs that are so badly needed by the Brazilian population. And what about spending some of that money on their health care system to help support the families who have already been affected by Zika or have given birth to children with microcephaly?

Image result for Rio Olympics zikaFrom an athlete’s perspective, there is no way the games should be postponed or cancelled.  These athletes have worked so hard to qualify. For many of them, it’s a life-long dream come true to compete at the games. I can’t imagine being stripped of that opportunity.  I think it’s the athletes’ jobs to be informed about the risks, to be responsible for taking the necessary precautions to protect themselves and to choose for themselves whether or not they participate.  Unfortunately, the health of our global population could potentially be reliant on these few taking the appropriate precautions during the games and once they return home. I think some responsibility also lies within the International Olympic committee to ensure that athletes are equipped with all the resources they need to stay safe. Bug repellent, air conditioned dormitories, condoms, etc.

If I were the WHO what would I recommend? It’s hard to say. While the Olympics and Paralympics are a really huge event, it’s definitely not the only international event drawing thousands of people that will be happening this summer. I’m not really sure they were ever in a position to actually cancel the games. I think they have done their job; they have provided athletes and the public a list of recommendations and have outlined the risks clearly. This is true for anyone travelling to one of the 60 countries affected. There has to be some personal responsibility involved in protecting ourselves. My hope is that these recommendations are practiced and the spread after the games isn’t substantial.  I also hope that Zika doesn’t taint the Olympic experience for those athletes who have worked so hard to get there.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Parenting with Gratitude

Gratitude and mindfulness. I’m pretty sure these two things are the cure-all for any bad mood and can instantly change your perspective. I am trying to practice these on a more regular basis and with more intention. I admit that it’s harder than it sounds. I’ve always been a pretty optimistic person but in the mundane daily grind of work, chores and rushing around, it can be easy to forget to recognize the greatness in each day.

A few months ago, as part of my Masters of Public Health Practicum, I was enrolled in an online mindfulness course through The schools here in town have been having teachers trained in order to teach students mindfulness and self-regulation strategies in the classroom. My project was on community based parenting education and parents identified mindfulness as an area they’d like to know more about, so myself and some of the Public Health nurses enrolled in the course in order to help facilitate strategies with parents. Since then, I’ve been trying to practice these skills at home and at work, and in particular with my son.

Parenting is hard. It’s stressful and exhausting, tests your patience and can feel unrewarding at times. Other times, it’s the most amazing, rewarding experience I’ve ever had. I love being a parent, and can’t wait to have more kids eventually. It’s often hard to remember just how fleeting the younger years are. Max is a toddler already and I have become hyper-aware of just how quickly time flies. I am so guilty of being glued to my phone or thinking about school or work when I should be absorbed in the present moment with him.

As I walked down stairs on Sunday morning to let the dog out and get some coffee started, my living room came into sight. The floor was littered with yesterday’s toys; Lego, books, a dozen cars, a ride-on quad and a red balance bike. My first thought was how much had to be cleaned up even though I spent the majority of nap time yesterday mopping and scrubbing.  But as I stood on the bottom step and looked around, I couldn’t help but smile and be grateful for the mess.

Grateful for the hand-me-downs and the money for new toys.

Grateful for the little boy who made the mess.

Grateful for the time to build Legos and play cars with him.

Grateful for the smiles that these toys bring.

Grateful for a healthy child who brings us so much joy every day.

Grateful for the crayon scribbled art hanging on my fridge door.

Grateful for the quiet moments when Max sits down and plays independently.

Grateful for his squeals of delight at the simplest things.

Grateful for every slobbery kiss and sticky hug.

Grateful that this is my life.

It’s not glamorous, or extravagant. But I have a family I love, we are loved by so many, and we wake up every day with the ability to make messes and have adventures.  For that, I am, and forever will be grateful.  

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

High, Low, High

What a crazy month this has been!

It’s been full of stress and planning and paper writing and travel. While it’s been exciting, it’s honestly been exhausting too.


I finished my Masters Degree! At the end of April I presented my culminating project to the faculty and students of the School of Public Health at the University of Victoria.  The presentation was only ten minutes, but it was the end product of 8 months of practicum work and 3 years of course work. It still hasn’t sunk in that I’m actually finished. With my undergrad, I graduated with my entire class. We celebrated together, our families came to UPEI and celebrated with us. It was a big deal.  And while a Masters Degree seems much more accomplished academically, it seems as though everything else going on in life minimizes the accomplishment. As an undergrad, your entire life is school for 4 years. As an adult, particularly completing a program online and without a local group of peers, so many other big things are all happening at the same time.

During this degree I: worked full time, had a full time course load, got engaged, had a baby, bought a house and planned a wedding. So high five to me!

I can’t wait to get my paper in the mail! The physical evidence of all the hard work and sacrifice that I can hang on my wall and admire.


Wedding planning, it’s the bane of my existence at the moment. I have no clue why people like planning weddings. It would probably be fun to plan a wedding with someone else’s money, and without the personal connection to the guests. I’ve had such a hard time with all this wedding stuff.  We agonized over where to host the wedding since our family and friends are so spread out. I hated making that decision. We finally decided on a destination wedding and picked a resort but I hated trying to figure out travel deals with different travel sites and travel agents. I hated that guests would have to spend money on a trip. But the reality was that no matter where we got married, the majority of guests were going to have to travel. The closer we get to the wedding, the more and more people aren’t going to make it. It has me questioning what the point of having a wedding is at all. We wanted to celebrate with friends and family and the majority of these people won’t even be there.  The perfect storm of factors such as  Zika virus, the Canadian dollar tanking and illness seems to have impacted many guests. I guess for me the most discouraging part of it all is the number of our friends who didn’t even bother to acknowledge they got an invitation at all.  I’m trying not to take it personally but it’s pretty tough.  We’re a week away from the wedding and I just want to get it over with. Don't get me wrong, I am excited to be getting married, and am looking forward to spending time with all of our friends and family that are coming with us, but I feel like the whole experience has been severely tainted by everything leading up to it.


On the bright side, we’re getting married next week! In a few short days I’m going to be on the beach with a (well deserved) drink in my hand! I am so excited to take Max to the beach and play in the ocean with him. I’m excited to go scuba diving. I’m excited to see my parents and those that are coming. I’m excited to shut my brain off and not think about the daily grind. I’m excited to watch Max play with his cousin. They were so little last time they saw each other they barely acknowledged each other’s existence.  Our resort looks amazing and I am definitely going to take advantage of any offers to babysit so I can truly relax and have some time to myself and enjoy the holiday.

Another high? It’s almost summer! Is it just me or did this warmer than usual winter feel really long? I’m looking forward to spending the whole summer in my yard gardening and reading and entertaining. It will be my first summer without homework in far too long and I plan to take full advantage by boating more and quading more and going on more family walks with Max, Penny and Chris and spending hours at the beach soaking in every last ray of midnight sun while I can. 

I feel like this blog has been a bit heavier than normal lately since I returned to it a month-ish ago. Maybe it's because the times I have the greatest urge to write are the times I have too many thoughts running through my head that I need to articulate. There are so many exciting things going on for me right now that I might be misrepresenting life a bit. I hope to be back with more exciting things now that the major life stressors are over!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Canada's Food Guide - A Dietitian's Perspective

As a Registered Dietitian, we get taught that the Canada’s Food Guide is the holy grail of nutrition advice and that we should be recommending all of our clients follow it to achieve health. I admit that I’ve always been a little weary.  While I’m in full support of evidence-based nutrition recommendations, I do hesitate when it comes to the food guide simply because of how involved industry was in its creation. I can’t help but feel like it’s slightly biased and maybe doesn’t represent the healthiest way to eat. That being said, it’s probably not a bad place to start for someone looking to eat healthier without any other knowledge or nutrition support.

The Canada’s Food Guide has been in the media lately.  Headlines read “Canada’s “dated” food guide needs drastic overhaul”, “critics demand drastic changes now”, “The Canada’s Food Guide is Killing you!”. These sensationalized headlines have caught my attention, and I imagine they would have caught my attention even if I wasn’t in the dietetics profession.  For any self-proclaimed ‘foodie’ or anyone interested in their health, I imagine that these headlines are alarming and confusing.

A lot of this backlash comes on the heels of recommendations made in March 2016 by the Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology.  They released a report pushing for a national campaign to combat obesity and a tax on sugar-sweetened drinks and a direct call to immediately and completely revise Canada’s Food Guide, claiming that it needs to be more evidence-based and take a stronger stance against highly processed foods.  Sounds reasonable right?

Canadians have generally  followed the food guide – we eat more of the recommended foods like whole grains, and less of the foods we were told to limit like fats.

Over the last three decades, we’ve upped our fruit and vegetable intake while reducing fat and dairy – as per food guide recommendations. Canadians are relatively compliant with nutrition recommendations. But yet, despite this, we’re in the middle of an obesity epidemic. Two thirds of our adult population are considered obese or overweight, a number which has doubled in the few years since 1980. The food guide is obviously not producing the outcomes it has intended. This also demonstrates the potential of a revamped food guide to positively impact the health of Canadians. If we’ve followed it into ill-health, we can follow a newer version into our best health.

The Current Food Guide

The current food guide is broken into 4 food groups with a recommended number of ‘servings’ per group. Serving sizes vary depending on the food. This in itself is an issue for me and for many of the clients I’ve seen in my office. It’s so confusing. Nobody wants to measure everything they eat or count calories or servings at every meal. The recommended servings are based on the average Canadian in each age/sex category meeting micro and macronutrient recommendations. This itself is a flaw. Not every adult female has the same needs. This system ignores satiety cues and true hunger in an attempt to eat a specific number of servings of certain foods.

The current guide is way too processed carbohydrate heavy. It recommends adults consume 6-8 servings of grains per day, and that only half of these should be whole grains. Examples of foods in this group include bagels and cereal. Foods which can be highly processed and full of sugar and preservatives. Not exactly the picture of health. It also considered 100% fruit juice a serving a fruit and vegetables. Fruit juice doesn’t contain all the same nutrients and fiber, and contains way more sugar per serving then whole fruit.

Moving Forward

So what changes would I make to a new food guide? How do I think Canadians should be eating? As a Registered Dietitian with a Masters of Public Health, I feel like I have a bit of knowledge on population health and nutrition.

In my opinion, an effective food guide needs to focus on a whole diet approach. It needs to focus on choosing fresh, whole foods that are limitedly processed. We need to stop being so afraid of fat that comes from meat, eggs, nuts, seeds and other natural foods. We need to cook more and rely less on pre-prepared foods. We need to simplify the ingredients we use and consume. But, like most things, this is easier said than done.
The first question is how do we make choosing the healthiest option the easiest option? Processed foods and fast foods are so easy to grab and go and can be less expensive for those on a fixed income. How do we change the environment around food to make sure that healthy foods are accessible and affordable for everyone? Living in the Northwest Territories, I’ve seen first-hand how expensive fresh fruits and vegetables can be, and how hard it came be for a family to afford a healthy diet.

The second question is what skills do people need to be able to cook for themselves and their families? What knowledge do people need to be able to make healthy choices at the grocery store where they are bombarded with flashy packaging and health claims like “fat free” “diet” “all natural”. It’s not enough to simply tell people what to eat. People need to be informed enough to make their own choices and need to have the skills to use the fresh food they are buying.

The third question is what place does the food industry have in all this? A new Canada’s Food Guide should be developed based on evidence-based research and not tainted by biased science developed by the food industry. I do think that we need to hold the food industry more accountable for the misleading messages they send the public about how ‘healthy’ a product is. We need to stop allowing them to advertise sugary processed foods to kids.  We need to work with them to create products that make it easy for consumers to eat foods that nourish them. The food industry should be a partner only after the guide has been developed, and should not be a part of developing the recommendations.

Ultimately, I think the food guide recommendations are being given way too much thought.  Instead of prescribing how Canadians should eat, we should be changing our food industry and food environments to be more conducive to choosing healthier options. Imagine walking into the grocery store and not cringing at the cost of fresh produce.

As a dietitian, I believe that there are 2 types of foods. Some foods nourish your body, and some foods nourish your soul. A healthy diet nourishes both without depriving either. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Virtual Coffee Date: April 7 2016.

If we were having coffee this morning I’d be so grateful you’ve listened to the ups and downs of my life at the moment. I’d want to hear all about yours too. We’d share some laughs, cave and order the giant cookies half way through our date and leave with a satisfying buzz, from the caffeine and conversation, vowing not to wait so long before we do it again.

I love coffee. I love coffee shops. There’s something about them that makes me feel introspective and open. It’s one of my favorite ways to unwind, it’s my favorite place to get school work done, and one of my favorite ways to connect with friends.  So pull up a leather arm chair and a fancy coffee and let’s chat.

If we were having coffee this morning I’d order a large Americano. Strong and dark and hot. I’d tell you how excited I am to be almost done school. I’d tell you how little motivation I have to fulfill the last few requirements. I only have one last set of revisions for my culminating report and a 10 minute PowerPoint presentation to complete. But this final project has been dragging on and I’m so mentally checked out and disengaged. I’m majorly over it. I’m trying to battle through it and get it done before the last minute so that it’s over. I want to do a good job and present my project in a way that highlights how much I have learned throughout the entire program. I think the high expectations I have set for myself for this presentation are one of the things keeping me from starting.

If we were having coffee this morning I’d ask about your family. I’d tell you how much I miss living close to my parents and grandparents. I’d tell you how much I appreciate having my sister in the same town as me since she’s the only family member within several provinces. Thank goodness for social media, facetime and texting. While I appreciate how connected we can be via technology, I miss the face-to-face interactions of everyday life. The time spent hanging out in my parents living room and kitchen with the intense loudness of the whole family in one space. It makes me sad that Max hasn’t really been exposed to that dynamic yet. I really hope that one day we will live closer and be able to see everyone more often and that Max will have a really close relationship with my family, like I did growing up.

If we were having coffee this morning I’d tell you how torn I am about what our future holds. On one hand I can’t wait to move from Hay River and live somewhere closer to my family, closer to some more amenities and with a lower cost of living. On the other hand, I love the lifestyle we have here. I love being able to snowshoe, go quadding, go boating and paddle boarding and be at the beach within minutes. I’m nervous about moving somewhere without any family. At least here we have my sister and mother and sister-in-law. I would love to have a career in my field and be doing something I am passionate about on a daily basis, instead of a menial administrative job that I find boring and uninspiring. I know a move will be best for us in the long run, but it’s a terrifying (and exciting) thought at the moment.

If we were having coffee this morning I’d tell you how excited I am to get married next month! I’m excited for the week-long holiday with our family and friends. I’m excited to get to marry Chris and be his wife. I’m excited for a hooliday and a break from ‘real-life’. The man marrying us sent me vows to review today and reading them fills me with such joy and giddy excitement. I can’t wait to see Chris at the altar, have all of our family and friends in one place and get to spend an entire week celebrating with everyone. It will be a much needed vacation after a very busy last 2 years.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Constant Pursuit of More: Finding Life Balance

I’ve always been incredibly driven. I’ve always had a goal in mind, something to work towards whether it was an academic achievement like a degree or course or certificate, or been in pursuit of an athletic goal like improving my running pace time, breaking a personal best or getting in X number of workouts a week.
Image result for letting goI’ve reached a point in my life where all of these goals are have either been completed (go me!) or have lost their significance and are no longer things I care about.  Shockingly enough, being in a place without concrete, measurable goals is actually harder than being in the midst of the struggle to obtain them. And even harder still is letting go of the goals that no longer serve you. Letting go of the goals that are no longer important to you before you've completed them.

I am in such a great place right now.  I am going to be married in 58 short days to a man that supports me, loves me unconditionally, is a great Dad and a true provider for our family.  We own a cute little house that I love (mostly because it’s ours).  I have the most amazing son who I adore more than anything in this whole world and who brings me so much joy and laughter every day. I am a month away from being finished my Master’s Degree in Public Health and Social Policy, which has been a goal of mine since developing a passion for Public Health during my undergrad.  I have a full time permanent job that pays the bills.  I’m surrounded by friends and family.   

And yet, for some reason I keep thinking “what next?”  I’m having trouble being still, and enjoying everything exactly as it is because life really is pretty awesome right now. I’m not saying that being ambitious and having goals is a bad thing. In fact, I think it’s so important to value self-growth and to be mentally stimulated by things that you are passionate about every day.  But there’s got to be a balance between always striving for more while still being perfectly content right where you are.
This is the balance I’m striving for. 

Part of me wonders if having a job in my field that challenges me and ignites my passions might create this balance. And part of me worries that I’ll always be looking to the next goal, the next stage, the next achievement. 

So the question of the day;  is it possible to constantly have goals while still enjoying exactly where you are? Aren't these two things a bit of an oxymoron?

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Disconnecting from TV and Internet

Today is the first day of Spring! Every year I find myself more and more appreciative of spring and the promise it brings for fresh starts, warm summer nights and hot daytime sun.  Maybe it's living in the Northwest Territories that has me loving spring more and more each year.  The winters here are long and dark and cold. This Spring is particularly exciting because we're getting married in May! Other springtime plans include spring cleaning my house and spending as much time as possible outside now that the temperatures are starting to creeping above freezing.

Another big change we're making this spring is as a family, we're making a concerted effort to disconnect from technology and spend more quality time together.  As of April 1st, we are cutting ties to our Satellite TV and the WIFI in our home.  It's going to be a big adjustment! I find the TV on whenever we're home just for the background noise, and I'm pretty much always scrolling through social media.  We're hoping that cutting off these services will force us to spend more time outside playing and gardening, more time reading books, more time exercising after Max goes to bed and more time checking items off our to-do list around the house.  I'm also hoping it will teach me to be more present when I'm home. I'm a slave to my cell phone and it's pretty much always in my hand. I'm seriously addicted! I want to spend more time playing with Legos and blocks, colouring, swinging on the swing set in the yard and walking to the local parks.

One of the other reasons we're disconnecting is to save money.  When we looked at our monthly expenses, we realized we were spending over 300$ a month on these services.  That's a lot of money! We're going to use that money to help pay for our wedding and to help pay off our vehicle sooner.

While we won't have satellite TV or internet in our home, I will still have access to internet at work and limited data on my smart phone.  We are also lucky enough to have an amazing library in our town where we can rent movies and seasons of shows and of course books.  So we aren't disconnecting completely from electronics, but our use will be drastically reduced.

We've disconnected for 6 months and we're going to re-evaluate in September.  I'll keep you posted on how it goes!  Until then, I'll be binge watching bad TV and Netflix until April 1st.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

FIFO Family Life

And my second month of working full time as a ‘single’ mom while Chris is away is almost over.  I have a whole new appreciation for Fridays that I didn’t have while on Maternity Leave.  Since Chris works a FIFO (fly-in fly-out) job, 2 weeks in, 2 weeks out, weekends were never really any different for us while I was off work.  The exciting days were fly-in days which are Tuesdays or  Wednesdays, while the dreaded ‘Monday’ of our world are the Tuesdays and Wednesdays he flies back to camp.  I don’t think I’ll ever get used to those lonely fly-out days.

Being a new mom and a new family definitely has its challenges.  Having a partner who works away has it’s challenges.  Combining both of them has been such a learning experience for me.  I know how much Chris hates being away from home so often and I know that it’s hard on him to essentially miss half of Max’s life.  I can’t really comment on what it’s like to be the one who is always away, but I do know what it’s like to be the one left at home with all the responsibilities of caring for a baby and keeping the house a float, while also working full time.  It’s easy for me to sit here and talk about how I have it harder than him, and while I think that in some ways, I know he feels that it’s harder to be away. 

And because I’m mildly obsessed with lists, I’m going to list the things that being a ‘single’ mom half the time has taught me!

1)      It’s ok to ask for help

 We are very lucky to have quite a bit of family that live nearby.  And living in a small town means that your friends become as close as family too.  All of these things have been life savers this year.  My mother in law and sister in law run a daycare so they are available all day to watch max when I need them to. My sister lives in town as well and has been an amazing support with Max and has been able to watch him for me whenever I need her to.  While I was on maternity leave, this was the occasional afternoon where I needed to get a paper written for my Masters degree or had a rare ‘mommy’s night out’ at book club or a movie with a friend.  Honestly, sometimes these resources were utilized just so I could have an hour alone at a coffee shop to read a book or get errands done.  We are lucky to have such a great support system close by, but if you don’t and your budget allows, it’s worth hiring a sitter once in a while for ‘me’ time. Take people up on their offers to bring you supper or help watch the baby.  While in the moment it might feel like you’re slacking, the little breaks add up in the long run to save your sanity. Even if it’s just for 20 minutes so you can run to the grocery store, prep a hot meal or even just take an extra long shower.

2)      There are more hours in a day then you think, but never enough

Every time Chris leaves, I’m intimidated about doing everything myself. Caring for Max and Penny in a way that showers them both with love. Maintaining some semblance of a clean house, keeping up with laundry, shoveling snow as needed, cooking every meal, doing bath and bedtime routines by myself, getting everyone out of the house on time in the morning.  All of the day-to-day everyday life things. Things that we do together, as partners that you take for granted.  There’s no “I’ll take out the garbage while you get Max dressed” or “I’ll go switch the laundry while you finish supper”.  All of a sudden it all needs to get done by one person.  But you know what? It gets done. Eventually.  Maybe not as quickly as it would with us both home, but the laundry can wait an extra day.  You’ll find yourself doing more in a day then you thought possible, and wondering how you’re so unproductive when your partner is home.

3)      You’ll miss your ‘single’ routine when he’s home

My routine when Chris is home is very different then when he’s away. I’m more organized. I’m more productive. I do things in a way that works well for me.  I don’t have to consider anyone else. When Chris gets home, that all changes.  I have to consider someone else’s schedule and habits.  I have to consider someone else’s dietary preferences. There’s someone else in my space and disrupting my routine with a different mental timeline or a different way of doing things.  But it goes both ways.  There’s someone else home to help with the baby and the puppy. It takes a few days to adjust to him being home.  The first few days we’re stepping on each other and getting into each others way because we’re no longer used to co-existing.

4)      How you think things will run when he gets home is not how it actually work

I always make elaborate plans for once Chris is home and I’ll have so much help and tons of free time.  Nope. Doesn’t work that way! While it’s great to think that he will take over Max duty all day so I can go to the gym and have coffee with friends, he usually has an agenda of things he needs to do while home to. Like fix the truck, plow snow, help a buddy fix their truck.  Communicating really well about my needs and expectations when he’s home and his is so important. He’s exhausted after working 14 days straight, particularly when he comes off nights.  I expect him to be in full on Dad mode the second he steps off the plane, while he needs a day to adjust and recuperate. I expect him to just pick up where he left off but 2 weeks is a long time in the life of a baby and it takes him a few days to get reoriented with Max’s routine and schedule. We both need to give each other a little slack those first few days because it takes time for everyone to get readjusted. 

5)      Fly-out days don’t get any easier

The loneliness that first little while after Chris gets out of the truck and into the airport to fly-out is deep and dark. 2 weeks feels like an eternity in those first few hours and you wonder how you’re going to survive, how you’ve ever managed to do it all before.  While previous two week stretches as a ‘single’ parent should provide confidence, they don’t because so much has changed in the month since he left last. You feel like crying every. single. time but you don’t because you put on a brave face for the baby, who knows he’s gone but doesn’t realize it’s for 2 full weeks.  You cuddle extra with the baby and dog those first few days as you adjust, yet again to a new routine and level of busyness.

6)      You’ll be grumpy that he’s the ‘favorite’ after working so hard solo

 Nothing makes Max or Penny happier then Chris.  When he walks through the door after being away they both freak out.  They cling to him for days.  Max only wants to be held by Dad and play with Dad. And while this makes my heart melt seeing their bond and the love they have for each other, I can’t help but think that I just worked soo hard keeping him alive and safe and happy the last two weeks and he doesn’t even appreciate it.  Obviously he’s a baby and I’m just over thinking it all, but I can’t help but feel a little rejected those first few days.

Oh my gosh I could talk about this forever! There’s just so many complex emotions that accompany this lifestyle. And I'm sure it'll change dramatically now that I'm back to work.

The biggest learning for me personally has been that we're both working hard for our family in very different ways.  Both are equally important, both are equally difficult, and both are equally crucial to our household running smoothly.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Returning to work after Maternity Leave

Well you guys, I’m officially back to work full time.  Today was my first day back in 13 glorious months  home, 11 of which were with my little man.  This past year of Maternity Leave has gone by so so fast! Every single clichĂ© about new motherhood flying by is so true. I don’t know where the time went!

It’s only been one day and already I have a list of advice for my future self about how to stay (aka GET) organized enough to have my day run smoothly.  Particularly when Chris is working or in school away from home and I’m solo parenting a baby and a puppy, while trying to work full time and still maintain my sanity and somewhat of a social life. Mostly my goal in life right now is not to burn out, and to find a routine that is manageable and realistic.  There are a few things that I know I need to force myself to do in order to make this happen, and unfortunately it doesn’t include watching Teen Mom and the Bachelor all night after work.  Essentially these are things that I know make a huge difference in my ability to get through the week, but even so are things I have to force myself to actually do.

1.       Dedicate time to meal prep on the weekend.  This means making a meal plan, going grocery shopping and chopping and pre-making as much as I possibly can on Sundays so that I don’t need to think about what to make and eat all week.  Not only does this save me time overall, but it also helps make sure I eat healthy since healthy options are easily accessible and already prepared. At the moment, I’m following an 8 week meal plan designed by Tone It Up, with some modifications.  Once the 8 week plan is over, I’m hoping to follow a similar structure with our own healthy family favorites.

2.       Pack everything the night before! The last thing I usually want to do after a day of work, dinner and getting Max to bed is make my lunch and snacks and pack my work bag and the diaper bag but it makes such a huge difference!  It literally takes 10 minutes, but it’s something I always put off until the morning, at which point I’m running around like a crazy person trying to find everything we need to get out the door.  I only get a half hour for lunch and spend that time rushing home to take Penny for a walk so having my lunch made means I’ll actually have time to eat! It also means I don’t get stuck buying my lunch from the cafeteria, which also saves me money (another of my resolutions!). It’s an extra bonus if I can get my breakfast made the night before too, especially if it’s something both me and Max can enjoy like protein pancakes, eggs or smoothies.

3.       Wake up the FIRST time my alarm goes off.  This was a total fail this morning.  Max was up a few times overnight so I justified getting a bit of extra sleep.  Well, 45 minutes after my first alarm went off, I finally dragged my butt out of bed and didn’t have time to wash my hair.  I’ve contemplated showering at night before bed but that just isn’t how I roll and my hair would be ridiculously unmanageable the next morning. 

4.       Keep a well-stocked desk / office space.  This means keeping everything I need daily at my desk and not bringing it home every night so that I can’t forget it the next day.  Some of my desk essentials include a water bottle, a coffee mug with Keurig pods and tea bags, trail mix, gym shoes, gym clothes (ok these I bring home, but keeping a few sets helps buffer my forgetfulness), a picture of my family, and a cell phone charger. A bonus item would be head phones for the gym – I need to get a second pair for my desk! Having the gym in my building makes it much easier to get there every day after work.

What I need to keep telling myself for extra motivation to do these things is that the more organized and time efficient I am, the more time I have to spend with Max! It was a sad realization that in the span of a week, he spends more hours at daycare then he does awake at home with me.  Getting prepared for my day the night before means that I get 20 minutes to play with Max in the mornings instead of running around. It means spending less time cooking after work and more time hanging out with him before bed.  It’s definitely not going to be easy, and until I get used to it, it will probably feel like I’ve run a marathon at the end of each day but soon enough it’ll be a new routine that will benefit the whole family. 

It takes 21 days to create a habit…1 down, 20 to go!