In praise of the daytime date

Dear readers: I will be on a blog break for the next two weeks. I invite you to read the archives in the meantime. 


On Monday mornings, after taking the Wanderlust Juniors to school, Mr. Wanderlust and I are off on a mini adventure together. On those days, he starts work later, and we have a bit of child-free couple time to enjoy. Now that we are living far away from family, we have to make the most of this opportunity. Monday mornings are for dates, and we love this arrangement.

What we do on Mondays depends on our mood. Sometimes, we go to the movies, enjoying an early matinée in an almost empty theatre, then eat lunch in a restaurant not typically favoured by our children. Sushi is one of our favourite treats, but it’s not the Wanderlust Juniors’ cup of tea. At other times, we choose an active outing with a walk up to the summit of the Mount or Papamoa Hills, or a stroll along the beach. Some Mondays are reserved for errand dates. When we were shopping for furniture for our new house, we spent a couple of Mondays at the furniture and appliance stores, choosing a fridge, washing machine, and a couch for the lounge.

We have come to treasure the daytime date. Although it might not seem romantic in comparison with a cosy dinner-and-movie outing, we enjoy it nevertheless. On a recent busier Monday on which both Mr. Wanderlust and I had to work in the morning, we walked to the local shopping plaza to run an errand after taking the boys to school. We returned home at 9:30 and began the work day, but while out for a walk, we had a chance to reconnect and discuss a few items pertaining to our respective work projects. On the other hand, I typically would not wish to discuss such matters while out for a romantic dinner. Other morning dates are more leisurely and resemble a lovers’ outing, albeit sunlit. Another benefit of this arrangement is that we typically have more energy earlier in the day, and spending time together in the morning gives us a boost for the remainder of the day. I think that’s a fabulous way to start a new week.

Do you enjoy morning / day dates or are you in favour of the traditional romantic evening rendez-vous? Please leave a comment below to contribute to the conversation.

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FAVOURITES FROM AROUND THE WEB:

I cringe when I see doodles on the pages of books, but this is clever.

A good reminder to get out of our heads and take action.

Until next time!

Sometimes, technology can be beautiful

Thank you for your patience during my two weeks away from the blog. If you are curious about what I have been up to during that time, I will not keep you guessing. Alas, I have been busy parenting. When life speeds up and situations take an unexpected turn, it’s often best to simplify the ‘to do’ list, making room for what matters most.

On Thursday of last week, Mr. Wanderlust sadly announced to me over email that what was to be a week-long business trip overseas had been extended by a few additional days. I broke the news to the Wanderlust Juniors over breakfast on Friday, then felt a tightening in my chest as I watched them silently lower their heads to stare into their bowls of cereal. Here was my opportunity to step up the mum game, to work to put a smile on my children’s faces.

That afternoon after school, instead of helping the boys with their homework, much to their delight and surprise, I drove to a local fast food restaurant. As they smiled in-between bites of their burgers and chips — a treat for our family — I told them that our next destination is the beach. After 4 p.m., the sun was still warm in the sky, and I knew that the sunset was to be spectacular.

When we arrived at the local beach, the Wanderlust Juniors played in the golden sand while I snapped photos (scroll down to see them) and observed the ocean. Then, my phone buzzed in my pocket, with an email from Mr. Wanderlust.

“Can we chat on Skype?”

Within a minute, his face was on the screen before us and the boys competed to show him the sand castles they built. I held the phone before the fire-lit sun as it started to make its descent to the left of Mount Maunganui. I allowed the gentle rolling waves to whisper their secret, inviting Mr. Wanderlust to return home.

A few extra days can feel painfully long.

We returned home with sea salt in our hair and serene expressions on our faces, grateful for an opportunity to share a peaceful sunset with Mr. Wanderlust while he sat in a windowless office in a faraway country. Sometimes, technology can be beautiful.

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FAVOURITES FROM AROUND THE WEB:

An interesting perspective on uptalk

Managing our energy

A YEAR AGO ON THE BLOG:

Have you read this book? I’d love to read your thoughts on it.

TWO YEARS AGO ON THE BLOG:

Better than yesterday

Wishing you a peaceful weekend!

About the time when we bought a house in a foreign country… Online

On Valentine’s Day, we purchased a house in New Zealand while still living in Canada. Two days before our 11th wedding anniversary, we moved into our new home.

After we had made a decision about the city in NZ in which to settle, having done some research to determine in which neighbourhood we want to live, we started browsing, on a daily basis, the local NZ real estate site. We had been researching for almost a year before spotting a house that felt perfect from the moment we first clicked on the listing. In fact, I had the same feeling 10 years prior about a charming house north-east of Toronto that quickly became our home and which we were preparing to list in preparation for our move. This particular house near Tauranga was in an ideal location for us, and only a short drive or a slightly longer walk to the beach. After a telephone call and Skype walk-through with the real-estate agent (the internet is a marvellous thing), we knew we had found our next home.

We sold our Toronto-area house on February 9th, and five days later, on a snowy Valentine’s evening, we took part in our first auction, our first real estate auction, and our first real estate auction to buy a house outside of a country where we had been living at the time. Have I mentioned that the internet can be wondrous? We were also grateful for the time difference that allowed us to take part in the auction at home, outside our regular office hours.

Prior to that experience, we were unfamiliar with real estate auctions, as well as other kiwi real estate jargon. Essentially, an auction is a clever tactic to generate a friendlier version of the bidding war and to get the seller the best value for the house. Mr. Wanderlust and I were on a long-distance call with the real estate agent, who sat in the auction room. At the same time, we watched the auction on a live website. Several other houses were sold first, each going within a matter of minutes. Houses? Hot cakes? Potato / potahto?

Our pulse quickened as we watched a now familiar photo of ‘our’ home appear on the screen. Two minutes later, we were the new owners of a house near Tauranga. We immediately phoned our parents. Repeating the phrase “We just bought a house in NZ” made the fact more palpable. My parents were incredulous.

“You bought a house, sight-unseen?”

“Not exactly,” I assured them. “We had a virtual walk-through via Skype.”

Later, when I showed them the photos, they fell almost as much in love with the house as we are. Perhaps it might be considered unusual to purchase property online, but we knew in our hearts that we had made the right decision.

Mr. Wanderlust, the Wanderlust Juniors, and I visited the house in person several days after we landed in NZ. We were pleased to find that we love our home even more after actually walking through it, finding it in excellent move-in condition. We looked forward to making it ours.

On mutual agreement with the vendors, we set our moving date to late July, and moved in two days before our 11th wedding anniversary. A house is a somewhat unconventional present, but we have always been pragmatic. We jokingly refer to it as the romantic gift to ourselves that keeps on giving. After spending three months in a sweet but very small beach house in which we sometimes – particularly on rainy days – felt all too clearly a shortage of personal space, we are enjoying every moment in our new nest.

A leap of faith feels right sometimes, particularly with a supportive partner.

In the next post, I will share with you several lessons that our family learned while living out of suitcases for three months in a small two-bedroom cottage.

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To the Hills – Part II, in which we meet an unlikely tour guide

The first time I visited Papamoa Hills, with the Wanderlust Juniors, we walked along the main track to the summit. A week later, when I returned to the hills with Mr. Wanderlust, we climbed over a fence, beckoned by an irresistible view, and chose to take the path less travelled. The choice was easy. We walked toward the sun and the dew-glistened grassy peaks that reminded us of a scene from The Hobbit. The main path provides a great cardio and lower body toning workout, but that’s not what we were after on this day. I have been working to move away from my old tendency to rush through life, to choose to work harder, to move faster, to get more done in a short amount of time. These days, I give myself permission to slow down and enjoy the journey. I’m tired of trying too hard to make something happen. I have been making conscious decisions to keep moving ahead with an attitude of ease and softness.

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These days, I also allow myself, from time to time, to be guided by someone — or something — else. I settle into the backseat and let someone else drive and navigate. Like Alice, I lean into the adventure and allow curiosity to write the story. We wandered along the grassy, gently sloping path, welcoming the warmth of the sun on an otherwise cool morning. As we rounded a corner, we found ourselves almost face-to-face with an unlikely tour guide: a brown cow. She stood still before us, her gaze wandering between us, the visitors, and her fellow grazers on the hillside, behind the low electric fence. Somehow, she had become separated from them.

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The cow sauntered before us and we followed at the same unhurried pace, not daring to attempt to pass behind her every time she slowed and then came to stand still. She positioned her body to block our path entirely, then reluctantly turned her head to glare at us, unimpressed. We had intruded upon her as she tried to make sense of her predicament and now waited for her to continue to move forth. We followed her lead, accompanied by the curious surveillance of the other cows whose breakfast we had interrupted. They ogled us while continuing to chew mouthfuls of grass, their scent transporting me to my childhood summers on the farm in Siberia where my mother grew up and where, much to my repugnance, my grandmother had once attempted to teach me to milk a cow.

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After a short meditative walk, our reluctant tour guide reached a fence and a locked gate, and without so much as a quick glance at us, stepped off the path with surprising grace, giving us passage over the fence, and proceeded with her own snacking on a particularly lush mound of long grass. We turned to thank our gentle guide for leading us along the path and saw that, although she remained separate from her herd, she resigned herself to this situation and continued to do what came to her with ease.

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We continued our journey, climbing over fences to sit on a bench overlooking peaceful farmlands, our new neighbourhood, and the vast ocean beyond. I twirled and danced, singing a few lines from The Sound of Music, much to the amusement of my husband, who was thankful for our solitude on that quiet hill. Then, we proceeded with our walk to the summit, relying on the maps upon which we stumbled along the way. As for our tour guide, I suspect she quietly awaited the return of the farmer at the end of the day, then gratefully followed his lead. How’s that for a lesson in acquiescence?

Are you enjoying this blog? Please share it with a friend.


 

If you were not able to join my live Facebook video earlier this week, you may watch it at your leisure. In it, I share with you my insights to help you reconnect to mindfulness and joy on a daily basis.


Interested in reading more? Here are a couple of posts from the archives:

A year ago on the blog: A story of commitment, dedication, and love

Two years ago on the blog, and something with which I continue to grapple today: A Story to Tell

To the Hills – Part I

On Tuesday, June 13th at 8 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time / Wednesday, June 14th at 12 p.m. NZ time, I will be LIVE on Facebook, talking about how we can practise mindfulness and rediscover joy every day. I look forward to chatting with you.


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The sun’s rays broke briefly through the low moody clouds as we sat on a bench that was missing its third plank. The Wanderlust Juniors ate mandarins and granola bars, then the eldest boy fine-tuned his binoculars, a family antique gifted to him by my dad, to better observe the sheep grazing on the hillside. The gloomy clouds reflected our thoughts and emotions, having said goodbye to Mr. Wanderlust the night before at the airport. On Day 1 of his week-long business trip, we felt his absence.

I gently encouraged the Wanderlust Juniors to continue walking up the track to the summit of Papamoa Hills. Reluctantly, they agreed to my idea with the promise that they would later relax at home with a movie. Given a choice, in a manner not at all resembling their usual enthusiasm for adventure outings, they would have spent that entire day indoors, coming up with ideas that would inevitably lead to some kind of trouble. In the interest of self-care, and in trying to keep a copacetic state in my household, I could not have agreed to such a proposition. We needed to leave our small beach bungalow, with its stuffy misplaced emotions. I needed to clear my head of concern about Mr. Wanderlust as I waited to learn of his safe arrival at his destination after a 16-hour flight. I also needed space to breathe after having stopped too many mischievous incidents within the first hour after the boys’ too-early rising. Shortly after 8 o’clock, having packed a small picnic and my camera, we took a short drive to the hills.

The crystal-clear air beckoned forth as we walked the inclining path. The low silver pillows of clouds hovered menacingly overhead, yet we solemnly continued our trek. One boy would stop after every few steps to play dreamily with stones that he picked up along the way, or to collect a couple of sticks. The other would race ahead, then halt and wait for us to catch up. It would be dishonest of me to say that I did not at times feel a pang of frustration at the snail’s pace of our walk. That feeling would arise every time I noticed that another person who had passed by us not long ago on the way up was already returning down the path toward us. I reminded myself to enjoy the flow, however slow it may feel at times, to stop when they stop, to move when they move, to forget my agenda and give up control. Besides, I shrugged, anything is better than trying to entertain two bored boys inside a small home. Before long, we had reached the summit but did not linger. The triumphant ascend reminded my two excitable boys of their adventurous enthusiasm and they raced each other along the winding track to the parking lot.

Later, at home, following a comforting Skype chat with Mr. Wanderlust, the atmosphere felt significantly lighter. The sky released its own heavy weight as the rain came after lunch, making our afternoon at home with a movie and banana-chocolate chip cake all the more cosy.

A week later, Mr. Wanderlust and I returned to the hills for a morning date. Come back on Friday to read part II of the story, in which I tell you of our outing with an unlikely tour guide.

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Wisdom from Anne Lamott

In defence of slow fitness This is my approach to exercise.

Networking 101: Make Friends Not Contacts

Five ways to survive entertaining as an introvert This is always a good reminder for me.

Something quirky for the fellow grammar nerd: The Oxford Comma’s Online Dating Profile

Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend.

Foreshadowing. Could a favourite children’s book have predicted the future?

Slinky Malinki was blacker than black

A stalking and lurking adventurous cat.

He had bright yellow eyes, a warbling wail

And a kink at the end of his very long tail.

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After Mr. Wanderlust and I started to announce that we were expecting our first baby, a couple of our friends very thoughtfully surprised us with three children’s books. One of those, Slinky Malinki by Lynley Dodd, would quickly become a favourite for the eldest Wanderlust Junior, later for the youngest, and also for us, the parents. We admired the quirky illustrations of adorable Slinky Malinki the cat, and the Wanderlust Juniors used to comment that he looked very much like our own late cat, Meeshu. It wasn’t long before our boys, learning to speak, started to complete the words at the end of each stanza. Without needing to try, we had memorized the funny rhyming story.

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Hello there, Slinky!

Shortly after arriving in NZ, we started to notice illustrations of a dog called Hairy Maclary in bookshops, the local library, and at the school, and we quickly deduced that the same illustrator also worked on Slinky Malinki. It turns out we were correct.

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I wasn’t able to capture Slinky lurking off to the right-hand side of the kerfuffle scene.

When we first visited the Tauranga waterfront playground, we delighted at a garden of sculptures of a group of dogs that chased a hissing, distressed cat up a pole. A second cat lurks nearby, obscured by a low wooden barrier just steps from the unsuspecting, distracted dogs. Yes, you would be correct to guess that the stalking and lurking kitty was our old friend Slinky. Our investigation concluded a minute later, after we read a nearby sign about Lynley Dodd, who is originally from Rotorua and is a resident of Tauranga. As has happened several times within the past seven weeks since our arrival in NZ, Mr. Wanderlust and I looked at each other with eyes wide in marvel, then laughed.

“The signs were there all along.”

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Leader of the pack and a new favourite literary character, Hairy Maclary
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Wonderful detail

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For over seven years, we read from a beloved book that, somehow, unbeknownst to us, would lead us to its place of origin in what has become our new home.

Do you believe in signs?

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Stalking and lurking, indeed.

Kites and community

Thank you to everyone who responded to last week’s post about homesickness / expat sadness and shared tips and stories. As I seek community in my new home, I also continue to find comfort with my friends and loved ones in other parts of the world.

More on that in today’s blog post…

On Sunday, my dear friend Shlomit was present in my thoughts as I watched the beautiful bluebird kite she gifted to us before we left Canada soar high in the perfect azure sky. The gentle breeze was just as perfect, allowing the brilliant blue kite to hover peacefully in the sunshine among so many others! Standing on the grassy field in the park of Tauranga’s Matua neighbourhood, we had joined many other families who had come to take part in Matariki Kite Day, a festival that celebrates the Maori new year.

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We stood transfixed, gazing attentively at the bird with what I acknowledged to be a sense of tranquility as it dawned on me that I had never flown a kite as a child. As I listed to the rolling laughter of the Wanderlust Juniors, I wondered at how I grew up without having ever stepped onto a grassy field or the sandy beach to experience the sheer pleasure of holding in my hand the reins of something so pretty that transforms the darkest of moods, that plants a rainbow in our hearts.

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I have been pondering the symbolism of kites in literature, thinking of The Kite Runner, where the image of a kite resurrects memories of carefree childhood and innocence. Ziggy Marley, in Love is my Religion, sings, “I don’t want to fight; hey, let’s go fly a kite.” In Maori cultures, the kites of Matariki symbolise a connection between the heavens and earth. While peacefully gazing up at the kaleidoscopic textiles dancing in the gentle breeze, we forget about the ‘to do’ list of the day. Kite meditation — what a brilliant concept! We forget, for a while, about our agenda for the evening as we stand still, smiling in the magic of the moment, surrounded by so many others in our community who have united with one simple desire, to marvel at the peaceful beauty of something so simple and at once so powerful.

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When was the last time you flew a kite?


Favourites from around the web:

Why Everything We Know About Salt May be Wrong

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Not All Who Wander Are Lost

Wishing you a marvelous week with unlimited potential!

Start slow: A Monday morning date

Last week, we were feeling miserable, resting in bed with a cold that knocked us off our feet. This week, we are starting to slowly, gently reawaken to greet the sunshine and restore our energy reserves. A morning walk in the sunshine up Mount Maunganui was just what the doctor ordered.

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The view of Mount Maunganui, referred to as ‘the mount’ by the locals, from the boardwalk of Pilot Bay

We had a busy first month in NZ and now that we are away from our families, couple time is not easy to carve out. Mr. Wanderlust wasn’t due to start work until lunchtime, and after taking the Wanderlust Juniors to school, we decided to make our way toward Mount Maunganui. We had walked up the mount once before with the boys, and although the trek was challenging, it did not feel overly difficult. This time, our experience was not the same as before.

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Not even 15 minutes into our hike up the mount, we felt short of breath.

“I can’t believe the terrible shape I’m in,” I complained while blowing my nose and tugging at my clogged left ear.

“You are recovering from a bad cold,” Mr. Wanderlust gently reminded me. “You can’t expect to be as strong as you normally are.”

A few days ago, we were feeling too weak to walk around the block, let alone walk up a mountain. Our next thought, as we stopped to catch our breath, was that if we’re feeling weak, at the very least we were in this together. We had to crack a few jokes along the lines of, “If I ever make it up the mount…”

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We made a few more stops on the incline, each time taking the opportunity to snap a few photos of the spectacular vistas in-between coughing and clearing our noses — okay, it was me blowing my nose while Mr. Wanderlust ensured that I did not have bits of facial tissue left on my face. What started out as a frustrating and humbling trek left me with a reminder to start slowly and be kind to myself, to be patient as I continue to regain my strength. This was our opportunity to go gently, without feeling the need to rush toward a destination. We reminded ourselves that while we were working to catch our breath, we had the perfect excuse to stop to enjoy the sights on the way up.

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Putting one foot before the other, we made it to the summit sooner than we had expected. Our walk was silent, in the comfortable manner of long-time lovers who have lately had too much on their minds and hearts. Sitting down to recharge before coming down from the mount, I rested my head on my husband’s shoulder and, closing my eyes for a few moments, leaned into the comfort of home.

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Adorable residents of the mount.

Updates from Instagram:

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Previously on the blog:

Chez Kathleen Kelly and Holly Golightly

Skipping the Small Talk

Wishing you a week of gentle beginnings!

The week in review: May 19th

It appears winter has arrived in NZ, announcing itself by way of rain, wind gusts, and crisp mornings. Inevitably, it’s all very different from winter in Ontario and we are curious about the months to come. I think of plans for July and immediately conjure images of hot and humid days, then remind myself that such weather doesn’t apply to this part of the world at that time of year.

There are also other fascinating discoveries. Two weeks ago, I noticed that the moon phases progress in the opposite direction in the southern hemisphere than in the northern. As someone who follows the moon particularly closely, I was puzzled to see that the moon was waxing from the left to the right side. My delight at this so-called discovery might sound downright ridiculous to others for whom this information is likely common knowledge, but it fills me with inexplicable joy and curiosity. Please do leave a note in the comments below and tell me, did you know about this ‘mirror effect’ of the moon in the northern vs. the southern hemisphere?

A few favourite moments from the past week:

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I was almost knocked off my feet by a wind gust while taking photos near the dunes. I’m at once terrified and fascinated by the ocean on stormy days.
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Beachside treasures that leave me in awe of the wonders of the universe.
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It’s easy to eat the rainbow when delicious vegetables are in abundance at the farmers’ market.
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I adore the whimsical nature gifts that the youngest Wanderlust Junior brings home almost daily. Some of them — ahem, pet bugs — are somewhat questionable, but others are sweet.

Favourites from around the web:

Modern Mrs. Darcy has released her list of 17 books everyone will be talking about this summer. I can’t wait to get my hands on a few of these. Which ones are you looking forward to reading?

A fascinating podcast: Accelerated Learning: Get Good at Anything in 20 hours

Beautiful, honest, and though-provoking. Our Mothers as We Never Saw Them. I have often looked at photos of my mother from her late teens and early 20s and wondered about the woman she was before I changed her world.

We spend plenty of time inside our heads. You Can’t Be Creative without Being in Your Body

Things have been busy on my end. It’s time to return to basics. Today I’ll Press Pause

Excellent advice for the writer. So you want to be a writer? Essential tips for aspiring novelists

Wishing you a beautiful weekend, regardless of the reigning season!

Mindful Motherhood

This week’s blog post arrives one day early. The reason for that is simple. It is Mother’s Day in NZ, Australia, Canada, the U.S., and numerous other countries in the world (yes, I looked it up).

In preparation for this week’s blog post, I brainstormed a few ideas. I could tell you about how my children, Mr. Wanderlust, and I have been adapting to our new environment, what with the Wanderlust Juniors starting school in a new place. I could also tell you about recent mistakes I have made as a mother. I could follow those mistakes with stories of celebratory moments after which I wanted to give myself the proverbial pat on the back. In truth, this has never been a parenting blog because I do not have an interest in writing detailed stories about my family. The information I share via this blog and social media is carefully edited.

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Exploring the beach near Devonport, Auckland.

I will confidently say, however, that as with various big moves and transformations, there are inevitable challenges, disappointments, and triumphs, and in most cases we hope that the magical moments will by far outnumber the ones we often wish we could sweep clean from our memories. I can also confess that although I am continuing to work to remain a mindful, present mama, some days and scenarios create hurdles in this practice. As my children continue to grow with each new experience, so do I. My role as a mother is forever changing and evolving, and it keeps me curious. The great days remind me to acknowledge and praise the work I do; the not-so-good days inform my future steps. And so the ebb and flow continues, keeping me humble yet empowered, tentative yet self-assured. I’d bet many of the parents reading this will relate; we walk this road together.

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A beloved moment from our cottage getaway to Sauble Beach, Ontario in August 2015.

Today, I celebrate my Mama, as well as my mother-in-law and my grandmother, the beautiful mother figures whom I am fortunate to have in my life. I bow to them in deep gratitude. I also celebrate myself, and express gratitude for all those triumphant and not-so-pretty moments on this incredible journey. May those experiences continue to remind me to stay present and be the best mum I can be, every day. This morning, I raise my mug of peppermint tea to all the other mothers who walk this brilliantly crooked path.