What season is it, anyway?

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Early autumn colours in Muskoka, Ontario

We returned to New Zealand a few days ago after a two-week trip to Canada, where Mr. Wanderlust had to travel on business. The Wanderlust Juniors and I joined him, taking the opportunity to visit family.

We arrived in Toronto on the Saturday of Labour Day weekend, known in North America as the final summer weekend before the start of the new school year. Early September in the northern hemisphere signifies new beginnings not only for school children and university students. Many refer to it as the ‘other new year,’ perceiving it as an ideal time to make new health-related resolutions and start new projects. Autumn has always been my favourite season and I relish its golden and crimson colours, vibrant chrysanthemums at the farmers’ markets, and crisp mornings. I gratefully lean into the cosy warmth of the roaring fireplace following a rainy walk on the forest trail in October. I cherish the lingering traditional Thanksgiving comfort feast of turkey with root vegetables, cranberry sauce, and apple pie. I look forward, each year, to carving pumpkins in preparation for Hallowe’en. But not this year.

I have become dependent on the seasons, and the study of Ayurveda has reinforced that relationship, teaching me to nourish my body with warm, wholesome foods in the colder months. And so, back in NZ, where early September signifies the start of the spring season, I am greeted again by seasonal confusion. The buds on the trees are starting to sprout and the sheep grazing in the roadside fields are now accompanied by mini versions of themselves. Cherry and apple blossoms adorn our neighbours’ front yards, and the days are starting to become warmer, though rainy.

Thanksgiving and Hallowe’en are not celebrated in NZ. Walking through a dollar store in northern Ontario, the Wanderlust Juniors exclaimed with excitement upon seeing the aisles filled with ghouls, spider webs, and various other Hallowe’en decor and costumes. Walking through the local shopping mall in Mount Maunganui this morning, I caught sight of cotton summer dresses in bright colours, as well as straw beach hats and swimsuits. Beach season will be here in a few months.

Despite the disorientation, I am grateful for having two places that I can now call ‘home,’ one in the north and one in the south of the globe. Although it will take some time for me to get comfortable with the seasons in the southern hemisphere, and although I will miss the autumnal holidays that I love, it’s time to create new traditions. I suspect they will involve the beach and frequent barbecue suppers, and that sounds like a great start.

Your turn: Do you look forward to certain seasons and the celebrations that they bring? Do you enjoy the traditional four seasons or are you impartial to them? Please leave a comment below to contribute to the conversation.

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Bright beauty in Georgian Bay

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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!

Driving in New Zealand

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“I must say, you’re driving quite well,” Mr. Wanderlust complimented me on our second day in NZ. No sooner had he uttered those words that I drove over a curb while manoeuvering a roundabout. A few days later, on our way to Maclaren Falls, we had our first taste of navigating winding roads at 100 km/h. We have also experienced the thrill of driving near the awe-inspiring Karangahake Gorge on the way to Auckland. It felt like an adventure at the time. It still is, but we now feel more comfortable driving on NZ’s beautiful roads, both in town and in rural areas.

Immediately after landing, following a five-hour flight from Toronto to Vancouver, then an 18-hour flight to Auckland and a significantly shorter flight to Tauranga, we hired a car for our first few days in NZ. We were able to load that car with a few pieces of our luggage. We paid for a taxi to transport the remaining suitcases to the house in which we are staying. I circled the taxi, to the amusement of the driver, before recalling that here, what I had come to know as the passenger side is, in fact, the driver’s side.

We had planned to start driving in NZ immediately following our arrival. We felt that this was the best strategy to allow us to become used to driving on the left side. We knew that the sooner we were to get out on the road, the sooner we would feel comfortable driving in our new place. It is easy for me to overthink and overplan, quickly pushing myself to a point of mental and emotional fatigue. Instead, on our second day in NZ, I announced to Mr. Wanderlust that I was to drive the car to the grocery store and to run a few additional errands. 

Mr. Wanderlust and I recently watched The Holiday, and laughed at the scene in which Cameron Diaz’s character freaks out when she get behind the wheel of a car in England. Fortunately, that experience was far from our reality.

Just as, on our first day, I continued to remind Mr. Wanderlust to stay closer to the centre of the road, he did the same for me, reminding me to avoid the curbside and parked vehicles. Before entering or exiting a parking lot, we reminded each other to stay to the left. We also quickly learned to navigate the numerous roundabouts in our city.

These days, we enjoy the serenity of driving along our small city’s two-lane roads. Goodbye, the stress of the 401! The dunes that separate the beach from the road along which we drive to take the Wanderlust Juniors to school in the morning feel like home. Equestrians on horseback can often be seen practising on the grass in front of the dunes. From time to time, we ride alongside tractors on their way to a nearby farm. We are most certainly not in Toronto, but this other T-town is slowly starting to feel like home.

Here’s to going out and winging life, instead of staying at home and contemplating the next move!

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If you are reading this on July 1st, we are wishing all our Canadian friends a wonderful 150th Canada Day!

Seasonal confusion

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I write this while watching the rain fall and listening to the wind whistle outside the window of our beach house. This is winter weather in the Bay of Plenty, on the east coast of NZ’s north island. Earlier this morning, the Wanderlust Juniors and I speed-walked to school, huddled together under an umbrella bent out of shape by a strong wind gust. Yet, it’s also warm out, with a daily high of 15-16°C. It would be embarrassing of me to complain about the lack of sunshine in such mild winter weather. I have never been a fan of cold weather, and I love rainy days, with their invitation for introspection.

The Wanderlust Juniors share their puzzled thoughts with me: “When are we going to celebrate Christmas?” I explained to them, again, that although the winter season in NZ is in June, July, and August — the months that we have come to think of as a time of hot, lazy days that stretch on — Christmas is celebrated everywhere in the world on December 25th, regardless of the season. I sympathise with my children’s confusion. A winter without snow does not feel unusual to me. Growing up, I spent several years in Israel where winters were rainy, with a wet chill, similar in fact to winters in our part of NZ. Yet, it does feel odd to think of winter without Christmas and New Year’s Eve, just as, I am sure, it will feel especially strange to celebrate those holidays in the midst of summer.

During a Skype conversation, my mother-in-law shows off a beautiful shift dress that she wears almost on a daily basis, telling me that the weather in the Toronto area has cooled down slightly after last week’s 30°C. We purchased the dress together, three summers ago, at an outdoor market in Kincardine, Ontario while on a summer holiday. I sit at my computer with the heater before me, snuggled inside my favourite grey wrap cardigan that she gifted to me two years ago. The cardigan, the dress, and my in-laws’ faces so close to mine, separated only by the screen of the laptop, blur the mid-summer and mid-winter into one undefinable interconnecting season.

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Favourites from around the web:

Why You Need “White Space” in Your Daily Routine

“Time scarcity is like kryptonite for creativity. If we want to create an environment that nourishes innovation and imagination, we need to build quiet counterpoints into our daily rhythm. These small moments of “white space”— where we have time to pause and reflect, or go for a walk, or just breathe deeply for a few moments — are what give balance and flow and comprehension to our lives as a larger whole.”

The Secret to Small Talk

“Watching Eli throw himself into every social encounter, it occurred to me that, in similar situations, I focus so much on saying exactly the right thing that I hardly pay any attention to the other person. I’m more concerned about how I look to them than I am about getting to know them. Lacking that concern, Eli grasped what has long eluded me: that most people aren’t excessively judgmental. They’re quick to forgive. And more often than not, they want to connect.”

Resilience and Emotional Agility

Previously on Mindful Daydreamer:

A year ago on the blog: Multipotentiality Exploration

Two years ago on the blog: Watching and Weaving

Wishing you a fulfilling weekend!

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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Favourites from around the web:

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.

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

More mindfulness: The Japanese skill copied by the world

Not All Who Wander Are Lost

Wishing you a marvelous week with unlimited potential!

The homesickness phase

“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? – it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.” – Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Before I share with you a story about a serendipitous meeting that took place earlier this week, I would like to ask for your opinion. I have been rethinking the publication frequency of this blog. Please leave a comment below to let me know whether you would like to continue reading Mindful Daydreamer once per week, or if you would prefer twice weekly updates. 

After leading a Tuesday evening yoga class at one of the two fitness clubs where I teach, two women who had come to practise with me stopped me to ask for a recommendation regarding yoga apparel. If, dear reader, you think that I felt flattered about this indirect compliment regarding my style, you might be correct. Unfortunately, I had to disappoint them by letting them know that the shipping cost might be steep, given that the company is in Canada.

“Ah, I knew you are Canadian,” one of the women smiled at me. She then introduced herself as L

“Yes, but you weren’t born in Canada, were you?” her friend M looked at me with a curious twinkle in her eye. “I detect a hint of another accent.”

I laughed.

“You would be right again,” I admitted. “I’m Russian-Canadian.”

My friends and family know how much I dislike the question Where are you from? Yet, lately, I find that my reaction to similar questions hasn’t been as strong as it has been previously. I don’t mind sharing with the locals a few stories about the places where I have been fortunate to live.

We continued our exchange and my clients were pleasantly surprised to learn that I have only been in NZ for just over a month. We briefly discussed urban planning in Vancouver vs. Auckland and the steep prices of condo apartments in both cities, then the conversation drifted to the challenges and triumphs of relocation overseas.

“So, are you in the homesickness phase, or do you still feel like a tourist?” L could not have guessed how deeply this question sank its claws into the thoughts that had been troubling me for the past few days. Suddenly, the thoughts had a term: homesickness. Although I feel comfortable travelling, and while we love living in Tauranga, a sadness has been nagging me. Do I miss Canada or Toronto? Not especially. Do I miss family and closer friends? Of course, though we are doing our best to keep contact via email and Skype. Is homesickness the correct term? Perhaps so, since our family members and loved ones are our home.

L proceeded to tell me that she has moved several times and that on average, every time, it took approximately six months for her to start to feel comfortable in her new home.

“Until then,” she continued, “there is always a vague sense of something being not quite right.”

Serendipity has played its magic yet again, bringing forth a conversation that reminded me that although I might sometimes feel lonely, I am never alone. There are others who have gone through similar experiences after relocating. Mr. Wanderlust and I have read stories about the lives of expats, and we were aware of the various psychological stages through which emigrants progress as they settle into their new homes. Mr. Wanderlust and I also each went through two emigrations as children and teenagers, and we remember the challenges that our parents had faced. We had done our research and were armed with facts. We were prepared for what was to come. Is it naive to admit that I had hoped that the typical transitional stages would somehow allow us to pass by unnoticed, to integrate seamlessly into life in NZ? Okay, perhaps it was a bit over-idealistic of me to hold such hope.

The first wave of expat sadness has passed, and it just might have allowed me to emerge on the other side feeling more resilient than before. Although I am still very much the idealist, I continue to practise staying present with what is taking place, accepting the fluctuations.

If you have gone through a big move, perhaps you might have a few tips to share with me to help me deal with periods of expat sadness. Please leave a comment below. Please also share this blog with a friend for whom the topic might resonate.

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Favourites from around the web:

If you are planning a trip soon, here is some interesting advice: 5 Ways Total Strangers Can Make Your Trip Better Of course, this advice is also transferable to anyone who has recently relocated to a new place (ahem).

A great prompt for self-introspection and journaling: 3 Purposeful Questions I Ask Myself Each Night

Here’s to a beautiful weekend!

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!

Compulsory minimalism, or living out of a suitcase

Monday mornings are simpler, and smoother, when we don’t spend time standing in front of the wardrobe, trying to decide what to wear. Oh no, instead, I reach under the bed and pull out my red suitcase to retrieve one of my two favourite pairs of jeans and a t-shirt.

We first started decluttering our home three years ago, slowly giving away items that we did not need or use on a regular basis, sometimes replacing several items with one more compact version suitable for multiple purposes. With clothing items, we started practising the ‘one in, one out’ rule, only replacing an item with a new one when required. This process has been highly successful for us and has taught us to discern between our needs, nice-to-haves, and what we can most certainly do without. All this has proved to be useful in preparation for our move overseas. Today, we are living out of a few suitcases while patiently waiting for the arrival of a container with the remainder of our belongings.

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Once, many years ago, I would have dreaded the mere idea of living for several months with only a small selection of clothes. In reality, I alternate daily between two favourite pairs of jeans and several high-quality t-shirts and sweaters. For footwear, I rely on a pair of espadrilles, jandals (flipflops, for the non-kiwi crowd), training shoes, and comfy ankle boots. I also have my favourite Hunter wellies and wear them with great pleasure on rainy days, though I have observed that wellies are only popular here with children. Then again, this northern girl also only wears jandals to the beach; Birkenstocks are a different story and I’m waiting for those to arrive in a couple of months.

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I suppose it also helps that my makeup and skincare routine are fairly simple — all my skincare and makeup products fit into a small bag. When it comes to yoga and other forms of fitness, I’m using my thin travel yoga mat, which I have previously folded and placed in a carry-on suitcase when packing for short business trips. Fortunately, stretchy yoga clothes are compact and can be rolled haphazardly into a tiny ball, then stuffed into the aforementioned Hunter boots.

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Altogether, our compulsory lifestyle of suitcase dressing does not feel at all straining and by now, I love the simplicity of a capsule wardrobe and the creative options it allows while reducing the risk of decision fatigue. That said, we are looking forward to a reunion with the chosen items that we have shipped in a container due to arrive in a couple of months, but that’s a story for another post.

Thank you, as always, for taking a moment to share this blog with a friend.

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.