Getting in the Holiday Spirit by Setting New Intentions


The holidays is an especially good time to start a mindful practice for yourself and/or your family. It can be hard to start new traditions, especially as we are adult children ourselves and our parents have gotten used to a routine for so long. Sometimes, it’s important to start carving out space and activities that are more aligned with your own values and plans, so that you can start setting this intentional precedent. It’s okay to start small and incremental as that can also ensure that this new tradition is sustainable. Whether you live alone, with roommates, have children, or have tried to have children without them being earthside, find a way to practice self-love over the holiday season. It is a good way of ensuring that you are taking time to give yourself something you love, and it also helps us get through the cold, dark months that are on the horizon.

Take for instance, my family and personal rituals. Each year, my family of 4 has our own traditions over the month of December, and we also do things with family and loved ones.. This helps us set the stage for our children – both as a way to help them make memories and meaning of our traditions, and also because it’s a way to ensure that I also am experiencing joy – not just through my children but in my own way.

Some of the things we love to do are going to a tree farm to get our annual Solstice tree, making presents for ourselves and our neighbours for Solstice, making a gingerbread house, and pulling a thing to do from our daily Advent Calendar. We also mark each week that leads up to Christmas. We do it in a more holistic way than religious and it works for us, as it connects us back to our roots and to nature more generally.

Last year, i put together a worksheet to help us take care of ourselves over the holidays. You can do it anytime in December and into January. It’s called the 12 Days of Getting Mindful for the Holidays. Check it out here if you’d like to learn more about it. It’s for each and every one of us, as a tool to help us slow down and be about more mindful of the present in the presence (pun intended), and gives us some practice of simplicity. Sometimes the everyday grind of the holidays and the stress of things that keep us busy get in the way of the more easy feelings of joy, love and excitement. This list can help you s l o w down.

As I fully believe that it takes a village to raise children and get support, i have done some research to find other people’s great suggestions. I’m all for outsourcing for help when others have done the work, why reinvent the wheel right? So compiling this list fits the outsourcing in me. Here is a great list of suggestions – both for yourself and your family. It’s’ never too late to start a new tradition.

Babyccino Kids – Advent Calendar Ideas

7 Tips to Help you Beat Holiday Stress – Sarah Rosensweet shares some great suggestions to help your goals be more realistic.

Hyggemama – This post is a very helpful Hygge Guide for the holidays

Janet Lansbury shares fantastic tips as always here

My Kindness Calendar – a way to do something kind as a whole family

And She Moves just put together a 12 day advent for simple movvement exercises you can do in the luxury of your own home. If you sign up for her (great) newsletter, you can access it for free.

What are some things that you do as a family? Is there a go-to tradition you love to look forward to each year for yourself? If you don’t already have one, think of some ways you can create new traditions and memories starting this year – it’s never too late to start and to create a new positive mindset for this time of year. It can be hard for many of us, whether it is a trauma survivors, or if we have experienced loss or are struggling with sad feelings. It make it that much harder to do, and that much more rewarding when we can take control of our holidays and how we take care of ourselves.

The Summer I Saved an Alligator

Each year, at the beginning of summer break from school, my family and I go on a vacation to the cottage. It has become such a family ritual that that we start to anticipate it weeks in advance. It’s a chance for us to unwind, relax, be in nature, and an opportunity for us to get a break from our everyday life.

The timing of this time away is impeccable: I am in the middle of a three-month long course that is offered by the Neufeld Institute. While it’s simply named Intensive I, it’s actually a very in-depth course on attachment and how it helps us reach our full potential. So as I’m taking this course, things are coming to my mind’s eye around the behaviour and emotions that my children are experiencing. This year, I found the time at the cottage to be even more important as it’s a chance for us to be alone as a family. I’ve been noticing my younger child becoming more and more attached to her peers. As an Attachment-based therapist and parent, I know it’s my role to remain the anchor for my children. Being the answer for them helps them to live their life as fully as possible. Watching my daughter become more more attached to her peers even at such a young age has been an interesting experience for me as a therapist and parent who is making very intentional decisions.

So, in order to help re-connect and be that anchor for my kids, off we went to our week away from the world. The weather was glorious, we ate S’more‘s and we swam more than once every day in the lake. Even though it was rather cold, the water has always been our happy place as a family. We could be cranky, tired or bored beforehand, but we always emerged from the water happy, content and refreshed. During one afternoon in the water, we were playing with our beloved water donuts. I of course brought to my favourite doughnut-doughnut, and we also had on hand the inflatable alligator that had been mine as a child. This summer my daughter has a goal to work on her swimming and so she and I were playing with the alligator as an opportunity for her to feel more confident in the water. Luckily she was still wearing her puddle jumper water wings because in one quick moment, the alligator overturned and slipped from under her. My quick instinct tended to her to make sure she was safe and well we were cuddling and checking in together and the allocator quickly started to drift off. I had first thought it was going slowly in the direction that would take it to shore but then I quickly noticed it was actually going deeper into the lake. I’m pretty confident swimmer and had been on the swim team in high school so I was pretty convinced that I would be able to reach the alligator in time. Because in one quick moment overturned from under. My quick instinct tended to her to make sure she was safe and while we were cuddling and checking in together, the alligator quickly started to drift out. Instead of going slowly in the direction that would take it to shore, it actually went deeper into the lake. I’m a pretty confident swimmer and was on the swim team in high school so I was pretty convinced that I would be able to read to the alligator in time. I was wrong. After a leisurely paddle where i was in my donut, i soon realized i was not going to reach the alligator in time. I have memories of this toy from my own childhood, and didn’t want to lose it so soon after my kids were able to play with it. So, i ditched the donut (this time int he right direction) and started to frantically swim at full speed towards the bright green animal floating in the water.

Luckily, we were the only people in the water and it was so calm (or maybe that was a problem). I used all the swimming strokes i learned (front crawl, breaststroke, backwards) and there were a couple of times where i had to quickly assess if this damn toy was worth me drowning or having a heart attack. I have to say there was a moment of panic of not reaching the floating device in time. Of course i did, as otherwise i wouldn’t be here writing this, but wow, was it a stressful moment for me.

I was able to use some de-escalation tools to help me get there, i used all the positive thinking i could, and worked on some radical acceptance that it was truly okay if i did’t reach it. A part of me know it would come to shore eventually. Another part of me wanted to be my kids’ saviour – of the alligator anyway. And you know what?

They didn’t even notice.

They didn’t realize how hard it was to get the floatie. But my partner did, and he tended to me and gave me some space to breathe. Literally.

So on that note, because i’m a glass half-ful gal, i’m going to leave you with some links to great articles about how to embrace summer, and how to make it meaningful for you as a parent. I work from a place where setting intentions help me live the life i love, and that summer means as much for me as it does my kids. So, here are some great resources to help you if you are stuck:

10 ways to stress less and flourish more
Mothering Arts Best Summer Ever list
Summer vacation: Freedom from or freedom to
18 summers – though i think this is too much pressure and not only 18 years, the article has some helpful tips

What are some of your favourite summertime family rituals? How do you spend the summer doing things you love?

After the Vacation

For March Break this year, our wee family was gifted a vacation to Costa Rica, along with my partner’s extended family. It was a trip of a lifetime. I learned a few things about myself, my kids, and how to hold on to it.

I need to tell you first that in another life I was a hippie at heart, and feel like in an alternate universe I’m a surfing beach bum. So while I loved the adventures and walks in the mountains, I am truly one of those people who feels most at peace and relaxed on the beach. So I was able to enjoy my time away from home. I’m not going to pretend that travelling with kids is relaxing, but I did find ways to slow down and be mindful.

Luckily for me, we spent a week on a glorious beach, surrounded by lush rainforest, monkeys and sloths, and the most vast array of butterflies I have ever seen. It was a sensory overload but in the most fantastic way. I was able to eat fresh mango, see butterflies each day, hear the birds chirping, feel the warm salty water on my body, and smell the sweet orange blossoms. As a body and sensory based therapist, I definitely practice what I preach. We brought back a few treasures to help us hold on to this trip away. And now I can locate a specific place in my mind’s eye when I am needing to calm down or distract my monkey mind. These 2 DBT based tools are so great to help with a mind that is stuck or having racing thoughts.

I have mentioned already my love of surfing, or rather the idea of it. I have only done it a couple of times and my body is not quite the typical surfing body. I say this because I had an insightful talk with myself while in Costa Rica. I had wanted to take a lesson there. But then I saw a photo of me in my bathing suit and thought of the crowds of people that would bear witnes to my lesson. I also realized that my 20-year old self was the surfer, not the 40 year old one. I chose instead to body surf and boogie board. And you know what, that made me pretty darn happy too. I squealed with laughter and joy and realized that my body now birthed two babies and is 20 years more wise and strong. My initial shame around my body turned into a moment to enjoy the present. I also realized that I don’t want to model body shame or hesitancy to do things I love. So I put on that rash guard (to help me keep my bikini on in the killer waves – I have no idea how people surf with bikinis!) and I jumped on my boogie board.

Gordon Neufeld talks about how vacations can be a great opportunity to create a deeper connection with your kids. It acts as a time to get away from our daily life and the distractions that can get in the of the bond with our kids. Daily after-school activities, play dates, and time spent on gadgets are replaced with jumping in waves, spying sloths and eating quick-melting popsicles together. The key word is together. We took a couple of toys that the kids like but for the most part, the toys stayed in their bags. This really worked for my son, the eldest of my two kids. He said “I love you, mom” so often that my heart was bursting at the seams. While he has said that at home, it has never been to the same degree. The hugs and hand-holding were also so special. I see first-hand the merit in this purposeful time away as a great time to go deeper with your kids. It may fade sooner than I want it to, but I’m so happy to have gotten it regardless. That photo there is of me snorkelling and my son excitedly spotting me in the water.

Travelling with extended family can be a blessing. My kids got ample time with their cousins, and we created our own village of support. One thing I recommend is making a point to get time away from your kids. This helps you re-charge, especially in such a small space as a hotel room. I was able to indulge in a surf date alone with my partner, go on a spice tour sans children, and do a morning meditation routine most days. If I didn’t get this time alone, I don’t think I would have been as present and happy. It can be hard to navigate this request with family, but when you can share the responsibility and take turns with childcare, everyone wins. My kids were just as happy at the pool while I sampled vanilla products. So don’t shy away from asking for help, it’s your vacation too!

It was my daughter’s birthday while we were away. She was not happy about being on an airplane on her birthday. While we tried to highlight how special it was, looking back I don’t know if it was worth it to go then. Or at least I needed to prepare or celebrate it differently. We are a family that really values our birthdays. We all play hookie from school and work on our special days. For Miss M this year, we rushed through the day to get to the airport. As the youngest member of our family, I’m sure birthdays are even more special to her. Instead of showing her that Costa Rica was more important, I needed to focus on her. That is one regret I have. Luckily she is resilient and the most fun-loving person I know. So, she bounced back quickly.

My daughter is our resident risk taker, and she is a fierce, independent and friendly child who I’m raising to trust her body and instincts. Sometimes that instinct can be in direct contrast to what I need from her, but that’s another story. I noticed in this trip that she is clearly more peer-oriented than I thought, and some of her risks are in relation to her peers. That’s not exactly what I want so we had some head to heads while away. I also had to take pause and notice my own shyness or hesitancy, so that it didn’t influence her. She takes no shit from others, including her parents. One example of this was when we were on a cruise and there was a water slide that went directly into the ocean. I at first thought she was too young, small, and not a strong swimmer. She saw the slide as a great obstacle to have fun on. So, I took a deep breathe and stepped in her shoes – she is not me after all. And she slid down that super fast slide. Three times. But with my agreement and encouragement, and a great safety net in place.

We have been back 3 days and I am starting to feel the daily grind already. I have written before about the impactful going on vacation has on our mental health. So I’m going to work extra hard to keep the Costa Rica sun in my soul.

Live What You Love

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While at my local dollar store to get goodies for the kids’ Valentine’s Day crafts,i walked by this lovely painting. It really spoke to me. On this day of love, it’s a good reminder to ‘live what you love.’ What it looks like for me may differ what it means to you. But, it is a great reminder to hold onto what we love. When we are losing ourselves to our children. When we are repeating the daily grind over and over (and over) again. When we have changed yet another poopy diaper.

At the end of each day, take a moment to think about something you did that you love. It might be a new thing that you enjoy to do or eat. In order to move past the Groundhog Day of daily life with children, it is a great activity to add in the mix something for us.

For me, i made a point to get myself flowers i love. I am sitting here in my cozy dining room, and while writing this post, i am peeking at my new bundle of ranunculus flowers. No matter what happens today, i know i gave myself a dose of self-love. That will give me a little boost in my step. What can you do today to give you some self-love?

Happy Day of Love.

Who Do You Want to be When You Grow Up?

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Yesterday was a favourite day at our house. We celebrate All Hallow’s Eve (aka Halloween). Not because of the candy (but that is a lovely bonus), but rather because we love the sense of community that it honours. We live on a small street, a bit away from the hustle and bustle of our popular neighbourhood. So while we fill our bags, it’s not due to all the houses we see – it’s because of the connection we’ve built with our neighbours.

My kids went to a handful of houses and each person knew them, either by name or recognition. Most of our neighbours gave the kids small packages of candy and toys. With their name on it and everything. That meant a lot to all of us. With our bags full in just a block, we went home happy and excited.

Another reason to love All Hallows Eve is the dressing up. Of course. We all dress up in our home and make the costumes over the course of small snippets of time. We have some House Rules about costumes – can’t all be store bought, no weapons, and the final decision has to be fully chosen with 2 weeks to spare before October 31. That’s the hard part i think! So we all help make the costumes and get into the spirit.

My kids dress up on a regular basis, and love to role play. What i love is the opportunity to see the world through their eyes and some things they would like to be – whether when they grow up or in another version of their life. I also like to choose characters that i admire and would love to be in another reality.

When the night of collecting goodies was done, we got into the nitty gritty of our other tradition – looking over all the candy goodies. We have a tradition of having the Good Witch come to our place. She gets to receive the leftover candy so that she can help make Fairy Dust for the year. She thanks our kids with a present the next morning. This year, the decisions of what candy to keep were painstakingly hard. I had to hold back a few times to not prompt my kids to PICK MORE CHOCOLATE. They are into lollipops and fruit candies but i think they have no idea that they missed the abundance of wee chocolate bars that were sitting right there.

It’s a good lesson for all of us – my kids got to pick things they were excited about, do some math to count how much they get to keep, and i got to learn to breathe in breathe out. We want to give them some choice and also learn to make some critical decision-making choices, even if that means more chocolate to give away to the Good Witch (ahem, me and their dad).

I guess that’s a win-win in the end, anyway right?

Giving Thanks

This weekend is about being thankful, about taking a moment to take notice of the things you are grateful for. It can be hard to acknowledge these things as most of us get too busy with the daily grind of life. It’s hard to s l o w d o w n and say thanks.

Of course, it doesn’t help that our kids and partners may not take a moment to say thanks to us. I hear myself saying out loud ‘thanks mom’ whenever I do something kind for my kids. Sure I’m saying it with a bit of sarcasm, but I’m also doing it to hear it said AND to model for my children that it feels good to hear it.

We have a tradition in our home to do a weekly entry in a Gratitude Jar. It’s a time that we put aside after our Sunday dinner, to reflect on the week and the things that we liked about it – or rather were thankful for. We do this weekly, and then at the end of the year – during our New Year’s Eve meal for instance – we take entries from each month and share them again. It helps keep the gratitude flowing, and it enables us to hold on to the things that were dear and meaningful and positive for us. Here’s a helpful article to make one yourself – they’re really easy to make!

I appreciate this intention – to purposefully gather together and share moments in our week that we hold special. It can be as simple as being grateful for your new toy truck, or sharing a coffee with an old friend, or being excited to be asked to be part of a new team at work. It gives us space to relish this feeling even more, giving us more time to be thankful and happy.It helps guide is to be more mindful of what is important to us, and to hold on to it.

My daughter made this poster at school this week – she shared that she is ‘thankful for my mom’s food.’ I have to say that it came perfectly time on a day that she devoured her dinner and also barely ate a morsel of food at lunch. Seeing this sweet painting sure filled me with gratitude – to her for doing this activity and also for her teacher for making a point to show the students what being thankful really is about.

How do you show your gratitude with your family? And more importantly, how do you show to yourself what you are grateful for? This weekend will be a perfect time to set aside a moment and have the intention to write 3 things you are grateful for, or go for a walk in a forest and take notice of the changing leaves – and take that time to reflect on things you are thankful for from this past month or year.
The more we practice being grateful, the more readily this practice comes. Setting this intention will enable you to take notice of it more quickly and therefore fill your being with more love and kindness.

Everything is Better Outside

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We went camping recently with our little ones. We like to do it once annually and haven’t yet gone this summer. I’m a fan of camping and being outdoors, but I’m not a very experienced camper. I am amazed by friends who can go camping for a week – I’m more of a two-night camper. And there has to be a large lake nearby to seal the deal.

On the morning of our planned trip, my daughter was having an especially strong bout of strong will and disagreement. She started Junior Kindergarten this month, and Saturdays have been especially tiresome as she is adjusting to this new routine. And, I think her quota for being nice nice to everyone and cooperative was done.

So, she argued with her big brother, she argued with me, she argued with her dad. If she could have, I think she would have argued with our turtle and cat. That said, the empathic and wise side of me knew that it’s about her feeling tired, excited and full – but in the moment, all I want to do is get the car packed asap, eat breakfast, and get her dressed. In any order.

My partner looked at me after yet another difficult moment and declared, ‘that’s it, we’re not going camping’ and I promptly stated ‘oh yeah we are, we can’t stay here all day like THIS. Remember our mantra: Everything is better outside.’

Let me explain: a few years ago, after a hard few months being indoors with the winter blahs, I was looking for support from a friend. I was sharing our feeling of cabin fever and she, a wise friend, told me that ‘everything is better outside.’ She shared that it’s almost instant, the change our body and mind feels after getting outdoors – be it your backyard, porch, sidewalk, a park.

Being the therapist that I am, I looked up more info about this theory. And sure enough, studies show that being outdoors improves mental health and well-being, fights off feelings of depression, and it also helps heal physical health issues like colds and more. Win-win, right? Here’s a good article that explains this more.

And now, I can confirm that this theory is true. On days that the kids are at each other, or are bored, or I’m feeling low or drained, I suggest going to our neighbourhood park (or even our backyard if I’m too unmotivated). My kids usually are quick to get ready and burst out the door – and if they aren’t, we pack toys and the best. snacks. ever and go.

This past weekend was the icing on the cake to prove this theory to be true. We were camping for just over 24 hours, and in that time, there was not 1 fight, we all were jovial and excited, the kids slept well and through the night, we swam our last swim of the season in a lake, and I remained calm. We all relished the outdoors and were even content with the flies and fire smoke.

So the next time you have a day that is just too much to bear, take it outside. You don’t have to do it with the kids even. Why not go outside to read a book (or who’s kidding, your social media news), enjoy a tea? You will also see that everything is better outside.