Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Do it yourself...

When I started my blog, I thought long and hard about what to name it and after long and careful consideration, ended up calling it 'Homesteading Gypsies'. If you have read the 'about' section of this blog you already know why. For those of you who haven't had the chance or the time yet, here's a real quick summary for you. We love to travel! It's what brought us together and it's one of the biggest passions we share. We wish we could be on the road a lot more and share all those amazing travel stories and adventures with you, but right now we simply don't have the means. When you can't do one thing you're passionate about, you need to focus on another thing you love, which in our case happens to be homesteading! 

So what exactly is 'Homesteading'? That's a question I've asked myself more and more lately, because even though we love the idea of homesteading, we are still a long way from calling ourselves 'real' homesteaders; However, we're very determined to get there. But how do you transform yourself from a 'regular' human being to a homesteader. What do you have to do to actually turn your home into a homestead?

According to Wikipedia Homesteading is a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. It is characterized by agriculture, home preservation of foodstuffs, and it may or may not also involve the small scale production of textiles, clothing, and craftwork for household use or sale. Modern homesteaders often use renewable energy options including solar electricity and wind power. Many also choose to plant and grow heirloom vegetables and to raise heritage livestock. Homesteading is not defined by where someone lives, such as the city or the country, but by the lifestyle choices they make.

According to this particular definition of the word 'Homesteading', we already have a good head start. We will be planting a heirloom vegetable garden for the third time this year and are learning more and more about gardening and growing organic food. We are currently keeping 9 laying hens who provide us with delicious and healthy free-range eggs, and we had a well drilled that is providing us with water. We have looked into solar panels, but as much as we would love to have them installed asap, it's simply not in our budget and not a priority right now. It is definitely something we'd like to install in the future though. We are currently heating our house with a wood stove and are always looking into ways of getting us closer to a life of total self-sufficiency. Most of those things (solar-panels, additional space for food storage etc.) however cost money and time we simply do not have at the moment. But there is always something you can do to make yourself feel better, and there is always room to grow and learn. So we've been looking into things that require very little of either money or effort. Here's the thing. Everyone can work on relying less on society and become more self-sufficient and in turn, help you live a healthier lifestyle. 

For example, I've done a lot of research about natural cold remedies lately, because my kids have suffered through numerous colds and even a nasty stomach flue lately, and I simply wasn't comfortable giving them Advil or Tylenol every day for weeks on end. I stumbled upon a website called a while back and fell in love with it instantly. I read something on her page that hit me like a ton of bricks. When her first son was born, she was sitting at the doctors office and read the following headline in a magazine: 

For the first time in centuries, the current generation of children will have a shorter life expectancy than their parents...

Just let that sink in for a moment while you're looking into the adorable faces of the kids you love so much. That means that this generation will face higher rates of cancer, heart disease, autoimmune disease and many other health problems, and I think we all know why. Pesticides, chemicals in everything you can think of and most times, you can't even trust the labels on the products you're buying. How many times have I bought something, thinking I'm purchasing a great product, simply to find out that I was tricked and what I've actually purchased was expensive crap that is making me sick. So the only way of knowing just what it is you're putting in your body, is by doing research and making it yourself. I shared a picture of homemade cough syrup on my Facebook and Instagram account a while back and a lot of people have asked me to share the recipe. Not only does it taste delicious, but we've taken it for a while now and it truly does the trick. Even my son Noah, who doesn't touch anything new and is suspicious of everything I try to give him loves it, and he has even faked a few coughing fits to get his hands on a spoonful. And best of all, it was super easy to make. So for anyone who's interested in a natural and healthy alternative to store-bought cough syrup, you can look up the ingredients and directions here: 

I have also started buying a miracle juice called elderberry syrup (homemade from a local lady but easy to make yourself), which we have taken daily for a month now and love it. It is an immune booster and has been shown to prevent flu and speed recovery in those who have the flu. Plus, it is delicious! Here's the recipe: 

I feel so good about knowing exactly what it is I'm putting into my body and what's even more important, what I'm giving to my children, especially during those winter months where they constantly pick up colds from play groups and schools, and you simply want to avoid giving them prescription drugs on a regular basis. So if you're kids have a cold or like my son an eyelid infection (which I've successfully treated with raw honey and water eyedrops by the way), do some research before you head to the pharmacy to pick up a bottle of Advil or even antibiotics. Sometimes a homemade remedy can be just as effective, healthier and a lot cheaper. Believe it or not, but we took our dog Rocky to the vets once where he was diagnosed with tonsillitis, and our vet told us he could either prescribe us expensive antibiotics or we could head on over to the health food store and buy some raw honey. We gave him 3 tablespoons 3 times a day for about a week and he was good as new.

Now, let me be very clear about this. I'm not saying never take your kids to the doctors and treat everything naturally, because that would make me a hypocrite. I'm the first one to book an appointment with our family doctor whenever something isn't quite right with my kids. I'm a relatively new mom, and I panic and am seriously paranoid when it comes to their health. I do take them to see their doctor, even if it's just so he can make a diagnosis. I do not gamble with my child's life and it does put my mind at ease to get a professional opinion. If it is something severe, I will listen and do whatever it takes to make them better. But if it is just a viral infection that needs to run its course or a simple cold, I'd much rather help the healing process along with natural remedies than prescription drugs. You can also simply ask your doctor if there is a natural alternative to prescription drugs. When I asked mine about the raw honey and water eyedrops for my son's eyelid infection, he said it certainly couldn't hurt and I should give it a try. I'm simply trying to do what I can to avoid unnecessary prescriptions. Everyone needs to make their own choices though and do whatever they're most comfortable with.   

If you want to learn about how to make natural shampoos, lotions, face masks, make up, laundry detergent or anything else you can possibly think of, please check out wellness mama's website. She truly has a recipe for everything and has really motivated me to try new things! 

I started crocheting a couple of years ago but had not done it in a very long time. I was just so busy with the kids during the day and too tired in the evenings. I started up again just before Christmas to make some Christmas gifts for friends and have really fallen in love with these neck warmers I found a tutorial for on Youtube. 

I've also made a bunch of beanies for us, as well as friends to keep us warm throughout the winter and am playing with the idea of making a bunch whenever I have the time, because I might try selling some stuff at the local farmers market in combination with my children's book 'Helen May Saves the Day'. Maybe even some farm fresh eggs, if the girls are producing well and we can spare a few dozen. 

Even something as simple as making your own homemade bread can save you some dollars and is getting you closer to a self-sufficient lifestyle. I have had so much fun trying new things lately and even if it's nothing huge, like installing solar panels, it's still considered homesteading. So if anyone is interested in experimenting a little and most importantly, living a healthier life, don't hesitate to do some research and look for alternatives. And what's even more important, have fun with everything you do and 'Do it yourself'!

Monday, 18 January 2016

Special announcement!

After 8 long, eventful, wonderful, magical, and at times turbulent and crazy years we are finally doing it. We are tying the knot! About time, if you ask me, since we've been engaged since 2011 and already have two kids together. The thing is, I had always dreamed of getting married in an old castle ruin in the Scottish Highlands, but financially, we simply haven't been able to pull it off. Things change, priorities shift and at this time in our lives, I can honestly say that the kind of wedding we're planning is exactly the one we want to have. We'vdecided to tie the knot in my hometown in Germany. Now, I know that some of Adrian's family members are reading this blog and might be a little disappointed that we're getting married abroad, but we’ve decided to keep the wedding simple and only invite Adrian’s parents, his sister and her hubby from Canada. I hope everyone will understand, and we promise to have a bit of a post-wedding party in the future for his extended family and our Canadian friends. We'd love to have a big ceremony with everyone involved, but if we were to have that kind of wedding, we wouldn't be having it till 2030 and let's face it, we're not getting any younger. There are some solid reasons why we've decided to get married in my hometown. 

Here are the main ones: 

both my grandmothers are still alive and would be super happy to witness our wedding and be a part of celebrating our union. At least one of them would definitely not be able to get on a plane to Canada at this point, so we have decided to take the wedding to them instead. 

back when my mother was still alive, I had dreamed of a wedding on Scottish soil. Unfortunately my mom has since passed away, so we both agreed that it would be nice to get married in the same little chapel my parents were married in years ago. She's also resting really close to the church so it's almost like she'll actually be there, which might sound weird to some people, but actually is a huge comfort and very important to me. 

- my best friend, who has been living in New Zealand for close to a decade now and whom I haven't seen since our extended New Zealand trip in 2011/2012, is finally able to afford a visit home. I haven't met her daughter yet and she hasn't met our kids, and since I've always wanted her as my maid of honour, we took it as a sign and figured this was the perfect opportunity. 

- and last but not least, Adrian and I both agreed that since we live in Canada, and I barely ever get to see my family and friends, it's only fair that I get to celebrate my wedding day amongst the people I love and miss year around. Let's be honest here for a moment; isn't a wedding all about what the bride wants anyways? ;-)

We are very excited about finally having set a date (July 16th, 2016), as we've been thinking about getting married for a long long time. Now the planning has begun and I am touched and super happy that my wonderful and amazing friend and her mother, who own a bridal shop in Germanyhave generously offered me a wedding dress as my wedding gift, which I am so grateful for, since I would've had no choice but to pick a dress at a cheap department store otherwise. Now deep down I know it's not about the dress. It's about marrying the man I love, but come on! Every girl wants to look like a Disney princess on her wedding day. This girl would probably have looked like Cinderella - before the magic happened and she turned into a stunner - if it wasn't for these generous and lovely people. So thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping me shine like the star I have dreamed of being since I was a little girl. Also, my brother-in-law who is an amazing artist and has a great eye for photography will be taking photos of our weddingThank you so much for agreeing to capture our special day for eternity. Last but not least, thank you to my family for organizing a pot-luck wedding dinner with all of my favourite German dishes. My mouth is watering already!

It's going to be a challenge pulling it all off, since we're arriving only two weeks prior to the big day, which leaves us with very little time to pick a dress, have a bachelorette party (Adrian is going to have his bachelor party here in Canada), talk to the priest, take care of the decorations and so on. I'm actually sweating just thinking about it, but since we're keeping everything as simple as possible, I'm sure it'll all work out. We're going to stay there for a full month, which will allow us to catch up with a lot of people and enjoy a bug and mosquito free summer outdoors. YES! We will keep you posted on the whole chaotic event and will post pictures as soon as they're available. So happy this is finally happening and that we'll get to share our special day with you.

I'd love to hear about your wedding stories. Did you have a big fancy wedding or a small and intimate one? If you could do it all over again, would you do it exactly the same way or would you do it differently? Any tips and tricks for a stress free and amazing wedding day? Don't hesitate to comment or email me. I'd very much appreciate your input and advice. 

Sincerely, your deliriously happy bride-to-be :-)

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Why it is important to live in the moment...

I've learned an important lesson in the last couple of weeks that I really wanted to share with you. I've written a blog post before about how patience is a virtue that doesn't come naturally to everyone and about the importance of positive thinking, and this is kind of a follow up. Those of you who have been following this blog for a while now, might know that we are kind of stuck at a point in our lives, where we would love to make changes (more travel, starting our own business, more time for the family..), but simply don't have the option right now because of financial reasons. So we've both been kind of frustrated and unhappy, because our life is simply not the way we've envisioned it, with me always being on my own with the kids and Adrian always working his butt off to make ends meet. In fact, we've been so focused on how to achieve our future goals, that we have completely lost sight of the here and now. We've also turned into a couple of miserable, whiney people and it has gone on for way too long.

Sometime a couple of weeks ago it finally hit me. I can't tell you what it was that showed me the light or why it hadn't struck me earlier, but I had a moment of clarity, and I finally just told myself, "ENOUGH!" Harden up, stop complaining, follow your own advice and start working on being happy. Stop trying to figure out how to make your dreams happen and focus on the present. Quit rushing through the tough times and make the best of the situation you're in. This IS your life right now and it's going to be your life for a while, so you better find a way to enjoy it. It's part of the journey after all. It's part of life and you should embrace the hard times just as much as the good. 

I'm not saying, abandon your dreams altogether and stop planning for the future you want, because it is important to keep working towards your goals if you want to make a positive change. But you can't ignore the life you're living at this moment either. You can't make the future your sole focus, while the present is passing you by. It's not like our life is terrible either. We have a home we love. We have two perfect, beautiful, smart, and healthy children. We have each other. We have family and friends that love us. We're not sick or starving and we have clothes on our backs. And yet, with all the bad stuff going on in this world, with the refugee situation, sickness and war and all this pain and suffering, we still find reasons to complain about our great life on a regular basis. It felt like somebody finally had the guts to slap me across the face and told me to 'wake up'.

So why are we doing this? Why do we constantly have to remind ourselves that our life isn't as bad as we make it out to be? Why do we constantly have to tell ourselves that we've got so many things to be grateful for? Adrian and I both tend to get stuck in a rut, and we want so much for ourselves and for our children, we simply get frustrated when we can't make things happen right away. It feels like we're stuck in limbo, when we really just want to get there like ... yesterday. But just because we want a certain life in the future that better suits us and our wants and needs, doesn't mean that the life we're leading now can't be enjoyed. And our kids certainly don't care about that mommy and daddy want to make changes. As long as they're getting fed, get the attention they need and get to have fun everyday, they're good. As long as they are loved and cared for, their little world is alright. They're loving every second of it regardless. They're laughing and learning and playing every single day, and they find joy in every situation. We need to get back to that state of mind ourselves. Because if we can't be happy in this life, I doubt we'll be happy in any other. Happiness comes from within. Being happy is a choice. 

There's always something you want, or some goal you want to reach, or some part of life you simply want to get through so you can be happier. When you've got a newborn and you're overwhelmed and sleep deprived, you tell yourself it'll get better once they're toddlers. When they're toddlers and they're having temper tantrums every half hour, you tell yourself it'll get easier once they're in school. When they're in school and you're back at work full time, and you're stressed out trying to juggle job and family, you tell yourself you only have to make it to your next vacation. After that you'll be more relaxed and things will go a lot smoother. You tell yourself you'll be happier with the next car, house, pet, or once that next goal is reached. But the truth of the matter is that each of those reached goals is bringing you one step closer to the end. So stop rushing through your life, just trying to make it to that next car, house, or vacation and start enjoying the journey rather than the destination. 

Adrian and I have decided to quit all the whining and simply make some smaller changes to lift our spirits. The ones that don't cost much. Do little things that make us happy. For example, I attended my first hot yoga class and I will definitely start doing it on a regular basis from now on. It's only going to be an hour here and there, but it's something that I can do for myself - as Nina, not mommy - and it will give my body and mind a much needed boost. We simply want to stop rushing and live consciously. Teach our children that joy and happiness can be found anywhere, in every situation, even if the going is tough. Life is an adventure with constant ups and downs. No bad time lasts forever and neither do the good. But it's all part of the big picture and it could all end at any moment. Do yourself a favour and make the best of it! 

Does any of this sound familiar to you? Are you having issues living in the moment? What are you doing to lift your spirits during tough times? Don't hesitate to comment and follow us on Facebook and Instagram. 

Monday, 19 October 2015

Sir Hendrix's retired?

In my very first blog post called 'Sir Hendrix', I introduced you to our 75 GMC Blue Bird. Here is a picture of our boy, in case you've forgotten this handsome dude ;-)

We had him pulled to the local mechanics beginning of last winter, where he spent the most part of the year having himself a nice little vacay. We asked them to have a look at him whenever they had some down time to help us figure out how much it would cost us to get him back on the road, which would in turn help us make up our minds as to whether or not it'd even be worth it. Well, we finally received the news and the fact of the matter is that it would cost us about $5,000 to get Sir Hendrix up and running again. And that doesn't include any work on the interior to turn him into livable space, nor does it include giving his exterior a little loving. We'd kind of anticipated it so we weren't too heartbroken about it, because one fact remains. Sir Hendrix was free, so we haven't really lost any of our hard earned money. We asked the guys from the garage to deliver him to our property, where Adrian had worked on getting a spot prepared where we could park him permanently. 

The day Sir Hendrix was delivered to us was pretty special, because Noah has been looking forward to his arrival for such a long time, his eyes lit up like it was Christmas morning when he finally came into view. He was waiting on the front porch just jumping up and down with a big smile on his face. We couldn't get him to leave the bus for days afterwards. 

So even though we won't get to travel with him, we're still happy he's with us, and I'm sure we're going to collect a different kind of memories. I think Sir Hendrix is secretly thrilled about his retirement. We did manage to fire him up to move him within the perimeters of our property to his new permanent spot and he was moaning and groaning and smoking a LOT by the time we finally turned him off. Poor guy isn't in his prime anymore and just wants to kick back and relax, maybe smoke a Cuban or two; However, we have decided on turning him into a bunky, so he'll have some company once in a while and won't be too lonely. 

As we are living in a house that is tiny and doesn't offer much space for guests, that just seems to be the perfect solution. So once we've done all the work we want to do on our little cottage, we are planning on working on Sir Hendrix and give him the makeover he deserves, since he is looking a little bit rough right now. Hopefully some day in the near future, he's going to be a space guests will love to spend time in. I'd love it if people would come to visit and enjoy staying here - in their own space - where they won't be woken up by our rambunctious little rascals at 6 am. For now he'll just serve as storage for all the stuff we've accumulated and stored in our sun room, which will give Adrian a much needed space to work in throughout the winter. We'll keep you updated on any changes regarding Sir Hendrix and his transformation into a guest house.

We are definitely not giving up on our long term travel dream. Sometimes you just have to cut your losses and find a more suitable and more affordable way to do it. Stay tuned!

Saturday, 12 September 2015

What do you know? I'm a children's book author!

Big news, guys!!! As some of you might know, I've been in the process of self-publishing my first children's book since January. It started out with my Kickstarter campaign - which was a roller-coaster of emotions all on its own - and went on to finding a publisher, working with my amazingly talented brother-in-law Mat Dubé - who has created the wonderful Illustrations for my book - to working with a team on everything from editing to design and, at long last, printing. It has been an exciting, wonderful and emotional journey but at the same time, I have never felt so uncertain, nervous or frustrated. When I first wrote the story for 'Helen May Saves the Day', I did not realize that writing the book would be the easy part of the self-publishing process.

I have been dreaming of becoming a published author for as long as I can remember, and finally being able to take that final step was, and still is, a huge deal to me. As an author, you want to give the public the best work possible. You want to make sure that the very thing you've been dreaming about for such a long time, won't be a disappointment to the people you know or even strangers. People are now paying their hard earned money to read and share my story with their children, and I want them to love and enjoy it. Maybe I am a little bit of a perfectionist, but the whole process took a lot longer than planned, because I kept pointing out little errors and kept changing things. (Apologies to my campaign supporters who have been patiently waiting for the first edition copy, but I'm sure you'll understand that I didn't want to publish something that I wasn't one hundred percent happy with). 

I have hit a few potholes on the road to self-publishing and I guess, as with everything else in life, it has been a learning experience for the future. Up until now, I have never dealt with traditional publishers or self-publishing services and had no clue what to expect. Of course I did my research online before choosing my best option, but let's be honest, until you finally throw yourself into the deep end, you won't know whether you'll sink or swim. 

I had an amazing time working with Mat. Seeing the characters and the story come alive in colorful images has been the most wonderful experience. Piecing the whole book together, figuring out the layout and text placement and what each image should show, has been a lot of fun and has without a doubt been my favorite part of the process. Every time Mat sent me a new character sketch or, later on, a completed image, I felt like a child on Christmas morning. It has been surprisingly easy to work with him and have him draw exactly what I wanted, despite the fact that I didn't even know what it was that I wanted ;-) He just seemed to know what I had pictured while writing the book, and not once did he sent me something that I didn't immediately fall in love with. 

The next part of the process was a lot harder for me. I'm very impatient by nature and after the images were finished, all I wanted was to hold the finished product in my hands and share it with everyone. But there is a lot more to publishing a book than I ever thought possible: tons of paperwork, a lot of back and forth with my publishing team, little hiccups, and misunderstandings and sometimes I just wanted to pull my hair and scream. But after weeks of blood, sweat, and tears my book is finally ready to share with the rest of the world, and I really hope this lovingly created work of art is going to be loved by little and big children alike. A special thank you to my wonderful partner, Adrian, who always supports me in anything I do and always encourages me to go for it. Thanks to all the people who made a donation to my Kickstarter campaign. This book wouldn't have been possible without your help. I will send out the rewards (books, bookmarks, postcards etc.) very very soon. Promise! So here's the sentence I've been dying to say for months now. My book is ready for purchase and you can order your very own copy of Helen May Saves the Day at


To ensure you're going to get the best deal possible, I highly recommend ordering your paperback, hardcover, or eBook on the American site. Since is a US-based company, you would be paying a premium to have it printed in another country. Your best option is to order in US dollars and only pay the exchange rate. If my link does not send you to the US store but the Canadian or any other store instead, you can change the store setting in the top right corner between Login and Support on the lulu website. 

My book will also be available on other retail sites, like Amazon, Barnes & Nobles and Kobo; However, it won't be available for another 6-8 weeks, since it entails a lot of legal blah blah that I don't want to bore you with. Just know that I will inform everyone as soon as it becomes available elsewhere.  

I still can't believe that I am an actual published author. This seems so surreal, because I always kind of thought the whole thing was a little far-fetched. Like a lot of big dreams we tend to think that it will probably never happen. But since my dream has come true for me, simply by taking a little step in the right direction, I would like to end this post by saying this: Reach for the stars everyone, pursue your dreams and never give up on something you really, really want. Who knows? It might just happen faster than you think.

PS: This is for all the hardworking moms out there. Yes, raising children is tough, especially when they're little and yes, everything you do is just a little bit harder, when you're trying your best everyday to keep up with them. BUT, don't leave your dreams on the back burner. I can speak from experience now when I say that you can still do anything you want to do, and even though you might have to work a little bit harder in order to reach your goal, it will be all the more satisfying when you get there!  

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Camping with little ones - Nightmare or dream come true?

Camping with a couple of toddlers can seem quite daunting and a little bit crazy. I was not particularly excited about the idea myself, but Adrian usually talks me into these things by saying stuff like, "It'll be fun," or "Where's your sense of adventure?", which he darn well knows pushes my buttons and makes me want to prove to him and myself that I've still got it. He pushes me to get out of my comfort zone and makes me do something adventurous, which I'm grateful for, because I usually end up having a great time. When he first came up with the whole camping idea, I immediately thought about all the stress involved in a venture like that and pretty much broke out in a cold sweat just thinking about staying in a tent in the middle of bug season. You see, Adrian tends to only think about the fun parts of an adventure (like roasting marshmallows and fishing with his son), and then ends up being disappointed when things don't quite work out the way he'd imagined, or the kids don't show any appreciation for taking them on a fun trip. He simply got a little bit overwhelmed and stressed out, once he realized that anything you do with a couple of toddlers in tow is not all sprinkles and rainbows. Everything that throws off their routine is challenging and tiring, and since I'm the realist and worrier in our family, it did not come as a surprise to me that things on a trip like that can get a little bit tough. I guess that's something we both have to work on. I'd like to be a little more spontaneous and positive when it comes to doing something out of the ordinary and not immediately think about all the things that could go wrong, and Adrian needs to work on lowering his expectations and realize that toddlers have no idea what the word 'appreciation' even means.

Our weekend started off well enough. Adrian took a Friday off - which in itself is kind of a miracle-, we got up in the morning, packed up the car and headed out. About three hours later we arrived at our destination, beautiful Killarney provincial park, and set up our campsite. We were feeling good about things. The kids were excited about putting up the tent and checking out the beach, and even the bugs I was so worried about weren't too bad. YET! We explored the area around our site and took the kids to see a friend of ours - Canadian singer and songwriter Ian Reid- play a small venue in the park's amphitheater. Check him out at if you like amazing people and great music. Our son loved Ian so much that he got a little carried away and was out of control, trying to take over the entertainment by dancing on stage. We had some trouble getting him back to the campsite, because he was absolutely wired and didn't want to listen to anything we said. Thankfully Mia passed out fairly early and I was able to put her down no problem. We made a little campfire and roasted some marshmallows with Noah, because we're suckers for punishment and thought he needed some more sugar. Luckily, he went to bed without major issues at around 10pm, which was the end of the first day for us. Overall I thought we'd handled day one well, and I was looking forward to day number two.

The next morning we felt ambitious and energetic, so we decided to do something a little nuts and strap the kids on our backs to go for a 6 km hike called 'the crack', which was rated difficult. That should've been enough warning for us, but I shrugged it off thinking they probably have to exaggerate a little bit, you know, to scare off the overenthusiastic senior citizen or people with health conditions. After all, how hard could it be to walk up a mountain in 30 degree weather, while the sun is mercilessly beating down on you? I can tell you now that difficult actually means difficult. Heed the warnings guys, because they do not lie or downplay it in Killarney. Lesson learned the hard way. When we saw the first incline and the rocky terrain about a km into the trail, we did think about turning around and going for an easier trail, but that would've meant giving up and I don't like the taste of failure in my mouth. So we soldiered on, and even though I thought I was going to die and my knee started acting up real bad on our way back down, the view we got to take in at the top of Killarney Ridge was worth every second of the struggle. It was simply spectacular and a very special moment shared with the whole family. It also felt good to push ourselves a little bit and I have to admit that I was rather proud of us for making it, despite the difficult climb and extra weight on our shoulders. Afterwards we had some well deserved and much needed lunch at a little restaurant by the water, that is known for their world famous fish and chips and was recommended to us by several people throughout our time at the park. I have to admit that it probably really was the best fish and chips I've ever had, so if you ever get to Killarney, definitely go and have lunch or dinner at Herbert Fisheries. 

And that was about the turning point of our camping weekend. Naturally we were exhausted from the long hike and too much sun, and all we wanted to do was lie down for a nap. But the kids were not having any of it. They had hung out in a backpack for 4 hours - Mia even napped for about half that time - and they were both well rested and ready to party. There was simply no way they were going to lie down and give us a break. So we did our best to tire them out, by taking them to the beach to play in the water, and we all went to bed at 7 pm that evening. Mia wasn't happy about it and screamed bloody murder for about 30 minutes and woke up screaming at least a dozen times during the night. It was rough and that was exactly the way we felt the following morning. We were tired and short of patience, the kids were fussy and cried about everything from itchy mosquito bites to not getting their morning milk fast enough. That's about the time Adrian got fed up with all the fussing and whining and got a tiny bit irritated himself. 

We tried making one last ditch effort to turn the day around and went for a paddle in the canoe, but Mia didn't feel like sitting in her chair anymore and had a major fit in the middle of the lake. It was total chaos. She got off the chair, started crawling towards me in the front -which had the canoe rocking dangerously-, her little Muskoka chair went overboard and we had to backpedal to fish it out of the water. Noah started whining, telling us he wanted to go play at the beach and Adrian lost his cool and started yelling. I started yelling at Adrian, telling him I knew this was going to happen (and lets be honest; there's simply nothing worse than an I-told-you-so in a situation like that) and we paddled back to the beach in icy silence. We let the kids play in the water a little while longer, and I actually managed to enjoy myself again and decided it was time to head home on a positive note. We stopped for some Ice cream at the French River trading post, which made for a nice ending to our weekend and were definitely relieved when we got home, knowing the kids would sleep in their own beds that night.

Overall, I think camping with little ones is doable and - with the right attitude - even enjoyable. You just have to be aware that any trip - especially the ones lacking conveniences like a fridge, microwave or mosquito free zones - are going to be more challenging. But if you're the type of person who's always up for a challenge and are blessed with the patience and grace of an angel, a camping trip with a couple of toddlers is probably going to be a walk in the park. It's really all about how you approach things, about how prepared you are and how organized. Pack wisely, don't forget important things that would throw off their routine even more (like their favorite sleeping buddy), do the occasional deep breathing exercise and you'll be just fine. Would I do it again, you might ask? Definitely! Not only did we get to explore this beautiful country we live in a little bit more and did see some amazing scenery, but the kids had a ton of fun. They were so excited about the whole sleeping in a tent thing, had a blast splashing around in the water and they simply enjoyed being outdoors, spending some time with the whole family. I think they were both super happy having their daddy around, because he's working hard to support us and we don't get to enjoy his company all that often. Yes, it definitely was more stressful than a camping trip without children and we did struggle, but we will probably remember this weekend for the rest of our lives. And isn't it always the stories about struggle and pain that are worth telling over and over again?

I'd love to hear about your camping experiences with your kids. Did you have a blast or a terrible time? Do you have tips and tricks on how to make a family trip easier and more enjoyable? What do you think is the perfect age to take your kids on their first camping adventure? Don't hesitate to comment or email me. I promise I'll get back to you as soon as I can. If you enjoyed this post, don't forget to subscribe, like our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Parenthood - Yay or nay???

A lot of people are struggling with whether or not they should have children. Personally, I never had any doubt. I always knew I was going to be a mom. I never once entertained the idea of remaining childless. When I thought about my future, I always saw at least a couple of kids, preferably a boy and a girl (like my brother and I), and that is exactly what I have. Are there more little ones on the horizon? We're not planning on it, but we're not totally opposed to it, either. After all, you shouldn't over-think or over-plan your life, and you simply don't know what the future might bring. But even though not having children was never an option for me, I do understand why some people are struggling to make up their minds, and why some are content and even happy with their decision not to have children at all.

Kids are a BIG commitment and a LOT of work. Once you have them, you simply can't return them. You have to make a lot of sacrifices in order to be a 'good' parent. In fact, when I became a mom, I hung my 'wants and needs' on a coat hanger and stuffed them in the back of the closet. Someday, once the kids are grown and old enough to live their own lives, I might get to take them out, blow the dust off and start using them again. For now, the back of the closet is where my 'wants and needs' will remain. Everything I do from the time I open my eyes (usually because someone is screaming bloody murder, or jumping on my face at 5:30 in the morning), till the time I put them down at night, I do for them. Every decision I make, is based on what is best for them. There is no me-time anymore. I can't remember the last time I slept in. And by sleeping in, I mean a solid 12+-hour-sleep without having to get up once to comfort a crying baby, or tossing and turning in the morning, because despite the hubby getting up so mommy could 'sleep in', I can still hear them crying and screaming out there, no matter how many pillows I pile on my head.

Taking a nice long shower, while performing a full body shave, maybe even some conditioner or a body scrub and putting on some nice smelling lotion? Uh-uh. Not in my house. I hop in the shower and if I'm lucky, I might get to shave my armpits after shampooing my hair in record-time, before one of them is yanking on the shower curtain and floods the bathroom. I don't even know what it's like to go to the bathroom without an audience anymore, and I used to be that kind of girl that left school early and went home to have a number 2, because I NEEDED my privacy or else nothing was happening. I don't have that problem anymore. The only problem I have now, is keeping Mia's hands out of the toilet bowl while I'm trying to do my business.

Being a parent is harder than I ever thought possible. I'm always tired, and some days I'm simply going through the motions because I'm just that exhausted. I've had more emotional meltdowns in the last three years than I've had my entire life. Sometimes, I just want to leave the house, sit in my car and scream until I get it all out. I catch myself dreaming about the times, before I had kids and about how easy and stress-free my life was. If I wanted to sleep till two in the afternoon on a Saturday, I could. If I wanted to stay in bed all day on a Sunday and just watch movies, I could. I used to be spontaneous, energetic, laid back and present at every party. Nowadays, I start to panic if it's past ten pm, no matter what day of the week, because I know I gotta be up at the crack of dawn and tackle another 14 hour shift with the kids, before I get to relax again. There is no 'oh-I-need-some-eggs-I'll-just-quickly-run-to-the-corner-store' anymore. Now, you have to dress two kids, lug them to the car, take them out again when you get to your destination, take them into the store with you, deal with a temper tantrum because they want candy and you just came for eggs, listen to them whine all the way home and carry your screaming and kicking bundles back into the house.

Everything, and I really mean everything you do, you do with an entourage, and everything you do takes up twice as much time. It's physically and emotionally challenging to never be alone and you rarely ever get to do what you want to do. I longingly stare at women sitting in hair salons, reading magazines, or people having uninterrupted conversations at Starbucks. I envy women who are able to shop for clothes on their own. They actually get to look at a bunch of items, before taking an armful into the change room, where they take as much time as they need to figure out whether or not they like what they see. I look at one item that catches my eye in passing, hold it up for inspection for about thirty seconds, before one of the kids starts getting impatient and I realize that it's much easier to just keep wearing the fifteen year-old sweater I'm wearing now.   

So why in the name of God, you might ask, would you want any children or even consider the possibility of having another one? I'll tell you why. Because, despite the stress, the puke and poop, the screaming and the constant demand of your attention and time; having a child is the greatest, most miraculous thing in the world. There is nobody that loves and needs you quite this much and this unconditionally. When they're little, you are their whole world. You're their hero. They worship the very ground you walk on, and in a way, it's kind of like having your very own little fan club. It doesn't matter how tired, stressed or annoyed I am, or even how many times I've heard it before; when I hear one of my kids giggle or laugh with joy, it's like the sun comes up and my heart wants to burst with emotion. It sounds super cheesy, believe me, I know. But there is simply no other way to describe what you're feeling, whenever your child smiles at you and those big, trusting puppy eyes light up. Or when those little arms wrap themselves around you and hug you tight. They smell so darn good, you want to bottle that stuff and keep it forever. And that moment when they tell you they love you for the very first time. Man, I can't even begin to describe how those three little words make you feel. Everything they do for the first time (first word, first tooth, first steps), just makes you feel so proud, it's almost embarrassing how excited you get.

I remember watching movies back before I had kids, and I always wondered about the people, who'd willingly and without hesitation give up their life to save a loved one. I remember feeling bad, because I wasn't sure I'd ever be brave or willing enough to trade my life for anyone, should it ever come to that. I was terrified of dying, and surviving and living was the single most important thing in my life. I've got two children now and I know, without a single doubt, that I'd give my life to save them in a heartbeat. I've loved people unconditionally before I had kids. I love my parents, my brother, my partner, my friends. But loving a child is a whole different kind of love. It's the purest kind of love. I didn't even know you could love someone like that, until I first held my tiny baby-boy in my arms and looked into his little, perfect face. They give you so much joy, laughter, and love, it would almost be a crime to miss out on that. I do not want to change anyone's mind with this post, if they're dead-set on not having kids. The truth is, some people are simply not cut out for parenthood and shouldn't have children anyways. But if you're thinking about whether or not to have a baby and you're trying to decide, by weighing the pros and cons, then let me tell you this: YES, being a parent is hard and if you're just a regular human being, like me, it's very likely that you will struggle. BUT! There's nothing like it, and when that doctor hands over that tiny newborn for you to hold, cuddle and protect, and your child opens its eyes for the first time and you connect, you'll instantly know that it's all totally worth it.

I'm interested to hear about your experiences. Are you a parent? Does it come naturally and easy to you, or are you struggling with it? Are you childless and want to keep it that way? If so, what are the reasons behind your decision? Don't hesitate to comment or email me and don't forget to like us on our 'Homesteading Gypsies Facebook Page'.