A different perspective.

Two days left in 2018 and all I can say is – thank goodness. I mean really – did anyone have an amazing, super awesome 2018?!? If you did – good! I’m glad someone did 😂

Maybe it’s because I’m getting “old”, (I’m hitting my mid-life stride, even though I still feel younger than what my age says) but after the craziness of this past year, and who am I kidding 2019 will still be crazy, I’m wanting to be more intentional with my time, and my space. So here are some of my musings as we go into this next year.

Live more. Go on more adventures, by myself, with friends, with family. Explore more and see more of this beautiful country we live in.

Take it all in – the good, the bad, the in between. Life is full of lessons – what we do with them and how we learn from them is up to us.

Read more, learn more, listen more, love more.

Be more aware – of who and what gets my time, energy and attention.

Give more – more compliments, more smiles, more hugs.

Worry less. About other people’s opinions, and things I can’t control.

Less stuff, less clutter, less things, less social media.

Be present. In the lives of those who mean the most to me. More meaningful conversations, more memories made.

Sounds like quite the list – but I like a good challenge and I’m looking forward to see what this next year brings.


Just your average Hockey Mom

You’ll see them pulling up to the rink in their black or silver SUV’s or navy blue, silver or red Minivan – Bass pumping – 99.9% chance it’s AC/DC’s Thunderstruck you hear that’s making the sliding doors on the van vibrate. The back hatch opens up and all you see is doors flying open, kids climbing out and a whirlwind of hockey bags, sticks and water bottles making a beeline to the door of the rink. The team bus van pulls into the closest parking spot, the two front doors open (because Hockey Mom’s LOVE to carpool) and there is your first look at the classic Canadian Hockey Mom. Chances are she’s still singing/humming Thunderstruck (or my personal favourite Down With Webster’s – Time to Win), travel mug filled with Coffee and Baileys creamer in one hand, fleece blanket draped over one arm, the “Mom Bag” slung over one shoulder, and her kids forgotten water bottle in the other hand.

If for some reason you don’t see her pull into the parking lot – walk into any small town Manitoba rink (and I would speculate it is very similar in any province) and you will be able to pick her out. She will be wearing the official hockey mom attire – skinny dark jeans or black leggings, paired with either knee high brown leather boots, Blundstones, or runners, hoodie, puffy vest (Columbia winter jacket if it gets really cold), and the ever present black leather mittens. Accessories vary – she could be wearing an infinity scarf, touque, and if you are lucky you will find one who is wearing a pin-on button with a picture of her little hockey cherub on it. They will almost, always be standing in a circle talking about the weather, how cold/hot the rink is that they are in, any new ideas on how to get rid of the “hockey stink”, and if they should get a mocha to drink before or after the 1st period, and the quality of the rink coffee.

Black leather mitts ✔️ fleece blankets ✔️

If you want to know anything – ANYTHING – about hockey in rural Manitoba just ask a Hockey Mom. Best food, worst food, coldest rink, rinks that are licensed, cleanest dressing rooms or just rink cleanliness is general, best tournaments to attend, where not to stay on overnight trips, where to stay on overnight trips, driving times to any rural rink and/or Winnipeg sports complexes – ask a hockey mom. She will tell you about her experiences and will bring into the conversation reliable witnesses (other hockey moms, and occasionally a hockey dad).

Each team also has specific Hockey Moms
The Medical Hockey Mom who is basically a walking pharmacy and is probably a nurse in real life. Tylenol? check – Advil? check –  Bandaids/Polysporin/gauze/splint/eyedrops? check, check, check, check, check (and that’s just in her purse – crutches are in the vehicle)
The Backup Hockey Mom who has thrown in extra socks, jock, under armour, elbow pads, water bottle, skates in 4 different sizes, a couple of siblings that could fill in on short notice,  and just about any other piece of equipment that can be used as backup for any kid who might have forgotten to pack something.
The Snack Hockey Mom – your kid will never go hungry – she will have fruit, veggies, Gatorade, muffins (options of full gluten, no gluten, paleo, vegan and keto) – and coupons to any fast food restaurants in the vicinity of the rink. She is the queen of negotiating group meals at sit down restaurants and will make sure the players get their meals first. No one goes hungry on this hockey mom’s watch.
The Lucky Hockey Mom – probably the most humble and quiet person you know, and you can’t help but like her – but there is an invisible horseshoe tucked in somewhere on her. This mom will win the 50/50 draws every other game, a looney stick, at least 2 or 3 prize draws at tournaments, the lottery, a brand new car, trip to Cabo and free canteen shifts.
The Updating the Missing Hockey Moms Hockey Mom. If for some reason you can’t be at a game or tournament this mom will update you on the score, the quality of the ice, the intelligence of the refs, how dirty the other team is and a complete stats analysis of your child’s play on the ice. These updates will be sent via Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and Text – or any combination of said social media. There is no sugar coating – it will be like you are right there watching the game! (And you very well could be if she’s streaming it live on Facebook!)

These women will literally wake up at the crack of dawn, feed their children cliff bars breakfast, load them up and drive them to where they need to be to play a sport they love. They will travel any distance, and in any type of weather to watch their kid. They will cheer and clap every single game. They will also be ready to give a death glare, and a few choice words (with back up from her fellow hockey moms) to any other hockey mom/dad from the opposing team if they’re being idiots unruly and to the officials wearing stripes if they have misplaced their glasses for the game. Don’t mess with hockey moms they are always fully caffeinated and can go from Suzy homemaker mode to full on Mama Bear mode in .02 seconds.

Now, I write this because I am a Hockey Mom. Some of my best friends are hockey moms. We have travelled together, have spent weekends together, have celebrated wins together and have driven home together in very quiet vehicles after tough losses. There are days when we have to be a hockey mom to more than one kid and to each others kids. But we wouldn’t want it any other way. To you Hockey Moms who are just starting this journey – buckle up – it’s quite the adventure! To you Hockey Moms who are in the thick of it – games/tournaments/skills – enjoy every minute – even the exhausting ones. To you Hockey Moms whose babies are all grown up and might not be playing anymore, you are always welcome to come to the rink and watch ours, it might not be the same – but hey – there’s always enough fleece blanket for one more to sit down and cheer for our kids.

Lest We Forget

Today we remember.
We remember those who left and never came back.
We remember those who came back and were never the same.
We remember those who were too young, but went anyway.
We remember those who stayed home and prayed, sent letters and care packages and waited anxiously for loved ones to return.
We remember those they liberated.
We remember the sacrifice and the freedoms they fought for.
We remember the stories they shared – pieces of memory of love and loss, of friendship and hate, of a time that can’t be erased.
Today we remember.
Lest We Forget.

My great-grandfather, Alvin Weidenhamer, was a signalman in the Canadian artillery during the First World War – a part of the Canadian Expedition Force.  According to his attestation paper he signed up at the young age of 22 years, 9 months, and on December 16th, 1915  – 9 days before Christmas.  His occupation listed was Farmer, he was not married at the time and he embarked on a journey that would take him overseas into the heart of the fighting of The Great War.
I knew growing up that he had been a soldier in the war but I honestly didn’t even know his story till a few years ago when my kids started asking questions about our family history and any information we had to share at school for Remembrance Day.
I found out that Grandpa had received a medal for “Bravery in the Field”. And his story is as follows (thanks to my Mom’s cousin Murray for passing this on to me) –

The army was in retreat – the weather was wet and rainy. The engineers had fashioned some sort of road over the soggy terrain using large wooden pallets.  Everyone was having a hard time staying on this wooden road. It was muddy, slippery and unstable.  Many men were falling off were at risk of drowning, and there were some who were jumping off the road and into the mud to help save those in trouble. As chance would have it, Grandpa managed to jump in and haul a British officer to safety – and that’s how he got his medal.  He wasn’t terribly proud of that medal; he felt that everyone there should have received one who was there helping.

But I think that just goes to show the character of this man. He didn’t feel that what he did was out of the ordinary, or extraordinary.  He was only doing what any other caring human being would have done – helped those who needed help.

Another story that he shared with Murray, and from what I understand he didn’t talk about his time during the war very often, was one where he was caught , in crossfire on one occasion. The army had retreated and he was left in no-man’s land.  As a signalman he was close to the frontline troops, and close to enemy lines,  his job to observe where the shells were landing on the enemy territory and signal back to the gunners so they could adjust their aim.
So there he was, left in no-man’s land, caught between the two forces.  He had to lie in a foxhole for three days while the battle continued and the artillery shells flew back and forth overhead.  The foxhole he took refuge in was also occupied by three German soldiers- all dead.  Three days and three nights. Alone. I can imagine it felt more like an eternity.  By the time Grandpa could leave that place, he felt he knew those dead German soldiers. They were young men, just like him.  They had parents, just like him. They had brothers and sisters, just like him.  And they had friends for whom they were willing to give their own lives for, just like him.

I can’t imagine what it was like. But we can honour their sacrifice and remember what they gave and keep sharing their stories so we never have to repeat and go through what they had to go through. 100 years later, and their stories are still remembered.  Lest We Forget.
#CanadaRemembers #LestWeForget #WeWillRememberThem #RemembranceDay #100years

On the Road Again….

It’s that time in our family where the meeting of winter sports meet summer sports.  Our oldest is still playing second season hockey and has started ball practices, our middle is still prepping for her karate grading  and has also started her ball practices and our youngest is just dreaming of seeding fields on the farm – oh and his ball starts this week! My husband is going over the farm machinery, checking fields and looking after all the details for spring time work and seeding on the farm. And here I am prepping my piano students for May exams, coaching Ally’s ball team and basically organizing and scheduling our crazy life for the next couple of months.  Honestly – I wouldn’t have it any other way! We are all doing what we love to do and even though we might seem like we are going in 8 different directions at once – I do enjoy some of the one-on-one time I get with the kids because we are going in different directions.

There are a couple of things I do – prep-wise – that keep us going in the right direction.  A visible weekly schedule  – I had a fancy schmancy dry erase monthly calendar but honestly it wasn’t the best. It was overwhelming to look at the whole month as opposed to just a week at a time.  SO I pulled out a piece of paper and put it in a page protector. (Ya I’m crafty like that)   I fill it out weekly with a dry erase marker – with Manitoba weather chances are ball games are going to be cancelled and rescheduled. The kids and look and see where they are going – my farmer husband can see which towns his kids are playing if he has a chance to get away from the field – and I have a visual to see what’s going on and where everyone needs to be.  It’s cheap, it’s easy and it works.

Another prep I do for the controlled chaos is pack a snack bag.  My kids get off the school bus close to 4:00 pm and we are usually on the road again (if they have a practice or a game) by 5:00pm.  That means an early supper or a supper on the go, and once their activity is done they are hungry! Scratch that – they are HANGRY! So to feed the wild beasts I have a bag of snacks that goes in the vehicle with us.  Usually filled with snacks they like and will fill them up or tie them over till we get home.  This week we have almonds, Clif Bars, fruit cups, applesauce, granola bars.  I’ll also put fresh fruit and veggies in there or any baking that I’ve done (muffins, cookies etc).  Some juice boxes and Powerade or Gatorade will be there too , as well as the kids water bottles. Along with some wet-naps, napkins and spoons.

SO hopefully this crazy, chaotic season will run smoothly and everyone will get to the places they need to be safely and well-fed.  Moms on the go – what are your go-to time saving methods you use? Let’s help each other get through the busy seasons of life!

Finding Jo Again

I don’t know exactly when I made the decision that enough was enough.  It could’ve been when my kids thought it was their Aunty (instead of me) in my wedding pictures.  Or when I had to buy another size up at the store. Maybe it was when my youngest asked if I was having another baby.  I’ve known for a while that something needed to change. I also know that I don’t like the taste of “fake shakes” as I call them – I hate giving my food a point system but I knew my food choices had to change.  I was in a constant state of mind-fog, super emotional, unhappy with everything and everyone – including myself.  Knowing what needed to be done but not having the energy to do it felt overwhelming, being stuck in a self-destructive cycle of emotional eating and not being active was life-draining.  I was done – done physically, done emotionally, just done.

I was lost – I didn’t know who I was or what my purpose was.  Who was Jo? Before being married and having kids I would define myself as smart, an athlete, musician, outgoing, and confident.  I didn’t feel like that anymore.  I wasn’t sure what defined me now.  Was I destined to be an overweight, over emotional person for the rest of my life? Ugh – how sad.  I wanted to be a great mom/wife, active, supportive, confident and content. So I put my big girl (literally) panties on and I started to change.  I made a list of what made me feel good (emotionally/physically/spiritually), and I would try to do one thing on that list daily.  Music – being Outside – Walking/exercise – Family time – spending time with Friends. I found that even if I did just one thing on that list my mood improved.  And it began to snowball.

I had a couple of friends who came alongside and in the fall of 2017 we started a little competition (YAY!!! I LOVE COMPETITIONS #legit).  It was to keep each other accountable in our health journeys and whoever lost the most weight (percentage) got paid $25 by the other two. We are all busy moms and we all knew that we needed to carve out time for ourselves in order to be the best moms that we can be. It was the accountability I needed and the push I needed to become consistent in my fitness journey. My kids are getting older – the oldest two don’t always need me at their team practices so I got a gym membership.  When I drop them off at practice I go to the gym. I get my hour or hour and a half cardio time in (and I get to listen to my customized playlists).  I was carving out “Me” time.  It did me good.  It allowed me to think and be alone and process my day and what needed to be done – while getting a workout.  And it didn’t take away from my Mom time with the kids or time with my husband.

So I was getting there  – I had a fitness routine and it was going great.  But I tell ya it’s the food that gets me! I was browsing Facebook and one of my friends from high-school had a post about her program Mama Recharged and was starting up her 7 day cleanse.  Not gonna lie I was skeptical at first – the word cleanse was scary to me.  But I read what she had on her page and this is what jumped out at me

“You won’t be eating many strange diet foods, chugging weird powders or following some kinds of gimmick diet program.  The Mama Recharged cleanse consists of real whole foods that are delicious and support your body. Period. “

So I did it – I joined her group and the cleanse and I learned a lot about my body and how it reacts to food.  The recipes were easy – I was eating real food – I wasn’t going hungry and I wasn’t craving sugar and caffeine like I used to. In the seven days that I followed the cleanse I found that the “mind fog” lifted, I slept better, I had more energy.  I was amazed at how much of a change I felt in one week.

Thanks Teri!! #checkitout 

Has it been easy? No.  Is it a quick fix? Also, No.  December was basically a complete cheat month and write off with the move/Christmas.  But I have the tools now to get back on track and not fall back into bad habits. I’ve found that when I am active and eating well – my emotions are not so cray-cray and I’m way more even-keeled. So there is a connection.  I feel more confident, more energized and more stable. I feel like I can give more to my kids and husband.  I feel like Jo again.

Summer 2015 vs Winter 2017

January 2018 vs. Summer 2016 

Who do you think you are?

I don’t know if you’ve seen the TV show Who Do You Think You Are? , but it’s a show where celebrities look into their ancestry and get flown all over the world to discover where they came from. Genealogy has always been an interest of mine and I love family history – the stories, the traditions, the similarities that seem to be passed down from generation to generation.

So when Ally asked about getting an Ancestry DNA kit the historian in me jumped for joy.  I honestly thought it was just a phase she was going through and didn’t give much thought to it.  But when the DNA kit kept popping up on her birthday and Christmas wish list – why not? She is curious about who she is – where she came from. And if the promotion/advertising department at Ancestry is wondering if their advertising is working – she’s wondering what percentage of Native American she is (sorry sweetie but I’m thinking eastern European is going to be the biggest percentage for you – just because the lady on the commercial is part Native American doesn’t mean you are!)

They way I see it – if we’re going to find out where your roots started you need to know the people too! So I signed us up for the Ancestry free-trial and stared to plug away at the family tree.  Luckily for me I had a Grandma who LOVED family history and finding random, long-lost relatives. I know a bit of our family history on both sides – it gets more fuzzy once we get to my great grandparents.

Following the stories and paper trail on how our ancestors made their way to Canada – the different stories and how we ended up where we are is something that is so intriguing.  And it truly is something I want my kids to know! In two days of researching Ally and I have found out that we have some Irish and Scottish heritage to go along with our Mennonite last names.  Some relatives came up to Canada via Mexico and the US, and that our Dutch relatives and the Dutch government have impeccable record keeping skills! Not gonna lie – the history nerd in me gets a little giddy when a little green leaf with an ancestry hint pops up on my screen.

So today January 1, 2018 Ally filled her little vial full of spit and it is all packed up and ready to be mailed away! Results to come in 6-8.  And if you need to find me in the next couple of weeks (during the free trial period) you can find me printing off Canadian census records, birth/baptism/marriage and death certificates and messaging fellow relatives who love to dig into our family history. (thanks Viv for all the help so far!) And if any of my Loewen, Baron, Weidenhamer relatives have any info to add to the family tree (or want to check the info out)  you can take a look the Neufeld/Loewen tree Ally and I have been working on.

‘‘Twas the Last day of School

”Twas the last day of school and all through the house, the kids were flying high on their candy rush.

They flew off the bus at the end of the day and proceeded to rampage instead of going to play.

The meltdowns were epic – like nothing I’ve seen – this mom needs coffee – with lots of caffeine.

There’s no sense of reasoning when the fatigue sets in, the nonsense that happens makes my head spin.

Now, I know they’re just tired, exhausted and done – obviously from all of the School Christmas parties and fun.

With some extra patience and my friend called wine – we all survived until it was bed time.

All fed and clean and tucked into bed, goodnight kisses were given and “I Love You’s” were said.

They may drive me nuts, these crazy offspring – but truly and honestly I wouldn’t change a thing.

These blessings I have and I call them my own – for what more does one need than those they love here at home.

Merry Christmas 🎄