What binds your family?

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Photo credit: Katie

How many of us fall victim to talking AT our children instead of talking WITH our children? I do. I recognise this and certainly do my best, where I can, to carve out intentional moments for conversation with my 3 littles. But lets go a step further, what do you talk about with your kids? First thoughts may be conversations around them, their day, their school, their friends, their activities or possibly even their favourite foods.

A lovely friend of mine sent me this article on Wednesday “The Stories That Bind Us” by  which touches on just this. In this article the results of the research conducted showed that a child who knows more about their family, i.e.: the history of their mom and dad, their grandparents, their aunts, uncles and cousins etc, proved to be more resilient, more self-confidant with a better mental health and were ultimately happier.

“The answers have to do with a child’s sense of being part of a larger family,” – Dr. Duke.

The author encourages us to think of a family motto, I challenged my eldest with this task and this is what she came up with:

“Live kindly, love completely and protect ever after.”

I’ll take that, thank you.

Please give this quick article 10 minutes of your time today, it may encourage and inspire you as it did me. {article}

Cheers

la

No-vember vblog

As we are closing out No-vember and I’m  in the throes of preparations for an artisan fair, decorating for Christmas, and my parent’s visit, I thought I would share my thoughts via video blog. Give me grace it has been a long day, ha!

Cheers,

kdg

 

Mom’s weekend away

Just for perspective, it’s been over 8 years since I travelled anywhere alone, leaving both husband and kids at home. This weekend I took the plunge. It’s natural to feel out of my comfort zone here, but I feel it’s so incredibly necessary to create some space. You see, I have come to realize that as much as my family needs me, I need them too. This may seem obvious, but it’s more than that. I realized that as my kids emotionally depend on me, I in return have become so emotionally dependent on them. I wonder if this is magnified by our expat lifestyle, or the loss of my mom – my first immediate family circle, my safe zone, my green zone, my everything.

I described this weekend to a friend, before flying out, as a neat little present wrapped up with a bow waiting to be opened, and it has been just that.

Where did this weekend take me what am I doing you may ask? I flew to Dubai to watch Ed Sheeran live, of course. Wow! What an amazing concert. He is such an incredibly talented man.


If you ever get the chance to see him live, I’m putting it down as an absolute must!

To add the incredible show, my weekend has been filled with upgrades! Our room at the hotel was upgraded to a suite and our concert tickets upgraded to front pit! Thanksgiving moments for sure.

Yesterday, we attended the brunch at the Maridian Hotel. You buy your ticket ahead of time to secure your table and you just need to make sure you arrive on time and all dressed up. The buffet is waiting, the bar is open and the bill is already paid. Brunch was from 12-3 and then the music got louder and everyone moved outdoors poolside, and danced till 7pm, when we then fittingly went out for dinner. I wonder if this is what people who live in Dubai do on weekends.

For dinner we were recommended this gorgeous little Jamaican lounge called Miss Lily’s. We were early, it was quiet and it was gorgeous.


We escaped Miss Lily’s before the crowds and went back to the roof top of our hotel. We chatted and took in the night time views until we were ready for bed.


It’s now 9:30am and I’m still in bed. I will make my way down for breakfast soon, but right now as I write up this post and reflect on the weekend, I am just so thankful. Thankful for my friend who fetched my kids from school. Thankful for my husband who held down the fort at home and made this trip happen for me. Thankful for friends who did all the amazing weekend planning. Thankful for the blessings of upgrades. And now, most of all thankful to be going home to my beloved little family.

I hope if you are a full-time parent like me, that you take moments like this to make some space for yourself and come back refreshed and full of gratitude!

Cheers,

This thankful heart

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In light of Lindy-Ann’s Christmas post last week, and my ingrained American tradition of waiting for all things Christmas until after Thanksgiving, I thought a post on thankfulness was in order. Funnily enough, my college buddy, Russ, was visiting last week and among all the lists of big topics we were processing together, gratitude was one them. We come from very different spiritual backgrounds, however we agreed that being thankful within any circumstance can truly change one’s perspective and help to live in present.

Being in the moment used to come a little easier for me. I reckon “adulting”, and definitely parenting, gets in the way, which is sad as it may be in this season when it is most critical that we bask in the moment and be thankful. Over the past few years I have attempted to join in daily thankfulness and gratitude challenges that tend to pop up this time of year.  I go strong for for the first week (if I’m lucky), but life gets busy and I forget…to be thankful. Can I get an amen?

That said, in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, as I discuss thankful hearts with my boys, I start to overflow with gratitude. For the little things, like the way my youngest calls cuddles “huggles” and my oldest still calls me “Mom-Mom,” even though he is seven and a half. I am, of course, also thankful for the big things like productive days, a wonderful village of friends in our expat life, and the technology that keeps us connected to loved ones back home. I’m thankful for memories of family Thanksgivings and traditions, as we make new ones and participate in ‘friendsgivings.

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I have come to the conclusion that it really is heart and life changing to remain in a state of gratitude and have a thankful heart. To find the ‘silver lining’ in every situation and focus on it will help you through life’s storms peacefully, and maybe even with a smile on your face. To live life as abundantly as you can.

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Don’t worry, I won’t challenge you. Not in this post anyway. However, I would encourage you (as always) to try finding something to be thankful for. I will recommend One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voscamp if you are seeking a way to train yourself to find the joy of your everyday life and discover the “miracle in the mundane” as Ann says.

Lastly, I am thankful for you, our readers and our community. Thankful that you allow us into your lives and let us help you grow in your creative journey. Lindy-Ann and I feel so abundantly blessed by your comments and your encouragement and hope that we can continue to inform, challenge, educate, and even make you laugh. That is what it’s all about for us: joy in the process as we grow together.

With a grateful heart –

kdg

 

The Christmas Decoration Debate!

So when exactly is it ‘PC’ to start putting up Christmas Decorations? When I was a child, my mom made us wait until December 15th before putting up the tree and then she made us wait until January 15th before taking it down. I never could quite understand this and she never quite explained it either.

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Now it has become a tradition in my household to wait for the first week of December to set up the tree and decor, and pull everything down on the first weekend into the new year. Last year I managed to escape the madness slightly. You see, we went home for Christmas and I was able to convince my kids, 6yr, 4yr, 2.5yr at the time, that if we put the tree up in Kuwait, then all the presents will end up there on Christmas morning and we’ll be in SA with none, so they wonderfully agreed to only have one tree up, the one in SA, which saved me soooooooo much prepping, unpacking, cleaning and packing up.

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Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas, it’s my favourite time of the year and very special to our family, but I also enjoyed the opportunity to skip out on a little extra holiday work. Guilty!

And far be it for me to judge on what is too early or too late but I most certainly had a bit of a giggle when my sister-in-law posted that her Christmas decor was going up on November 1st. And just a week ago my friend announced that Christmas had thrown up in her house. My American friends argue that you need to get through Thanksgiving first. It really did get me thinking about when exactly is the ‘right’ time to set up and take down.

I suppose it really doesn’t matter, but there’s no denying that this is a special time of year. For Christians, Christmas is centered around the birth and life of Christ and is celebrated among loved ones. For non-Christians it’s simply a time to cherish those around you. You can feel the love in the air, and you can feel the power of that love with a tangible strength in the echoes of choirs and carols singers.

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Many people ask me what Christmas is like in Kuwait. Well, I can tell you that yes, they do sell trees, and yes, they have some lovely decorations around. It does lack a little bit of the magic that can only come from those big Christmas afternoons with the whole extended family, but at the end of the day Christmas in any country is what YOU make it. What’s in YOUR heart will be revealed in the kind of Christmas you experience.

I will post again about Christmas in December, when our tree goes up, and about the  magical little gems I find at the stores.

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But I’m curious, which of you are? The ‘wait as long as you can before putting up the tree’ like me, or the ‘is October to early to set up’, do let us know in the comments below.

Happy to kick off the Holiday posts 🙂

la

 

Side Note: Keeping with the American line, Katie’s tradition is to start Christmas songs the day after Thanksgiving (aka Black Friday) and decorate that Saturday – So we know where she stands. HoHoHo!

 

 

A few pixels at time

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Have you ever been through a time in your life when you were being consistently challenged to pursue things you were not confident you would be able to make happen? Fake it ’til you make it right? Well, this is the season I’m walking in write now. Things are changing, big things are coming, I can feel it. Lindy-Ann and I have seen so much growth in each other and our community over the past year (shout out to all our awesome photogs who are making their dreams happen!) and there is more to come…seriously I can feel it in my bones!

Truth be told, it’s exciting, overwhelming, and a little scary all at the same time.

It’s stretching me that’s for sure, and I am still processing it, mostly verbally in true Katie style. (Thank you for listening family and friends!!)

It’s that moment when you are doing what you are supposed to do and it’s good, maybe even really good, but there is an ache for something else. Hear me here, I am not saying it’s “a grass is always greener” scenario, but it is the need to do more. The tug on your heart that says, “keep moving forward, grow, evolve.”

We have all heard the sayings that “life’s a journey” and “it’s all about the process,” IT’S TRUE!  If we are not growing and stretching ourselves we are not meeting our full potential. Especially as a creatives, staying stagnant leads to feeling uninspired, and feeling uninspired leads to bitterness as the flow of creativity dries up. Believe me, we have been here too.

What to do?

There is no right or wrong answer to understanding your journey and calling, it’s different for everyone. That said, here is what has been helped me this season.

  1. Pray about it.
  2. Write it out (aka blog about it!)
  3. Talk about it with trusted confidants and mentors.
  4. Process it, chew on it, and then do it all over again.
  5. Really be thankful for where you are in your journey – maybe write that out too…
  6. In the midst of all that the most crucial action (because I am a ‘do-er’) is to keep moving forward. Take the next step as it presents itself and cross off the ‘to-do’ list one item at a time.

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There is a reason we do not see the whole picture. If we did we would be paralyzed and  overwhelmed with how we make it happen rather than enjoying the process. The process is what stretches and grows us to get us to that point. Instead we have this small portion in front of us, just a few pixels of the high res photograph of our life, and we work with that. When we look back in a few months we will see what/how it all happened, what we learned about ourselves through it all, and enjoy the beautiful picture of our lives unfolding in front of us.

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I want to encourage you today, whatever season you are in, breathe in the process. Whether you just came out of the growing season and are confidently walking in that or being stretched, it is good. Be thankful. Share your story with others and celebrate theirs. That is another great way to not get overwhelmed. Change your focus, take a minute to encourage another or be their sounding board, it may even inspire you!

This is me: sharing, breathing, encouraging, being thankful, and growing…what a grand adventure right?!

cheering you on!

kdg

 

 

A little ‘no’ can go a long way…

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Truth be told, the art of saying “No” to demands outside my family is stretching me. As Lindy-Ann put in her NO-vember post on Tuesday, I am a “yes friend.” I would say “yes” so often I would triple book myself, and at times our family, which did not go well with my “no” husband, {love you babe and i’m sorry!}

It just feels so negative to say “no” but I am learning that when I say “no” to one thing I am actually saying “yes” to something else. Two days into the NO-vember challenge and I’m definitely trying to be intentional about the yeses I dole out. One such yes is to taking care of myself and working out with Vienna {GULP!}

So far, the biggest “no” I have decided to lovingly, but firmly, say has been to not co-chair the Halloween Spooktacular next year. This past weekend I had the pleasure of seeing my vision for this huge event come to life with the help of some fantastic volunteers. My event co-chair (aka chaos co-coordinator), our decorations chair, and I had been formulating the plan and vision for the 2017 Halloween Spooktacular since the week after the 2016 one, and it turned out to be an incredible success. That said, next year we all agreed it is time to pass the baton and spend 2018 experiencing the event with our families. Therefore, in saying “no” to a third round, we are saying “yes” to celebrating and experiencing it with our families, and that is a good thing.

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Hear my heart on this. I’m not saying I won’t be volunteering anymore (it’s not in my nature to sit on the sidelines), or that it is more important for me to enjoy someone else’s hard work. What I am saying is that I was super involved for two years and now it is time to step back just a little and let my family have that much more of me. It’s all about that elusive balance we are all aiming for, right?

That is truly the heart of the NO-vember challenge for me. To take a moment to reevaluate my priorities, give myself the headspace to ponder my calling, and give more of myself to my family.

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If you are a “yes friend” I encourage you to thank your buddies that remind you to say no, we all need them! Thank you Lindy-Ann for always being that person to encourage and challenge me to be better and put my family higher on my to-do list.

I miss your face!

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H A P P Y   B I R T H D A Y   W E E K   L I N D Y – A N N ! 

May your NO-vember be peaceful and refreshing! Let us know how you are doing and any ways we can encourage you.

Cheers,
kdg

PS – forgive the iPhone photos, my camera was on the back burner at the event!

Embracing NO-vember.

November

My 7yr old put it perfectly, “it’s like trying to draw a straight line with a ruler yet you keep going all wonky”. Brilliant! It is the most spot on explanation for how I try to calm things down, yet never seem to succeed.

For the past 6 weeks or so my life has been this wonky line. I’ve tried in vain to pull it straight, but without much success. While off loading to my friend Kerry, she kindly reminded me of the book I read, Grace not Perfection, and how important it is to actively allocate down time. She presented me with a brilliant strategy.

NO-vember!

What if we took one month out of 12 where we reserve the right to say ‘No’ without guilt or explanation? (While I recognise that some people are lucky enough to live their lives like this permanently, Katie and I are not one of those lucky ones). If something falls within this month that does not ‘feed’ us as a family or individually, then it’s ok to say no. For one month, to not be obligated or coerced into something that eats away at precious family time. Our family time is really precious and yet it is something that we usually compromise on first. Why is that? We are always commenting on how quickly our kids are growing up and how quickly time is passing us by, yet we seem to be so willing to give it away at the same time. I’m going to try this crazy plan and I dedicate this post to my dear Katie who desperately needs a NO-vember in her life, as well. My ‘Yes’ friend needs to take heart and find the rest that can come from a simple and uncomplicated ‘No’ (or ‘No thank you’ if it makes you feel better).

If you have a ‘Yes’ friend, or are a ‘Yes’ person then I challenge you to give this NO-vember thing a try. Please share this with your ‘Yes’ friends and encourage them to get on board. If you find yourself on the receiving end of my ‘No’, then please don’t take offence, it’s not personal, it’s simply me trying to regroup myself and my family and restore a little energy to my soul so that I can be a ‘Yes’ person for the rest of the year.

I want to leave you with a little TedTalk that my other friend Kirrily shared with me. One of the reasons we are even more drained of time in today’s society is the fact that our screens and devices no longer have ‘off’ cues. This turns our news feeds into complete time sponges. If you take nothing away from this post this week, I challenge you to at least watch this 9 minute clip. It will, at the very least, encourage parameters and help you set those all important screen boundaries which will pull your eyes off your device and help you look at the world around you with a little more detail and love.

As we say goodbye to October, I wish everyone a happy No-vember!

Cheers,

la

 

An inspiring love story

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If you have been following our blog for a while, you would have read that my mom passed away just before my wedding, 8 years ago. But there’s a second chapter to my story that I am inspired to write about. My dad got remarried to one of his oldest and dearest friends. She was a pillar of strength for our family during our hardest times and a few years after my mom’s passing she and my dad finally got together. With all the love and support under the sun for each other, it has only been a pleasure to see them so happy.

They have truly become an inspiration for me and I’m sure other couples out there who know them, too. Their kids are now grown up and independent. They are super fit and super healthy and they truly embrace life with hearts filled with joy, love, and kindness, not to mention boat loads of energy and zest. When I grow up I most certainly hope to follow in their footsteps or in their case, bicycle tracks.

A few years back they got this beautiful painting as a gift for their anniversary and I have always admired it as it really captures the essence of their relationship so beautifully. While we were reminiscing one afternoon as sunset approached, sipping on fine red wine, I blurted out that it would be a good idea to photograph them and reenact the painting. So we did. This is the result. A super fun spontaneous moment has become such a warm memory for myself and the kids. My poor husband was holding down the fort in K-Town at the time.

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I have grown a lot over the years. Although  the hardships are difficult, they also have the ability to refine. I have grown to see love as always evolving. I think the secret to a lasting love, is not a perfect spouse, a perfect self, or a perfect environment, but rather two hearts who commit to finding each other constantly as life, individuals and circumstances change. I now find myself falling in love with my husband in new ways everyday and for this I am truly grateful.

With love,

la

Acrobranch – Tree climbing adventures for all ages.

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We are very slowly getting back into our old routine living here in our beloved desert homeland. By slowly, I mean snails pace. I think that may be due to an extended period of humidity which has been challenging, but we’re getting there. What the kids miss most, other than family, are the trees… climbing the trees to be exact. I keep going back to the time when we went to Acrobranch in Centurion, South Africa. If any of our South African readers have not yet been to Acrobranch, please read this post.  It is an aerial tree top adventure that caters to the whole family. All ages from children as young as 3 to adults of all ages.

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I went there with my three minions, plus their cousin and her mom, and we had such a wonderful afternoon. The kids were climbing for over an hour and we then settled in to The Big Red Barn for lunch. It was truly a perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Side note: The next time you find yourself there over lunch do yourself a favour and order the house fries. I may or may not have eaten the entire plate #sorrynotsorry.

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“Acrobranch is Kid Heaven! Swinging through trees, dangling from branches, balancing in the air. But wait, Acrobranch also takes care of every parent’s fear and tucks those kids safely into snug harnesses, hooked into secure lines all through the course. It’s all with adult supervision, but the children are encouraged to go at their own pace and move their own clips themselves.

All courses are designed with specific ages in mind to keep your kids entertained…and safe. Check out your desired park for more info on our kids course age and height requirements.” – via Acrobranch website.

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Now what I appreciate the most about this concept is the benefit to a child’s physical development.  A child is constantly thinking about which hand they need to put where, which foot they need to move first, and which clip goes where. They work on balance, how the brain interprets where the body is in the environment it is in, they need to orientate their whole being to work as one to navigate the course safely, they build core strength, and improve flexibility and reach.

The next time I go, I promise to take more grownups with me, which should leave me hands free to carry my ‘big’ camera and get proper photos, but hey, they say the best camera is the one you have with you, so thank you iPhone.

Acrobranch – super affordable rates and fantastic for kids parties, I can only imagine how much fun it would be for team building too. You can contact them on +27 86 999 0369 or visit their website for more information. I highly recommend it.

If anyone has tried them out and would like to share your experience with our readers, we would love to read your comments below.

Cheers.

la