“You are running out of focus Daddy”

Annika_01This is true, I must go get some more. 

I have this tendency to be lost in my thoughts and Annika has picked up on this.   With this Annikaism she is trying to tell me when I have lost focus on the task at hand (which is usually to play with her or to give her something to eat).  This has become a bit of an epidemic in our home as when Bryce ran into a wall the other day or when Jada spilled her milk last night it was because they also ran out of focus.  Focus is definitely something I do not want to run out of in the future.

Building our Balanced Family Life

IMGP7680Well so much for moving gradually into a new lifestyle.  Originally we thought of slowly tearing down our old lifestyle and slowly piece together our new lifestyle.  After a while of trying this philosophy we changed to another approach……………..KABOOM!!!

In the span of one month we had sold our home in the city, bought a new home in a smaller town on the coast & given notice at work.  The next month included packing, finishing up with work and moving into that new home.  When it came down to it we just had to.  These changes were so important to us we couldn’t wait any longer.

A month before listing out house for sale, I had taken a week off work so we could build the framework for FamilyNavigation.com.  During that time I wrote the blog ‘Balanced Family Life – Our View’ .  This blog was a much abbreviated version of an early morning emotional & frantic writing session – kind of like in the movie Jerry Maguire when he wrote his ‘mission statement’.  Now that our old 7-4 (didn’t work 9-5) lifestyle is in the past, I thought I would look back at that blog and see how we are making out and if we are getting the benefits of having a balanced work life and family life.  

Work  – The old cliché, you have to love what you do.  Well, so far so good but this one will take some time to see if we are successful or not.  We are starting with FamilyNavigation.com and have many other sub-ideas we would like to try.  We have 2 years in the budget to make this work before we have to look at other options.  As long as we have moderate success I think we will be on the right track with this one.  In these early stages, the amount of energy and enthusiasm I am bringing to my daily work is much higher than what I had at my past job.  We are also excited that any success we may achieve has a direct impact on our income.

Location- This one is complete as we have moved to where we want to be and where we want to raise our kids.  We live in one of a few small towns that make up the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island.  Together they have the amenities of a small city, but individually they have a real small town charm.  Both Lisa and I grew up on the coast and we are very happy to be back in our home environment.  Choosing your living environment is a very personal decision and I realize the things that we see as positives, many see as negatives and vice versa.  When we were deciding what environment would be best for our family we concluded that the coast, with its slower pace and natural setting, was where we should be, and so far I think it was definitely the right decision.

Annika and Jada bugwatching

Annika and Jada bugwatching

Focus on Experience, not material goods – Like we have a choice on our current budget – we do not have jobs.  We have had a great summer and have been able to add so many little experiences to our children’s inventory.  Forest time looking for bugs, beach time swimming and looking for shells, and growing things in our garden has all been new experiences for our kids and we have all enjoyed our laid back and relaxing summer.  The toys in the playroom do not stand a chance.

Health – This one is going to take a while as we, mostly me, are completely out of shape.  As a family we are now spending a lot more of our time outside and spending a lot less of our free time sitting down (do we still have a TV?).  Our hope is that with our new focus on healthier eating and incorporating exercise into family time we will reach our goals in time.  Instead of doing a starvation or fad diet we have changed our eating habits to what we feel is sustainable and healthy.  We do not have the time, money, or the desire to live at a gym.  Since we have slowed down our daily routine we are now spending time gardening in the back yard, walking instead of driving wherever possible, and playing energetic games in the backyard. 

 One of the side effects of our new lifestyle is the amount of family time we have created.  I will go into further detail of our daily schedule in future blogs, but we have removed a lot of the wasted time in a day (time spent getting ready for work and commuting to work being the most obvious). We are now working 7 days a week but only one of us is working at a time, which means each of us has work time, time with the kids, chore time, relaxing time alone, and family time altogether throughout each day.  It makes for a busy day and busy weeks but we really like the fact that each day is fairly balanced and we both get to spend quality time with the kids.  We do take days off, or partial days off, as well if there is a family outing we want to do or something unexpected comes up.

We have a long way to go to see if we really accomplish all the goals we have (including numerous goals not listed above) but we have gained a new level of energy just for the fact that we are trying.  We are not people who do drastic things normally, but in this case we are glad we blew things up to start again to make a lifestyle more true to who we are.  Only time will tell if we reach our goals and if the right decisions were made but at this moment in time it looks like we are on the right track.

Blackberry Picking – A Productive Family Outing

Bryce had his fill and still wanted pie

He had his fill and still wanted pie

I love this time of year!!!  The smells are intoxicating on the west coast.  It’s a combination of ripe berries and other fruit, ocean breezes, hot pine needles and seaweed baked in the summer sun.  Trust me, it actually smells great.

Like most days we were looking for something to do with the kids, and I thought Mmmmm blackberries.  Luckily we are living in an area where they grow in abundance at roadsides and in parks during late summer.  We just headed down to the local pack and started picking.  Each kid had their own bucket to collect and true to form Bryce ate all the berries that came close to his bucket.  It was hard to keep track of how much he ate exactly but the amount of juice on his face suggests that it was a lot.  Did he not know what I was planning to do with those berries?  Instant satisfaction is all he knows or really cares about.  As well as picking (and eating) berries, the kids all had a nice walk as we explored the park.  

Annika with her pickin's

Annika with her pickin's

Returning home with full tummies, stained shirts and a good amount of blackberries in our buckets, I decided that we should put these berries to good use; PIE!!!!  Now I am not an expert in making pies, not even close, but I thought I would see if I could find a recipe for a quick crust and pie.  Within a half hour I had found a couple simple recipes and had started cooking.  Being my first blackberry pie I wanted something easy and these recipes I found online worked out great.  We were eating pie by dinner time (why wait for desert).




This turned into a pretty rewarding afternoon.  The whole family was able to join in and feel like they had contributed and it was cheap.  To make this pie, since the berries were free, cost under $2.00 to make, plus your time.  It was much better than most store bought pie (Yuk) which can be easily $4 and up.  We are lucky that we have Blackberry bushes close to us but another option, available in many places, are a u-pick berry farm.  Going to a berry farm will add cost to your family outing but it will make an enjoyable day for the family, with benefits.

Blackberry picking tips

  • Dress the family in long sleeves in clothes that you do not care if they get ripped or stained.
  • Take all you want as long as you’re not trespassing on someone’s property. 
  • Picking along busy roads and train lines is not advised.  Who knows what toxins have absorbed into the fruit that you will be eating.  Roadside berries are not organic.
  • Bryce says “go picking when you are hungry” – which for him means anytime is a good time to go picking.   

B&J BB picking


Backyard Picnic

It was a hot day, the kids were getting hungry and restless and we did not feel like cooking. We had promised each other a sushi dinner sometime but going out would not be a smart move the way this day was going.  Instead we decided to whip up some healthy snack plates for the kids (all stuff we had in the house or garden), and picked up some take out sushi for us.  After the food was ready we just threw down a blanket, and TA-DA, an instant picnic in the backyard.  Some other time we will have a picnic in the park or beach but on this day nothing could be better than hanging out in the backyard.
Picnic time!
Picnic time.
Sometimes simple ideas are the best.






What have we done!!!

Changing our Family Lifestyle All at Once.

Our backyard in Calgary

Our backyard in Calgary

Maybe we should have we been satisfied with what we had.  Many people strive for and are satisfied with the type of life we were leading.  We were living in a prosperous city, Dad worked at a stable job he was good at and could support Mom staying home with the 3 kids.  We owned our home and paying off the mortgage was only a matter of time.  What did we have to complain about?  Why would we throw this all away? 

Back when we were contemplating this change I wrote ‘We Followed the Path of Least Resistance – Time for a change’ which explains some of the feelings we had at the time.  We have 3 kids and, like all parents, we want to provide them the best environment possible.  For our family it meant many changes.  We decided to finally follow our dream of being self employed, move to a smaller town, and incorporate a greater amount of exercise and outdoor activities into our daily routine.  Some of the  side effects we hope result are; more time spent together as an entire family, an overall more positive outlook, and improving our fitness including significant weight-loss.  Four months later after that first blog we have moved to a new home in a smaller town on the coast of British Columbia and are now unemployed.  When you are a family of five and all three kids are under the age of five, that is a lot to do all at once.

In follow-up blogs I will get into more detail as to how we plan on making this happen without going broke, at least in the short term.  We have a plan in place that gives us two years to put some of the multiple ideas we have, including FamilyNavigation.com, into motion and to try to make enough income to live.  It is going to be long hard road, but we truly believe we can make this happen, and if we do, wow what a life we will be leading.

It was tempting to try and do this transition gradually, in fact it would have made a lot of sense.  We feared that if we did not jump head first into this new lifestyle it could take us too long to take the first few steps and we would lose our momentum.  As you probably know, when you have young kids, you do not always have a surplus of time and we did not like the idea of trying move forward on some small business ideas while still working full-time.  We wanted a change, and were feeling like we needed a change, and it would have been hard to continue with the life we had already decided that we did not want to lead any more.  We had to dive head first and not look back.   Now that we are in our new home, in a new home town and have taken some time to enjoy an incredible summer, we are charged up and ready to go.  We have pretty lofty dreams of how this is going to work and now we have a lot of work to do.  It will take time to see if we did this the right way but at this moment it sure seems right.Annika and her 1st fishFerry to Powell RiverB&J on a hike

Proud of Being Frugal

Hello……….my name is Martin……..and I’m………………..umm……….frugal.  There it is.  It’s all out in the open.  I AM FRUGAL.  I am not ashamed anymore………….I’m free!!!!!

Actually I was never ashamed of being frugal, in fact I have always been proud of my thriftiness.  However my accomplishments in frugality were never received with the appreciation I expected.  Being called cheap is not usually a compliment.  Being monetarily responsible just does not have the value in our society it should.  Stinginess should not be mocked.  Oh but things are changing.  We are in a recession now and my talents are being recognized.  Well at least I think they should be.

Having control of your spending gives you power and freedom.  I graduated from University debt free, which allowed some extra time for self-exploration.  A year after graduation I got married (to another frugalite) and left on a 14-month honeymoon.  Working before leaving and working a little bit while away (more for a break than anything: working to get a rest from travelling – funny but true) provided enough money for the entire trip as we arrived home debt free.  Now in family mode our budgeting has allowed us to be a family of five on one income and we are still saving money.  We do have a mortgage but it is very manageable.  We are also in a position to look towards self-employment without worrying about getting too far in debt.  We are in control.

Controlled spenders may be a better way to describe us.   We are not averse to spending.  It is not like you can find us every evening in the dark wearing 12 sweaters to keep warm, eating dry crackers and drinking rainwater – at least not every evening.  We are consumers but it is limited to things that have value to us.  This is the key.  Why not spend your hard earned money on what you value the most (this will be explored in detail in future posts).  For us we do not value top end clothes or a new car as much as others may.  A big screen high def TV will probably get to the top of our list one day but right now there are too many things we would rather spend our money on.  As discussed in other blogs we are in the process of a move and a lifestyle change so all our energy and money, is going to that, but once settled we would love to do some travelling and get a family boat among other fun things.

We have some pretty lofty goals but if our track record is any indication, we can live our lives the way we want and have everything we really need.  So go ahead, call me frugal.  I will say thank you.

Balanced Family Life – Our View

Every family is going to have their own version of what a balanced family life should be.  This site is going to look at a multitude of options that families can discuss.  There are many things that we want to accomplish and we have some sort of plan to achieve them.   The main goal is for our family to work together as one unit and not as a group of individuals living separate lives under one roof.

After many discussions over the past number of months we have an outline of what we want for our balanced family life.   I have listed some of the major points that will we will be working towards.

Work - We have always believed that you have to love what you do.  You spend so much of your life working that if you do not enjoy your job it will become a burden.  Currently my work is not as enjoyable as it used to be and it is draining my energy through apathy and frustration.  One of our major issues is that there is not a direct connection between the quality of work that I put in and the income I receive.  For many years we have both wanted to be self-employed and it is time to take that step.

Location – This may seem the most superficial of all our points and the hardest to admit.  I always said that as long as I had my family I could live anywhere.  And while that philosophy is still true today we have recognized that a different setting could provide a better environment for raising our kids.  In our world this means moving to a small to medium sized coastal town.

Focus on Experiences, not material goods - This one is easy for us, as we have never placed much value on material wealth.  We are the adults we are today in many ways due to the experiences we had as children, not what possessions we had.   We want to do many different activities, learn about different cultures and beliefs, and do this all as a family to give our kids first-hand knowledge of the world.   We will allocate a good portion of our disposable income to experiences like travel, and live a modest life.  

Health – In our current lifestyle we have been fatigued much more than we should given our age, and this in turn has caused poor eating habits and less exercise, with predictable results.  Our current fitness does not match our personalities and interests.  I have put this point last as we feel as long as we are living a life that is true to ourselves, we will eat the healthy food we love, and partake in all the activities we love to do.  In the lifestyle we want this means daily exercise (walking to the store, gardening, or playing in the backyard) while spending quality time as a family.  This also means having some down time and making sure we relax just a little bit each day.

All of these points are not to be exclusive of each other – not in the lifestyle we crave.  Everything has to be interconnected.  We have an ideal situation in mind and even though we know that nothing ever works out exactly as planned, heading down a path that is truer to ourselves will be much better for our family than staying put.

We Followed the Path of Least Resistance – Time for a change

We figured that we may need a change so we attached dozens of wires to a FAT (Family Attitude Testing) machine to get a printout of all the things we need to change in our lives and it was astonishing.  It advised us to make changes to our working life, our activity level, our diet, our surroundings and pretty much everything else.  The only things we were allowed to keep from our current life included our minivan, a few of our friends and a pair of our most comfortable shoes.  OK……….so the only FAT machine in our house is the TV and its involvement in this process was just being turned off so we could talk.  There has been a lot of talking in our home lately and the list of everything we would like to change as we continue into parenthood is long.

Long lists can be scary and a bit depressing and our list has also caused some anxiety and a fair bit of confusion. Why is Martin coming home from a good job fatigued and grumpy?  Why are we being less active each year and are now completely out of shape?  Why are we being more negative which each other and worrying about silly little things?  These concerns, and others, have just slowly crept up on us and without noticing we were in a bit of a rut.  How did this happen?  We love life, are positive people, and have always been satisfied in our careers.  What it uncovered was that we haven’t created the best lifestyle for us to flourish.   Now that our family is complete we need to reverse the trends we are seeing to make sure we are giving ourselves the best environment to raise our family the way we want.

If we are going to succeed in obtaining the family lifestyle we want we have to be aware of why we ended up in a rut in the first place.   When we moved to a larger city it was like jumping into a river.  We just laid back and let the river take us where it was heading.  This path of least resistance was an easy choice for a young couple trying to settle down and create some net worth but it didn’t take us where we expected.  With three kids in tow we are now swimming ashore, drawing a map and ready are ready to navigate to where we want to go.

How corny and cliché can you get?  Oh just wait and see, we’ll top that for sure.  It may be cliché, but it is going to be fun!!

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