No Time To Go To Therapy? Here’s a Quick Fix.

Many people want to understand themselves more deeply, and let’s be honest, vent about the tough stuff happening in their lives. They don’t want to burden friends and family, and they long for support from a professional.

CHEATSHEET: 7 EASY WAYS TO MAKE TIME FOR YOUR COUPLE (RIGHT NOW!)

But who has time to get a babysitter for the kids and add one more thing to the schedule?

Here are three reasons why virtual therapy is ideal for multi-tasking parents, busy students, and hard-working millennials.

The Comfort of Home

That’s right. You can do therapy from the comfort of your own home, in your pajamas, with a cup of tea. All you need is an internet connection and a device that has a video camera.  Time is your most valuable asset. Don’t waste it sitting in traffic, or stuck on public transit.

Tip: Having the house to yourself will allow you to speak more openly. Get your partner to take the kids out for a walk, or ask your roommate to go to a coffee shop for an hour!

Your Ideal Professional

Instead of choosing your therapist by their proximity to you, choose a therapist that is ideal for you. Perhaps you are looking for a practitioner who specializes in postpardum supportanxiety, or has experience with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). The beauty of online therapy is that you can find a therapist from any part of the world. You have more choice and can be selective in finding a therapist who can support your specific needs.

Tip: Be sure to check that your therapist is accredited in their country of origin.  In Ontario, Canada, all psychotherapists must be part of a regulatory body, the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO).  Search on their website to ensure that your therapist is a member.

Travel-friendly

Do you travel for work or have family who live in another province or country? Have no fear, technology can keep you connected to your therapist, no matter where you are in the world! Online therapy is a great way to maintain consistent self-care for travelling professionals and vacationing families. Therapy while overlooking the ocean? Yes, please. 

Tip: If you are going to be in a different time zone, be sure to let your therapist know. It’s important that you both have the same session time!

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Did you know that virtual therapy was an option? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

CHEATSHEET: 7 EASY WAYS TO MAKE TIME FOR YOUR COUPLE (RIGHT NOW!)

On Anxiety & #TorontoStrong

Awful things happen every day.

When you see these events on the news, you somehow feel separated and protected. Those things only happen ‘out there’, and they would never happen here, in the multi-cultural, diverse, and safe city that we call ‘home’.

But something awful did happen here.

On Monday, ten lives were taken and sixteen others gravely injured.

The details are gruesome and horrific. One person’s actions are unforgivable and incomprehensible.

Our great city has come together and #torontostrong is everywhere we turn, in person, and online. The city is united. We are grieving as one.

Processing this tragic event in the first few weeks of being home from Mexico has been sobering.

Home is a place that I associate with safety.

When I feel safe, I have less anxiety.

Anxiety is a huge part of my experience of motherhood.

As a psychotherapist, I understand the cognitive theory behind anxiety. In simple terms: All anxiety, ultimately, is rooted in the fear of death. Your own death, or the death of the people you care about.

When I was six months pregnant with our first daughter, Arjan and I flew a red-eye to Ireland.  I fell asleep on the flight and woke up because I couldn’t breath. I felt like someone was sitting on my chest. I turned to Arjan with fear in my eyes:

“I need to get off of this airplane RIGHT NOW.”

The irony, as a mental health professional, I knew exactly what was happening to me: I was having a panic attack. But I had never had one before and had no idea how to help myself. All I knew was that I felt trapped and that I needed to get off of the airplane. (I didn’t say that it made sense, but that is what I felt!)

In distress, I said to Arjan:

“I am having a panic attack. Get the flight attendant and get me some oxygen.”

Thank goodness for Arjan’s calming presence. Within ten minutes, the panic ceased, and I was able to think clearly.

An experienced traveler, flying had always been a source of excitement for me.  Where had this panic been rooted? I had never had a fear of flying. Ever.

We traced it back to the morning of our flight.  At the recommendation of our midwife, I had gone in for an emergency ultrasound.  There were some irregularities in our initial ultrasound, so before travelling she thought it best to check things out. Thankfully, the new results showed that the baby was healthy, so we were cleared for our trip.

Subconsciously, during our flight, my mind’s deepest fears must have been triggered. The maternal instinct to protect my baby, at all costs, was telling me that if something went wrong (this possibility from the first ultrasound), I was trapped in an airplane where I couldn’t get the help that my baby would need.

I DID NOT HAVE CONTROL.

Loss of control intensifies anxiety.

As you can imagine, I have been anxious about flying ever since. After all, I am not in control of the airplane, someone else is. Over time, I have learned to manage that anxiety, and am happy to report that our recent flight home from Mexico was anxiety-free. The first time in seven years that I did not feel trapped on an airplane! It took a lot of personal work to get there, and I am so grateful to be on the other side.

Fast forward to the present.

We are moving back to Mexico for a year, beginning in August.

We have decided to drive and make it a fourteen-day adventure. I am (mostly!) excited about it. Our decision to drive is not based on my fear of flying, but on the necessity of our needing a vehicle while we are there.

While I am thrilled to go back to the sunshine and the salty beach air, my anxiety has now shifted from flying to a myriad of other things. Most of these anxious thoughts are not rooted in reality. They are about the things that I ‘think’ I can control.  If I am not in the right headspace, these thoughts can cloud everything and make me question our choices.

But something changed for me after Monday's tragedy.

I realized that no matter where we are in the world, we ultimately have no control over the big things:

- our job security

- our health

- other people’s actions

- natural disasters

Awful things can happen ANYWHERE. ANYTIME. To ANYONE.

So, why did this help with my anxiety and my fear of death?

I think about those ten beautiful souls who were taken from us on Monday. If they had known that that was going to be their final day on this earth, they would have taken in every moment of their day, choosing to spend it with intention, surrounded by the people they love.

Because that is how we should all live, every day.

That is why I am letting go of the anxious thoughts about the future.

Over the past year, our family has made huge changes that have been scary and unconventional.  All of those hardships and difficult choices were worth it. We are now living our meaningful life, in the way that feels right for our family.

I can rest knowing that if today was my last day, I have truly lived my best life.

There is a calmness in choosing to live fully in the present, one intentional moment at a time.

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#TorontoStrong Fund, please donate here.

In remembrance:

Beutis Renuka Amarasingha, 45, of Toronto
Andrea Bradden, 33, of Woodbridge
Geraldine Brady, 83, of Toronto
Sohe Chung, 22, of Toronto
Anne Marie D’Amico, 30, of Toronto
Mary Elizabeth Forsyth, 94, of Toronto
Ji Hun Kim, 22, who was a student living in Toronto but was from South Korea
Dorothy Sewell, 80, of Toronto
Chul Min Kang, 45, of Toronto
Munir Abdo Habib Najjar, 85, who was visiting Toronto from Jordan

Reverse Culture Shock: Home After 4 Months in Mexico

We have been home in Toronto for seven days.

The past two days have included freezing rain, snowy conditions, and severe winds.

The weather, of course, is a shock to our systems after spending four months in Mexico.

But the weather is only the tip of the iceberg.

The reverse culture shock and adjustment to moving home is proving to be more internally challenging than anticipated.

A challenge that is not visible on the outside. It’s the inside stuff that has shifted, and the outside stuff that hasn’t changed here. It’s a bit of a mind f@#k.

Here is a glimpse through my lens as our transition unfolds.

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At 9:30am on Sunday, April 8th, we left our cozy apartment in La Punta, Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico. Our generous friend, Luccia, drove us, and our luggage (2 large, 1 medium, 1 carry-on), to the bus station.

We boarded the bus at 10am and said farewell to Puerto Escondido, and our special little piece of the ocean. The girls asked “Are we there yet?” every five minutes.  Though impatient, they were in good spirits. We took in views of the mountains and rural countryside, and had plenty of snacks for the journey.

We arrived in Huatulco at 12:30pm.  As we dragged our luggage in the blazing sun with a whining four-year-old in tow, the ten-minute walk from the bus stop to the airport terminal felt like purgatory.  The littlest member of our family was feeling all the feelings. Though she couldn’t articulate the “why” of those feelings, the apprehension of our family’s massive move, loomed.

It was a long walk, physically and metaphorically, for all of us.

Thankfully, we had plenty of time to check-in and get to our gate. We changed into our pants and layers before boarding. Arjan and I laughed at seeing each other in winter clothing.  We had traded our bare feet for running shoes, and our bathing suits and sarongs for long-sleeves and scarves.

The flight was relatively smooth, with the girls getting to chew gum during take-off and landing, thrilled to watch, not one, but two movies. Sugar and screens; it’s no wonder that they get excited about air travel. Parenting at it’s finest.

We landed in Toronto at 8:30pm, with the bubbly flight attendant announcing “Welcome back to reality! Hope you enjoyed your vacation!” How do you explain to people that we weren’t coming back from a vacation? That this was a life-changing experience, not an all-inclusive resort package.

We started to debark and I felt the chill as the winter air hit my skin.

Arriving to the airport and going through customs was the beginning of the culture shock. There were so many people. It was busy and overwhelming.

My parents picked us up with our car and we squeezed in a hug, while other cars honked at us, impatient to pick up their own loved ones. Everyone’s needs respectively urgent. A sense of entitlement and stress in the air.

We were not in Mexico anymore.

As we got onto the highway, everything was oddly quiet and serene. All of the cars were driving in rows, white and red lights, mesmerizing. The billboards were perfectly designed, symmetrical, and captivating. All of the roads were smooth and the buildings we passed, in mint condition. Every sign was in English and I could make sense of every message.

No half-finished construction sites, shacks, or hand-made Spanish signs.

We pulled onto our street and it felt like a ghost-town, everyone tucked away, cozy in their houses.

At 10pm, after a long day of travel, we unlocked the door and stepped into our home. It was just as we had left it.

Empty shelves. Empty drawers. Empty closets.

I had forgotten how much time we had spent purging, minimizing, and packing our personal effects.  In that moment, eight months of consistent effort all came flooding back to me.

SO. MUCH. WORK.

Seeing our modest 2-storey, 3-bedroom, semi-detached home with fresh eyes, made it feel like a mansion. Our open-concept main floor stretched out with glowing gorgeous white kitchen countertops. How I missed my kitchen.

That night, we slept the longest that we had in four months. No barking dogs throughout the night, or chipper birds waking us up in the early morning hours. Our temperpedic mattress felt like a cloud and the blackout blinds kept the kids in bed an extra hour. Bliss.

One thing stands out above the rest: We are privileged. So, so privileged.

Privileged to be in choice. To be able to choose where we live and how we live.

As we transition back into our luxurious lifestyle, I am aware of every small bit of privilege that I previously took for granted: clean drinking water, paved roads, reliable internet, bathrooms with toilet seats, fully-stocked grocery stores, wide sidewalks, bike lanes, traffic lights, road signs, and clearly marked addresses. Our Vitamix, dishwasher, washing machine, climate-controlled home, inspiring kitchen, and car are like icing on the cake. The list could go on.

We have re-connected with family and a few close friends this week. I am overwhelmed by all of the love and attention. Visiting over warming comfort foods have been good for both the body and the soul.

I was happy to live simply in Mexico. It has made me more grateful and aware of the abundance of our life here in Toronto.

This week our focus has been on tuning-in to our needs, day by day.

The girls went back to school and daycare on Tuesday. We have been doing most pick-ups and drop-offs together as a couple and making it a priority to connect as a family when we get home. No screens to ensure that the girls can emotionally regulate and process the transition without the added hurdle of screen withdrawal. So far, so good.

Unpacking is slow and steady. It took me four days to find my favourite (and only!) pair of blue jeans. I had tucked them away on the top shelf of the girls’ closet, thinking that that would be the first place I would look when we got home. Nope. It sure wasn’t.

Arjan had our bikes chained and locked together in the garage for safe-keeping. It took three days to find the keys for those locks. He was like a kid in a candy shop, getting on his bike again. I love seeing the joy that cycling brings him. (And yes – we are bringing bikes to Mexico next time!)

Emotionally, I am feeling tender: I only leave the house if I am in the right headspace to engage with others. When asked, it’s hard to sum-up our experience. I feel a certain disconnect because our travel experience is unique, and seems un-tangible for many (it's not!). Enduring the winter months is an emotional marathon. Who wants to hear about the ups and downs of living in paradise?!

I am being gentle with myself and giving myself space to transition, in solitude. There have been many quiet moments at home and even a couple of uncharacteristic naps this week.

For those beautiful souls who have followed our journey online, there is a deep sense of knowing and understanding when we connect in person. For those people, I am grateful. You make me feel held and safe. I know that I don’t have to explain much, which gives me a sense of ease. Thank you.

Everything here is familiar, yet I feel different internally. The comforts of the language and our modern lifestyle are easy to embrace. My recovering perfectionist is trying to re-emerge, but I am finding a certain stillness that keeps her at bay. I am happy to be listening to the weather and hibernating with the season. It feels good to be getting settled in our home space and nesting.

Having these four months as a family has truly been a gift. I want to continue to soak up all of the feelings and lessons in this transition. The process is slow, and I am okay with that.

Though we are going back to Mexico in August, Toronto is where I want to be, right now, in this moment.

I love our life in Canada and I intend on relishing in every moment.

Even the snow-y ones.

Big Love,

Allison xo

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Now it's your turn:

How do you feel when you come home from travelling?

How do you tune-in to your needs?

Do you have any tips to share?

As always, we love hearing from you – please leave us a comment below! xo

Spring Re-birth: Through Loss Comes Opportunity

Happy Spring, friends!

We have one week left of our four-month family sabbatical and BIG news to share!

As you can imagine, our hearts are being pulled between saying goodbye to our community here in Mexico, while looking forward to being reunited with friends and family in Canada. It’s bittersweet. We leave will full hearts and rich memories.

Arjan and I have been busy working together on House & Hook and creating content for our upcoming online course Family Sabbatical 101 – can’t wait to share it with you in May!

My virtual private practice has been doing well, and I am looking forward to being reunited with my clients in real-life-person.  So amazing that technology allows us to maintain the therapeutic relationship. I feel so grateful to practice the art of empathic listening.

Work will be different for Arjan upon our return, as he was recently let go from his full-time job.

When we received the email, we were initially stunned.

We felt confused, angry, and lost.

This wasn’t part of the plan. Our (perceived) sense of control disappeared. We were relying on that financial security upon our return home.

But “What do we do now?” soon turned into:

 “Do we really want to go back to the 9-5 lifestyle?”

“Is this a sign that we are meant for a change in our lives?”

It was clear that this gap of employment created space for something new.

Without the obligation of a full-time job, Arjan can continue working for our business, while accepting contract work as a graphic designer. We can build our schedule and our life in a way that suits the needs of our family. We can truly implement the lessons that we have learned from our time in Mexico and bring them home to Canada!

WHAT A GIFT.

The fear of the unknown has been replaced by feelings of hope, excitement, and opportunity.

Naturally, Arjan and I are now veterans at having big life talks, so this prompted deep conversation and plenty of self-reflection.

We are thriving as a couple here in Mexico. Our dream had always been to work together, and to have the time to do so has had me pinching myself daily. Plus, we get to swim in the ocean on our lunch break. It’s the perfect built-in day date!

The girls are also thriving here in Mexico. Their confidence has grown, they are integrating with local children, and their Spanish is improving by the day.

On Friday they had their last day of school. They spent the day doing a spring celebration and egg hunt, followed by a farewell cake. The girls were presented with fresh flowers and had a special friend circle ceremony.  When we got home, our youngest said, “I want to go to school tomorrow, mama. I am going to miss my friends soooooo much.” (Cue my tears here!)

As I think back to the intense first 7 days we had here, it’s incredible to see how far we have all come. We have been challenged as individuals, as a couple, and as a family. And yet, we have waded through to the other side, and the view is breathtaking. The lessons are rich and have truly been worth all of the hardship.

Which brings me to our next little bit of news.

Since we no longer have work obligations holding us to Toronto, we have decided to come back to Puerto Escondido for the full school year 2018-19.

Yes, August 2018 to July 2019.

I KNOW!

It’s amazing. We are beyond excited.

There is a Waldorf school here that has a lovely community of parents. This is the driving force of our decision – to continue to give the girls an immersive language experience and an alternative approach to learning.

We look forward to enjoying the spring and summer months in Toronto, connecting with friends and family, visiting farmer’s markets, and soaking in all of the comforts of HOME.

With a full heart and deep gratitude for all of life’s lessons.

Happy Spring and re-birth to all of you, in all corners of the world.

Big Love,

Allison xo

School, Sickness, and a Birthday - Oh My!

When I think how the time passes at home, in Toronto, the time goes quickly, our lives filled with productivity and full schedules.

Here, two months has felt like a long time.

During our two months, we have learned basic, human survival; where to get groceries and toilet paper, how to cook using only two elements, and how to parent two children in a foreign country. Along the way, we have managed to acquire enough Spanish to communicate our basic needs to taxi drivers, share where we are from, and talk about the ages of our children. 'Gracias' and 'por favor', are words to live by.

The Mexican people are patient and kind. We have embraced their slower pace with more focus on the present moment. I continue to be grateful for the spontaneous, unplanned interactions with people we have met along the journey. There is time and space for people to have lengthy conversation without rushing to a meeting or activity. So refreshing.

My own expectations about work have been thwarted due to the inconsistent, unreliable internet. This has been fraught with frustration, yet also a humble reminder to slow-the-fuck-down.

If you have been following us on Instagram (we post stories there a lot!), you may know that there have been some ups and down over the past few weeks.

Some good. Some not so good. Some amazing.

The Good

On a Friday afternoon, a few weeks ago, while hanging out at our favourite restaurant, we met a local mother and her daughter. As usual, children gravitate to each other regardless of language barriers, and all three girls played together with ease.  The mother was warm, and engaging (and spoke English!). She had just picked her daughter up from a private alternative school, five minutes up the road. She described the school as a safe, nurturing community, with a few Waldorf-inspired touches, and a focus on self-directed learning.

Our curiosity naturally peaked.

We had already heard wonderful things about another Waldorf school on the other side of town, but commuting in a taxi five days a week felt too reminiscent of the 9-5 rush that we had chosen to leave, so we had decided not to enroll the girls there.

But a school FIVE minutes away?! With a focus on child-led learning?!

Ummmm….yes, please!

If you read our last post, you know that parenting in paradise has had its challenges.

The universe was handing us a gift, so we got in contact with the director of the school later that day.

By Monday morning, we were meeting the director, a lovely trilingual woman, originally from Sweden, passionate about child development and self-directed learning. We learned that during the day, the school is a kindergarten program for children ages two to six, and in the evening the programming is for children ages 7 and up. While the girls played with the other children at the school, she told us of her philosophy and extensive experience in agile learning.

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I need to pause here, and tell you that listening to this woman speak about the ideal manner in which children learn, made me weep. I was shocked to find myself being moved to tears.

I wept for my inner child, who was forced to conform into a more rigid education system. From a young age, I learned to follow instructions, take tests well, and to be a “good” student. I excelled in the system and figured out how to get positive results, eventually graduating as valedictorian of my highschool.  But as an artist (singer and dancer), I had always felt that my passions would never be fruitful. The system subconsciously taught me that I needed to grow up and get a “real” job.

(There is a happy ending to my story, but I will save it for another day. Hint: I worked professionally as a singer and dancer for nearly a decade AND bought my first house with that income.)

I also wept for my eldest child. Agile learning is what she craves and needs. I have seen her free, strong spirit being squashed in the school system at home.  She has learned to colour in the lines, to follow the rules, and to be a good listener.  Her creativity needs space and I hope that this program will help her find it again.

Please understand that both of my parents are retired educators, and I have deep respect for their craft. I have witnessed first-hand the challenges and pressures on these professionals. Teachers are doing the best with what they have been given.

In the Ontario Kindergarten program, thirty 4 and 5 year old children cannot be free to roam and learn in the way that they truly need when confined to a classroom. It’s just not possible. But it’s what we have available.  Our youngest daughter will soon be joining that system come the fall.

This is part of the reason why we chose to leave for the Winter – so that our children could run and play and learn in a new environment.

Again, we are all doing the best with what we have and are making intentional choices for our families.

As you can tell, my eyes have been opened to a new way of learning, and I look forward to guiding our children as much a possible in collaboration with our education system upon our return to Canada.

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After our interview at the school, Arjan and I both knew that this was a perfect fit for our family: agile learning is ideal for the girls, they would be exposed to Spanish, and they would make friends with local children.  Not to mention that when you join a school, you meet other families who are at the same stage of parenting as you – bonus! AND Arjan and I would have time together to workout, collaborate on our business, and connect as a couple.

The girls officially began school the following day and initially flowed effortlessly into the program. The fifteen-minute walk to school is a nice start to the day, and Arjan and I get to enjoy the walk home, just the two of us. That is a lovely perk.

School costs $200 per child per month. If you break that down, it is $10 per day per child. Someone pinch me.

It’s almost too good to be true.

The Not-So-Good

After two days of school, our youngest got a fever.

Classic reaction to being in an environment with other children, right?

Poor thing suffered for three days, and we had to postpone her fourth birthday party from Saturday to Sunday. Naturally, as she got better, big sister caught the same bug.

As you know, when your children are not well, it is all-consuming and a helpless feeling as a parent.  We are grateful to have a friend here who practices functional medicine who did acupuncture for both girls. There is also an excellent pediatrician nearby for emergencies, who we fortunately did not have to call. Knowing that we have a supportive community here brought us comfort, especially since this was our first case of illness since being in Mexico.

The Amazing

By some miracle, everyone was healthy by Sunday, and we managed to pull-off an awesome birthday celebration on the beach!

For $200 Canadian, we had a candy-filled handmade clay piñata, ceviche, guacamole, and cervesas for 25 people. The quinoa cake (that I had made using a friend’s oven) was a hit, and the sunset, breathtaking, as always.

The girls had been anticipating the fiesta for weeks, so you can imagine their elation when they finally got to take a whack at that piñata!

Confession: As a recovering perfectionist, I still find it hard to relax at these events…I want everything to go smoothly and for everyone to have a good time. I put way too much pressure on myself! Change is slow and steady, right...?

The Transition Continues

The girls have completed two full weeks of school. 9am until 2pm, Monday to Friday. They are truly inspirational: bravely facing Spanish immersion and new faces every day. They are understandably exhausted. It takes ample mental and emotional energy to be around a new language, which means that they need more tenderness and patience from us when they get home.

Having the girls in school is a privilege that I do not take for granted. It has allowed Arjan and I to have more consistency with our own self-care, allowing us to be calmer with the kids, and also, more loving towards each other.

I have been meditating daily to prepare myself for the emotional afternoons and evening meltdowns. It’s all part of the process.

Homesickness hit me unexpectedly the other day. No doubt that all of this discomfort and growth has had a deep impact, not only on the kids, but on Arjan and I too. I found myself weeping...releasing all of the built-up stress and fear.

Arjan held me and let me cry. Then he told me that he has been missing the familiarities of home too. Once again, moments of vulnerability bring us closer, giving us a deeper understanding of each other. So grateful.

Every transition takes time, and this one is no exception.

The Truth About Parenting In Paradise

Mexico, Day 39.

The heart softens.

 

 

The mind opens.

The soul thrives.

Our kids still drive us bonkers.

Hello friends. It’s been a while.

The past two weeks have been fraught with internal expectations to be “productive”, while also longing to be in the moment and enjoy our surroundings.

Oh, and also parenting. That part has been consuming and exhausting.

Does anyone else feel utterly devastated at their children’s entitled attitude?

Our intention behind this trip, was to be removed from our privileged life, and to live with more gratefulness and simplicity.

Too bad our kids didn’t get the memo.

At the end of the day, there are complaints about anything and everything. And so much whining. Oh, the whining. Possibly the worst sound I have ever heard.

“All we did was go to the pool today. That’s boring.”

Seriously…?!

“I wanted to go to sunset. Whyyyyyy didn’t we go to sunset?”

The one day that week that we missed it.

“But they get to eat at a restaurant...why don’t WE ever get to eat at a restaurant?”

We ate out for lunch.

How are our children so entitled and unaware of how good they have it?

We are literally living in paradise.

The answer is simple: They are kids. They are honest and unfiltered.

Most importantly, they are human. And humans have a natural tendency to compare their lives to others. Think about how you feel when you scroll through your Instagram feed...the grass is always greener and other people’s lives seem more appealing than our own.

Kids do that too.

How do we teach our children (and ourselves) that we have enough?

Arjan and I are modelling gratefulness and intention in our day to day lives; in how we treat each other, how we treat the people in our lives, and how we spend our time and money here in Mexico. Heck - the whole fact that we are in Mexico is a gratefulness practice in itself!

Yet the learning process for children is slow and steady.

Thirty-nine days in Mexico is not enough for them to really get it.

It will take years for them to truly understand their privilege and to not take it for granted.

(I guess that means we will have to come back here again!)

The unfortunate truth is that, at the moment, our children often feel that we are thwarting their happiness by saying “no”, and that we are the killers of all joy. Our life and our choices are somehow not ENOUGH.

I will speak to my own experience here and admit that this is highly triggering for me. It makes me feel like I am not ‘good enough’ as a parent. The recovering perfectionist in me is failing.

I know. As I write this, it seems silly and small. But those are my feelings.

They are kids and it will take them time to understand their privilege and to practice wholehearted gratefulness. But I want them to GET IT NOW!!! Ugh.

Deep breath. Trust that they will get it, in time.

As of late, these triggers have resulted in frustration and a lack of patience in our household.

Welcome to parenting in paradise: same stuff, different locale!

Yes, it’s amazing to be living in this climate and I am hugely grateful to not have the added stress of winter during this full-time parenting experience.

However, to not have a break from each other is INTENSE.

The kids need space from us, just as much as we need space from them. Even an hour or two apart, would ease the tension.

Adding to the challenge is the heat - a factor that I hadn’t considered prior to our arrival to the country. At the height of the day, between 12pm and 3pm, the heat stops you in your tracks. A wave of sleepiness overcomes you, as your body uses all of its energy to stay cool. Now I understand why siestas are synonymous with Mexico!

Go slow. Take time. Be still.

Again, our kids didn’t get the memo.

So, during siesta hours when we all need to rest, they have endless energy, preventing Arjan and I from restoring and listening to our own bodies’ needs.

I thought that pushing our own needs aside ended after the baby years?! WTF?!

Just as we reached our mental and emotional max, the universe gracefully handed us a gift.

A friend introduced us to a lovely 15-year-old local girl. Her family lives half of the year in the United States, and the other half of the year here in La Punta. Her mother is American and her father, Mexican. She and her brother are homeschooled and are fully-bilingual.

It is refreshing to meet a family who is living life in a way that works for them; Totally inspirational, and naturally has me concocting ideas for our own family (don’t worry, Dad - nothing too crazy!).

You guessed it! We hired her as our babysitter. Game changer!

Arjan and I have committed to one date per week to start. Yippee!

And the girls LOVE her. 

As you may know, we are huge fans of day dates. We have more energy and tend to feel more engaged during daylight hours.

Our weekly dates (so far we have had two!) begin with a private Spanish lesson, set in paradise. The view overlooks Zicatela beach and is shaded by stunning greenery.

Not gonna lie...it’s pretty magical. The setting alone is breathtaking, but having uninterrupted time to learn something new together, is priceless.

Learning Spanish is like working a muscle that hasn’t been used in years.  My brain literally hurts afterwards, but doing it together adds a certain element of playfulness. I can’t remember the last time I used that word to describe our relationship - what a delight to find playfulness again!

After the intense mental focus of our Spanish class, we need to unwind and relax.

We end up grabbing a bite to eat or walking along the beach.

It is sunny every day. Perfection.

As usual, our couple time flies by, and never feels long enough. That longing quickly passes because it is replaced with the excitement of reuniting with the girls. We miss them after four hours!

It’s amazing how the heart can be pulled in so many directions. Such is the life of a parent.

Sharing our Spanish education and practicing with the girls is an added bonus - they get super into it! There are flashcards all over our apartment and we are getting familiar with more words every day.

Our grammar and pronunciation is brutal, but that is part of the messy journey, that is LIFE.

"Take THAT!" I say, to my inner perfectionist.

Here’s to the consistent practice of gratefulness, being patient with the process, and to more quality time with my love.

Big Love From Mexico,

Allison xo

F*#k Resolutions. Do These 5 Easy Steps Instead.

F*#k resolutions.

Seriously.

We have just come out of the holiday season, where we are bombarded with messages telling us to buy, buy, BUY.  The root of these messages is:

a) Happiness can be bought. I call bullshit on that. There is no package or material item that is going to give anyone long-term joy or life fulfillment.

b) You are not good enough until you have _____________ (insert item here). I mean, really?! We are told by social media, commercials, billboards, and other advertisements that somehow we are never good enough. But if we buy stuff, then, and only then, will we fill the emotional void that we all (apparently) need to fill. We just *might* end up as happy as those 15 year olds making out on the beach in that perfume ad...

This breaks my heart.

Consumerism is a dangerous wheel that preys on us in our most vulnerable moments.

I am here to tell you that YOU ARE ENOUGH.

Let’s not extend the feeling of worthlessness by starting the New Year creating goals that 80% of us will not achieve.

This year, as a collective, let’s break that cycle.

Stop comparing yourself to others.

Stop setting yourself up to fail.

Start comparing yourself...to yourself!

Start the year by reminding yourself of how fucking amazing you are.

YOU ARE FUCKING AMAAAAAAZING!!!!!

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I am delighted to share our personal New Year’s practice with you. It is simple and intentional and leaves me feeling grounded and grateful. I wish the same for you.

Steps 1 & 2 are inspired by an exercise I learned from Denise Duffield-Thomas. I have changed it into my own language, but I like to give credit, where credit is due!

Before You Begin

This is an exercise for you to do TOGETHER.

Set aside an hour (at least!), once the kids are asleep, where you and your partner will be uninterrupted.

It's okay to do this today, tomorrow, or whenever works for you. Because, let's be honest, things do not always go to plan! Do it when it feels right for YOU.

Set the mood by dimming the lights and playing music that makes you feel inspired, but doesn’t pull your focus.

No TV, phones, or screens during this time, please.

You will need a journal, or paper, and a pen or pencil.

Step 1: Reflect on 2017

With your writing tools, sit down with your partner/friend/lover and take turns asking each other the following:

What do you feel proud of this year? What made you feel awesome this year? Be specific.

For example: (these are not mine - just ideas!)

  • I got my kids to school on time, almost every day.
  • I got my ________ licence.
  • I learned to speak Spanish.
  • I packed healthy lunches for the whole family.
  • I started having smoothies once a week.
  • I met a new friend, who challenged me to be true to myself.
  • I went to bed by 10pm, most nights.
  • I had monthly date nights with my love.
  • I got a raise at work.
  • I took my dream vacation to _______.
  • I read two books...just for fun!
  • I left the dishes, so that I could play on the floor with my kids.
  • We made love in public and it was super hot.

Now it’s your turn! Write down at least 20 things on your page.

Step 2: “And…?”

When you have completed Step 1 and have written it all down, I want you to ask:

“And…?” x10

For example,

  • I got my kids to school on time, almost every day...AND I loved our conversations en route.
  • I started having smoothies once a week...AND it made my body feel energized.

You can also add brand new things to your list, or add on to things that are already there - up to you!

Keep exploring until you squeeze out another page (or more!) of amazing-ness. This is where the best stuff comes out, so don’t skip this step!

Having the support of another person is especially powerful during this step. Really give each other time and enthusiasm during the process. You may feel stuck at times, but keep at it!

Keep gently asking “And…?”

Feeling supported and encouraged will make the outcome fulfilling for both of you. 

Step 3: One Small Step

Now that you feel confident and can see how much you have accomplished this year, I hope you feel AMAZING!

From this place of confidence and positivity, I want you to think of one small change that can make a big difference in your life.

For example,

  • I want to have more date nights with my partner.

This is too big, so instead you could write down the first baby step towards this goal:

  • I will find a babysitter/friend/relative that my child(ren) feel safe and comfortable with.

OR

  • I will text my friends/FB community to ask if they can recommend any babysitters.

That was two options, so hopefully you get the idea….small steps, towards a larger goal!

Write it down to make it real.

Step 4: Gratefulness Love Note

This is my favourite step and I am soooooo pumped to do this with Arjan tonight!

Each of you need to take a scrap piece of paper and spend three minutes crafting 1-3 thoughtful sentences about how you are grateful for each other. Be specific and kind with your words. This small note will have a huge impact.

(There is a theme here...small actions = big impact!)

Once completed, slide the love notes across the table and read them aloud to each other. Or read them silently, whichever you prefer.

Take in the words and know that you are deeply loved.

Put the notes on your fridge, or take a snapshot and make them your phone wallpaper, as a reminder of your beautiful start to 2018.

Step 5: A Simple Toast

You did it! Congratulations!

You took the time to be intentional with yourself and with each other.

Toast with your favourite beverage, whether it’s kombucha, hot chocolate, or champagne.

Feliz Anos!

Dogs, Fireworks, and Cock-A-Doodle-Dos: My Wish for You This Christmas

The Christmas sun is setting here in La Punta, Puerto Escondido, Mexico.

I am relishing in the calm after the long-awaited, and highly planned-for celebration, that is Christmas.

Last night for Christmas Eve, we ate dinner at the incredible restaurant below our apartment.  Loyal to my Italian roots, I enjoyed a mouth-watering seafood spaghetti.  It made me feel closer to home, to my family.

The small, cozy space was filled with many people that we have met over these past two weeks. It was comforting to feel the energy of our newfound community.

Our family of four said Buenas Noches, and headed to bed at 10pm.

That’s when the locals began their celebrations.

We are quickly learning that there are no noise rules in Mexico. Literally, NONE.

The homes are designed to allow for ample airflow, so sound-proofing is at a minimum. Even if we could close all of the windows and doors, we would melt from the heat.

In Mexico, Christmas Eve is a HUGE celebration. Even bigger than Christmas Day.

Teenagers were setting off firecrackers into the early hours of the morning. Each sound startling us awake from our slumbers.

The hundreds of dogs that roam the streets were barking incessantly. The dog right outside our window didn’t stop until 4am.

Naturally, the barking prompted the roosters to crow. All night.

Between 4am and 5am, music played in the distance. Someone’s all-nighter…still going.

When the girls came into our room at 7am, it all went quiet. (SERIOUSLY?!)

Arjan and I are still reeling from the lack of sleep. Even earplugs couldn’t damped all of the noise.

But here we are: In Mexico, on Christmas Day. It’s all part of the adventure.

As parents, we spend weeks (for some, months!) preparing for the magical moment when our kids wake up to find gifts under the tree.

That one moment is EVERYTHING.

When you have kids little enough to believe that an obese man in a red-suit flies around the world in a sleigh delivering gifts, I do believe it that all of the effort IS worth it.

Their faces light up and it makes your heart swell. The wonder, trust and naivete of childhood is a beautiful thing.

Knowing that our Christmas would be away from home this year, I had gathered and purchased gifts months before leaving Canada.  In the spirit of being intentional and minimal, I was keeping true to our family’s values. And truly, our Christmas was just that: intentional and simple.

Our friends (yes – we are making friends!) cut off a mango tree branch that we used as a Christmas tree. We adorned it with lights and pom-poms  from apartment décor, and fastened together a homemade star from beach driftwood.

It is no Martha Stewart Christmas tree, but it is ours.

A simple gathering place celebrating thoughtfulness and family.

I was touched by the girls’ excitement at gift-giving this year. They had hand-picked and helped wrap presents for each other. The first parcels they reached for under the tree were the ones they had wrapped – eager to see each other open them.

What a precious age, this is.

These are the moments when you feel like you are doing a “good job” as a parent.

When they do something wrong, however, not a reflection of the parenting. No way, Jose! I will take credit for good behaviour ONLY. (We all do it, don’t worry!)

There were naturally moments of “Where’s MY present?!” and complaining about the stickers that wouldn’t stick to earlobes as “earrings”.

Sigh.

The trials and tribulations of being (almost!) four and six years old.

Kids will be kids.

We Skyped with family back home, enjoying the snowy landscapes and familiarity of Canadian Christmas traditions. Technology keeps us connected, and for that, I am grateful.

Grateful for the time and space to be apart, yet to still feel connected.

To be supported by loved ones, yet still given permission to live life in our own unique way.

These thirteen days in Mexico, have been transformative.

When we first arrived, I wanted to trade-in our kids.

FOR REAL.

They were constantly bickering and managing them 24/7 was making me LOSE MY MIND.

They were completely out of sorts.

A new place.

A foreign language.

No community.

Just the four of us.

Every day.

All day.

I have said this before, but I will say it again: It was INTENSE.

The kind of intense where I fantasized about leaving the responsibilities of my adult life and backpacking along the stunning Pacific coast. So enticing.

I wanted to escape from the madness. Really, really badly.

People run to Mexico and create new identities for themselves, right? I was in the right place to leave it all behind…

Of course, I didn’t.

We stormed, we argued, we fought as a family.

Together, we braved the busy downtown of Puerto Escondido, where we are the visible minority.

The whitest-of-white in a dense population of dark-skinned Mexicans.

People actually stare at us.

It is uncomfortable, it is humbling, and it is all part of the experience.

Gradually the arguments between the girls began to lessen.

Their imaginations blossomed.

We blossomed.

We all LET GO.

For me, the letting go has been

heart-cracking,

soul-opening,

life-changing.

The self-imposed rules that I have for myself are slowly being shed.

There were “shoulds” that I didn’t even know existed…they were just always there, in my mind: familiar and toxic.

I need to have this brand of yoga pants, and my kids are excelling at this sport, and we need to be “productive” with our time, and be sure to be polite, and don’t offend anyone, and what nut-free gluten-free dish are we bringing to the potluck….

It’s exhausting, isn’t it?

As a psychotherapist, I have done an immense amount of personal work. I have worked with my own therapist for over 15 years. I have delved into some deep personal SHIT. Believe me.

I always considered myself to be open-minded and non-judgmental, but this experience has taken it to a whole other level.

I am literally de-toxing my body, mind, and spirit.

I am barefoot and free in a place where there is no judgment. No “shoulds”.

The gentleness I am finding for myself is extended to others: to you, to my family, to my friends.

I am enjoying the simple moments with my children.

I am seeing my husband: truly looking him in the eye, connecting with him and being curious about his experience.

I feel liberated, like I am stepping into the woman I am meant to be.

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This is my wish for you on this Christmas Day:

Know that you are living your life in the best way you know how.

You are AMAZING.

You are finding your own way.

Embrace the journey.

Soak in the life lessons en route.

There is no right path.

There is only YOUR path.

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To learn more about how to get clear on your own path, download our free Intentional Living Workbook, and get access to our VIP FB Group of open-minded, awesome parents. xo

We Made It To Mexico! (Tough transition, but SO worth it!)

It’s Saturday night in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico.

The girls are asleep, Arjan is reading in the balcony hammock, and there is live local folk music playing in the distance.

Today we truly ARRIVED.

What a transition these five days have been...

On Tuesday, after a five-hour flight, we landed in Huatulco airport. We hopped on the local bus around 1pm and arrived at our Puerto Escondido apartment two hours later.

The girls didn’t complain at all.  They got to watch a movie on the plane, and were fascinated by the scenery on the bus ride. Winding roads and mountain views kept us all enthralled.

This is such a good age for travelling! Our youngest is almost four, and our eldest, six.

We are staying in an area called La Punta, which means “The Point” in Spanish. This is a famous spot for surfers, and a quieter area than the bustling nightlife of Zicatela Beach, further up the coast. There are lots of hostels (cool travellers!), and a good mix of ex-pats and locals.

Our accommodations are simple and comfortable: a two bedroom, second floor apartment with one bathroom, two balconies (one acts as an outdoor eating area), and a kitchen.

The kitchen has a blender and a 2-element hot plate.

No dishwasher.

No oven.

The bathroom does not have a bathtub, but it does have hot water (luxurious!).

Over the past few days, we have explored the mercado (open air market), swam in the Pacific, and seen breathtaking sunsets.

It has been a whirlwind of finding food, communicating in broken Spanish, and all the while, being together as a family 24/7.

Let me remind you, that the intention behind this trip was to create more time together as a family.

It is intense, to say the least.

Right now, we have only met a few people, so the reality of being together this much is that the girls are getting irritated with each other, and Arjan and I are tired of managing their relationship.

CAN’T WE JUST ALL GET ALONG…?!

Sigh.

Today we created a Kindness Chart. Stickers will motivate more positive behaviour, right?

Here’s hoping!

Like any transition, the process is slow and requires patience and tenacity. Soon enough, we will find our flow and there will be more ease to our days.

Today, I am grateful that we got a taste of the lifestyle we were longing for: we went down to the beach early, found a shady spot, swam, and built a sand castle.

So simple.

So good.

All four us, enjoying the moment.

FINALLY.

As a bonus, we set the girls up with a movie in the afternoon and created some space for us as a couple. SO needed, especially after the stress of the move and the busy first few days here.

We are determined to make time for ourselves as individuals, and as a couple while we are here.

We will implode if we don't.

This is another part of the challenge, of course, but I can already feel a shift towards making this happen.

Transitions are filled with lessons, and this one is no exception.

My thoughts are with everyone at home, as you prepare for the transition into the holidays and colder weather. I truly believe that every parent is a rockstar for enduring winters with children (SERIOUSLY).

Let’s be gentle with ourselves in this transition, and find the joy in the mess of it all.

Big Love from Mexico,

Allison xo

P.S. – We are doing a FB Live tour of our place today - be sure to join our list to get access to the VIP private group!

FAMILY TRAVELPUERTO ESCONDIDOCOUPLESMOTHERHOODHONEST MOTHERHOODINTERNATIONAL TRAVELFAMILY SABBATICAL

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Holy shit, guys.

The next time you hear from us, we will be in Mexico.

So, goodbye yellow brick road.

I can’t believe it’s really happening.

It seems like yesterday that I had my breakdown, the emotional catalyst that led to this grand four-month family adventure.

We dreamed it up, all on our own, Arjan and I.

Our vision.

Our choices.

Our life.

This week, as we have been packing up our home to prepare for tenants to move in, there has been a lot of: “Are we actually doing this?”

We are in disbelief.

Isn’t it funny how detached we can be from our own process?

Our deep conversations and intentional choices have become so natural, that we forgot about the end goal: to create more space for our family.

It’s one thing to have the idea of moving to a new country, it is quite another reality to pack up every little thing you own, and to actually DO IT.

The purging, packing and storing is only the beginning of our journey. That alone has been SO MUCH WORK.

It has been all-consuming.

It has given me permission to let go of unimportant details that give me a false sense of control (don’t load the dishwasher this way, load it THIS way!).

The house is no longer our home, it is the tool that is funding our adventure.

We are trading one for the other, in a way. Our secure life, for the adventure of a lifetime.

The day-to-day survival (getting kids dressed for winter should be an olympic sport!) and trip preparation has eclipsed the excitement and reality that we are actually living our dream!

I must confess that I am still not there yet, emotionally. I need to feel the warm, salty air on my skin, before I believe that it is real.

The past few days have been a whirlwind of goodbyes and packing and tears. So many tears.

I hadn’t anticipated this feeling of loss.

This exit from the matrix is a metaphor for saying goodbye to our “old” life.

I am grieving the loss of what we thought was our path; the stable job, the mortgage, the car, the morning rush to school and work, the dinner every night at 5pm, the read-two-books-then-bedtime routine.

The path where we followed the “shoulds” of societal expectations.

We are intentionally leaving it behind to experience our family with a fresh perspective, without the limits of schedules and time.

Of course we are coming back to it all, but we will come back changed.

The personal growth will be immeasurable for all of us. We will return with a new understanding of ourselves as individuals, as a couple, and as a family.

What lies ahead is unknown.

I am saying goodbye to Canada, with my Vitamix, clean water and community, and choosing a simple life of sunshine, ocean, and family.

In the words of Elton John, I have finally decided my future lies...beyond the yellow brick road.

Farewell, Toronto.

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If you are new to our community, be sure to join our list to get our free Step-by-Step Intentional Living Workbook and access to our VIP FB group! That's where we share videos of our adventures and where the real action is. :)

 

Stepping Into The Unknown: A Lesson in Facing Your Fears

In ten days, our family of four is moving from Toronto, Canada to Puerto Escondido, Mexico.

When people learn of our plans to take a four month family sabbatical, the common response is "Wow! You’re so lucky!".

The truth is that it was not luck that got us here. It was perseverance.

This sojourn did not come easily. It was not presented to us on a silver platter as a pre-planned vacation package.

We designed it.

We created a vision and problem-solved a way into making it happen.

As a couple, we asked ourselves tough questions about our life, got super real with each other, and took action.

Stepping into the unknown forces you to face your fears and get comfortable with discomfort.

There were many tears,  moments of frustration, and obstacles to overcome.

Would our family support our decision?

Would we find tenants for our home? Would they be able to work with our dates?

Would our home insurance have to change?

Would Arjan get the time off?

Would my clients want to continue working with me, virtually?

Would our daughter’s school accept this life experience in lieu of traditional education?

Would we find affordable accommodations in Mexico?

Would we find airfare within our budget?

The list goes on and on.

These were all unknown factors that could have prevented us from even considering a four month family adventure.

But we persevered.

When things did not go according to plan, we shifted and went with the flow.

I am grateful that Arjan and I are aligned on our purpose and core values. Our connection is truly the glue that has kept this vision from crumbling at every obstacle (and believe me, there have been MANY!).

This whole experience has been like a puzzle. Pieces have appeared randomly, in no particular order, and over time, the picture has gradually come into focus. A wild, masterpiece, of our very own creation.

For a classic Type A personality (me!), the moving pieces and dis-order of the planning experience was super uncomfortable. There were (and still are!) many unknowns.

I did not have control and, let me tell you, that was really, really hard. But I knew it was part of the process and sucked it up.

I had to let go and trust.

And yet, through the perseverance and trusting the process, there is another truth.

I AM AFRAID.

I am afraid of the UNKNOWN.

We are intentionally choosing to uproot our family from our comfortable home, predictable schedule, and safe, loving community of family and friends.

We are choosing to enter into a place where we have minimal grasp of the language, no idea where the local supermarket is, and no community.

It will be uncomfortable.

It will be challenging.

It will be life-changing.

And all of that is scary.

Really, really scary.

But we are still going to do it.

We will jump into that uncertainty and face the unknown.

Together.

I have learned over the years that the greatest lessons are born from discomfort, for from discomfort, comes growth.

I want to grow.

And learn.

And ask the tough questions.

And, mostly, I want to LIVE MY TRUTH.

I want to model this for our children, so that they, in turn, can live their own truth.

I don’t want them to live the life that they think we want for them. I want them to live their own life.

If we look closely, every day is an “unknown”.

Though we find ways to feel secure; staying in the job with benefits, shopping at that all-organic grocery store (guilty!), and getting insurance for our homes, cars, and lives.

It all creates a false sense of security.

Believe me, I love feeling secure. I crave it in my home, in my relationships, in my schedule.

But I have gotten trapped in it, so much so, that I had to break free.

We could wake up tomorrow and lose that job, or worse, discover a health issue that prevents us from living the life we had imagined.

Time will continue to pass, that we know for certain.

I look at our kids and see how much they grow every year and am reminded that time is the most precious gift of all.

Get clear on what brings you joy, and choose to live life from a place of intention and purpose.

If it’s all unknown, then why the heck not?

GO LIVE YOUR LIFE. I dare you.

If it scares the shit of out you, that's a good sign.

Take it from this Type A mama.

Getting to the other side is scary, but the view is beautiful once you get there.

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Now it’s your turn…

What will you do with your time? How do you want to design your life?

What scares you? Excites you? 

Tell us in the comments below.

I know this is a big one, but I guarantee that you are not alone in whatever you are feeling. Let’s get this important conversation going!

If you are new to our community, be sure to grab your free Step-by-Step Intentional Living Workbook and get started on creating your very own adventure. We can’t wait to hear about where life takes YOU.

Big Love,

Allison (& Arjan!)

P.S. - If you are new to the blog - welcome! Check out the reason behind our move to Mexico here, and the realities of packing here. Keeping it real, every step of the way. ;)

P.S.S. - Don't forget to grab your free Intentional Living Workbook here!

 

Written by: Allison Villa

What It's Really Like to Pack Up Your House & Move to Mexico

In three weeks, our family of four is moving from Toronto, Canada to Puerto Escondido, Mexico.

We will be there for four glorious months, soaking up the sunshine and creating precious family memories.

Wait, let me re-phrase.

We will be parenting. 24/7. In Mexico.

I am sure we will create many family memories, but I have not deluded myself into thinking it will all be glorious.

Like packing up our house, for example. NOT glorious.

We have a lovely family who is renting our home while we are away (so very grateful!).

The house will be fully-furnished for them, but it will be free of our personal effects.

Yes, that means that all of the stuff conveniently hidden behind closet doors and tucked away in dresser drawers needs to be donated, sold, or packed away.

Now that it is crunch-time, I am going bananas. Even though we have been preparing for the past seven months, there is still so much to do! Ahhhhhhh.

Confession: I have zero patience and no tolerance for kid-drama. I am muffling f-bombs under my breath on the regular.  Parent of the year over here.

Thank goodness my parents are taking the girls for a sleepover this weekend.  I end up missing them like crazy, and upon their return realize that they are the sweetest children ever. A little bit of space always helps, right?

Let’s rewind a bit.

Seven months ago, when Arjan (my hubby) and I decided to take this adventure, it was liberating. Though the adventure itself was born from a breakdown, it truly ended up being a breakthrough in our marriage.

The initial feelings of making this decision were euphoric.

We had made a conscious decision to exit the rat-race and we felt like we were taking our lives back.

We had renewed energy for each other, and were looking forward in the same direction:

Family time.

Fresh, local food.

Sunshine.

Ocean.

So simple, yet so powerful. The vision of ‘Mexico’ gave us intention EVERY DAY.

We knew we would be renting out our home, so we got started on the massive project of downsizing.

Who knew that we had 12 stacks of neon post-it notes in various spots around the house?

There was an entire drawer devoted to hair elastics and old hair clips. Score, right? Except that when I tried to put my daughter’s hair in a ponytail, the elastic disintegrated in my hand.  Yes, they were that old.

My favourite find was a tiny ziploc bag of my belly rings, circa 1999. For the record, I have let that piercing grow in, and it is super sexy. Just saying.

For the items with more life left in them, we sold them online using local Facebook groups: From our daughter’s Jolly Jumper, to brand-name jeans that I never wore, to my husband’s bike gear.

We made almost $1000 selling stuff that was just lying around our house. That covers at least one flight to Mexico! Every $10 porch pick-up made a difference.

The key was being consistent every week about posting and selling. Let other people enjoy these items, instead of being forgotten about in a dark drawer, right?

What couldn’t be sold, was donated to local charities and shelters. We were creating more space in our home, and people in need were benefitting from this practice. It feels so good to have less and give more.

Essentially, through this process, we (accidentally!) became minimalists.

Living in a home with less stuff feels amazing. For me, having less clutter in our space gives me a sense of calm. I can actually sit-down and relax without feeling like there is something else to tidy up. Having less stuff means having less stuff to put away. So liberating!

The girls began to play with old toys that had previously been buried away under the clutter. Their desk area remains clear and they have space to craft and draw and colour. They are more creative in their play with each other. They too, are reaping the benefits of a more simple life.

Another euphoric side effect was that I felt like the calm, peaceful parent that I had always wanted to be.

I had patience and empathy for the girls in moments where I would usually lose my shit.

“I understand that it is hard to leave the park after five hours, honey. And that obviously you need the red cup RIGHT NOW. Let me give you a hug, while you thrash and scream in my face. No problem.”

I even surprised myself.

The fact that we had gotten clear on our values, and were literally living them every day, made me a better parent and a happier partner. I kept envisioning us in the sunshine on the beach and it gave me energy and intention.

All of this intentional living has been empowering for us as a couple. There is nothing more sexy than agency in a partner: When they choose to take action, without you having to remind them.

After our huge conversation in April, Arjan has been actively selling and donating his own stuff. It is awesome to be on the same page and working towards the same goal. Together.

Do you know what happens when you are working towards the same goal with your partner? You start having fun and being playful and remembering why you chose each other so many years ago!

Can I get an AMEN for the return of our sex life?! SERIOUSLY. (There will be an entire post dedicated to Sex After Kids - stay tuned!)

Even though we are currently in the weeds of packing, we are still committed to the same goal. To know that we are in this together, makes the hurdles and challenges worthwhile.

Truth be told, parenting in Mexico will be a welcome change from parenting during our cold, Canadian winter.

I’m sure there will plenty of new challenges, but bring ‘em on.

Arjan and I are ready.

On December 12th, we will get on that plane and our vision will be become a reality! Eeeeee!

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Now it’s your turn. We know that you want to be calm with your kids, connected with your partner and live an awesome life. This is why we created a freeworkbook to guide you through the process: Your Step-By-Step Intentional Living Workbook.

This is your chance to get clear on your values and live your intentional life.

We are totally rooting for you every step of the way and can’t wait to hear about what the future holds for you!

We’d love to hear from you. What do you dream of doing as a family or couple? And what is getting in your way? Please share in the comments below.

We are building a community of amazing parents and your voice is so important. Be honest and real - that’s we are all about!

Click here to get started on having this life-changing conversation with your partner.

You’ll be glad you did. I know we are.

Big love,

Allison (& Arjan!)

P.S. - If you missed our first blog post about what prompted our adventure to Mexico, check it our here.

P.S.S. - Check out our family packing dance party!

P.S.S.S. - Don’t forget to share your thoughts in the comments below. Can’t wait to hear about your journey!

 

Written by: Allison Villa

How This Mother's Breakdown Led to a Breakthrough and a Family Adventure to Mexico

It was the end of April.

I was slowly emerging from the blues that had plagued me since becoming a mother five years earlier. I felt like a shell of the fun, vibrant woman I used to be.

On that grey, wet, dull, day (April is still basically Winter), I had five, consecutive, kid-free hours, between drop-off and pick-up.

This meant that I would be running around all day doing errands, and would be exhausted by the time I picked up our kids, ages three and five.

The to-do list raced through my mind: we just ran out of toilet paper, our eldest needed new indoor shoes for school, dinner needed to go in the crock pot before noon, and today was the last day that I could return the lightbulbs (I had bought the wrong ones...again….ugh).

“Is this IT?” I remember thinking. THIS is what I hustled my way through my twenties and early thirties for?

Within the span of five short years, I had met and married the love of my life, was blessed with two daughters, bought a home (and renovated it), and went back to school for my new chosen career path. Being granted the professional designation as a Registered Psychotherapist was a finish line that had seemed unreachable during those years with two young children.

It was SO MUCH WORK to get to that finish line.

Except the finish line was just some type of mirage.

I felt like life was punk’ing me.

Turns out the finish line was just a never-ending racetrack of work, and pick-ups, and drop-offs, and errands, and appointments, and cooking, and grocery shopping, and meeting my children’s emotional needs, and almost having sex, and and and and --

WHERE was the confetti and big happy ending that I had imagined?

There was supposed to be glitter and unicorns once I got that professional designation. It was the final piece of the life puzzle that would solidify my success as a full-fledged adult.

But the glitter wasn’t there. And there sure weren’t any unicorns.

Everything was the same.

I was still overwhelmed on my day “off”.

I could already see how the day would unfold; I would pick up the kids, eventually tear them away from the school playground, prepare dinner as they found various ways to annoy each other (I love them like crazy, but let’s keep it real), then my husband, Arjan, would walk in the door as it all came to a roaring climax.

I had become the mean-mom, and resentful-wife.

This scene would repeat again the next day. And then the next day after that. Until we got to the weekend where we crammed in the kid’s lessons, birthday parties, and if we were lucky, some social time with our own friends.

The thought of continuing this cycle, left me in a dark, dark hole.

I couldn’t do it anymore.

I called my husband, having come to the conclusion that if our life continued in this direction, our marriage would be doomed to fail and I would be the most miserable mother of all time.

His response to my emotional breakdown only amplified my fear.

“But I am happy with our life.” he said, answering his troubled wife’s phone call in the middle of his work day.

Oh no, I thought. If he is okay with this, and this is not okay for me, then we are in BIG TROUBLE.

I paused my racing thoughts until the kids were in bed that night.

Had I chosen the right partner?

The right career?

What the fuck was I doing all of this for?

And for who?

I had spent my twenties as a performer; a life filled with self-expression, creativity, travel, and like-minded artists. Had I somehow made a wrong turn? I had left that career behind to have a family and create more stability. Isn’t THIS what I wanted?

We sat down on the couch and proceeded to begin the most life-altering conversation of our lives.

It was a pivotal moment, where the fate of our marriage was palpable.

To my great relief, he realized that he too, wasn’t happy. Though he enjoyed his work culture, he felt that he was missing precious moments with our kids.

We both longed for more time together as a couple, and for more time together as a family.

This conversation continued every night, for a week. We shared our individual goals, family dreams and everything in between.

We were getting clear on our values and in doing so, had renewed connection with each other.

We acknowledged that we are better parents when we are parenting together, and five years with me as the primary caregiver, while running my own business, was leaving me depleted.

The first thing that needed to change: How could Arjan make space in his schedule to have more time with us?

We agreed that time is a resource, one that is far more valuable than money.  We didn't want to wait until retirement to have time together and to travel...we wanted our children to experience the world beyond our nine-to-five routine. (Like seriously though -- what is this fucking life that we’ve been sold to work your hardest in your fittest and most mentally alert years -- and to save up all your time for when you’re 65++. It’s whack!!!)

We had one problem: MONEY.

How could we afford to travel? Take time off of work? We had a mortgage, bills to pay, and mouths to feed.

We looked at the facts: We own a house in Toronto, Canada’s largest city. We live on a strict budget with a modest annual five-figure income. The cost of living is high, no matter where you live these days.

How could we afford to travel AND have more time as a family?

The more we talked, the more our vision came into focus.

Once we let go of social and cultural expectations, there were many exciting possibilities. We even considered selling our house and moving to Nicaragua! (Pretty cool, right?!)

The conversations evolved into fun, playful interactions, ones that left us both (re)energized and hopeful for what was to come.

After plenty of brainstorming, number-crunching, and research, we found a way to spend the winter of 2018 in Mexico. Yes, MEXICO!

My best friend, Mara, had visited a little surf town called Puerto Escondido with her family, and raved about it. Being a smaller town, it had a lower cost of living; a crucial factor in making our vision a reality!

Arjan would take an unpaid sabbatical and I would work remotely, 5-10 hours per week.

If we could find a family to rent out our furnished home, we could make it work. (There will be an entire post on how we budgeted for this trip  - stay tuned!)

So, here we are: three weeks until we move to Mexico.

Seven months ago, I wasn’t sure if our marriage would survive.

Today, I am proud to say, that Arjan and I have never felt more connected and aligned. We totally got our mojo back. (Phewf)

We hope to give other parents inspiration and support in finding the same success; Your idea of success, based on your values.

Be sure to join our mailing list for tools to stay connected as a couple, and to get the inside scoop on our adventure.

The next challenge for us will be packing all of our personal effects, and eventually, adjusting to life as full-time parents, in a foreign country.

Did I mention that we don’t speak any Spanish...yet?