Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The New Midnight: Celebrating New Year's Eve with Kids

New Year's Eve is just a little bit different than it used to be pre-kids.  There used to be so much pressure on where you would go, and now, with four young kids in the middle of flu season, it's pretty easy to decide...we stay home.  I remember the worst New Year's Eve we had where the highlight was going through the car wash.  Truth be told, the boys found it extremely enjoyable but I realized then that we needed a plan.

Nine pm is the new midnight for so many parents and we are in that mix.  We'll have a special dinner, play some games as a family, and then when we get close to countdown time, we'll use one of Netflix's countdown shows to ring in the new year.

{Trying out the celebratory gear}

There are six on-demand countdowns to choose from and you just need to type in "New Year's Eve Countdown" into the search bar on Netflix.  Last year we used All Hail King Julien and we'll have to see what the kids choose this year although I have a feeling it will be Mr. Peabody and Sherman.

Do you have any special New Year's Eve plans? Be safe and have fun, friends!


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A Part of Me Is Missing

I love one-on-one time with friends and family.  I enjoy being able to sit with a coffee or walk side-by-side and get caught up by asking questions and really hearing what's going on.  Having so many kids has made this difficult.  The older boys tend to need a referee – either from each other or from the food as they would just go to town on it all (there was a recent incident with an unsupervised bowl of Cheezies.)  The younger two usually need some help with various things from sharing to puzzles to toileting stuff.  In our own home, this can be okay if there are no other kids in the mix; bring in more kids and there will be more incidents, especially with our Little One. In someone else's home, I need to be aware of potential hazards and breakables.  I think I'm hyper-vigilant because one of our kids isn't truly mine and I feel this great responsibility.

This is hard.  At our two extended family Christmas dinners, I felt like we were just managing our kids, especially because they weren't feeling 100%.  It was difficult to get any deeper into conversations which is what I truly love.  I want to skip right from the "I love your sweater, where did you get it?" to "What are you loving about life right now? What are you struggling with?" without all the talk of weather and vehicles in between. Instead, managing kids plus feeble attempts at engagement often results in feeling exhausted and disappointed.

I know this is a stage. I know it's worth it.  I know I need to alter my expectations. I know setting aside kid-free time to visit is important.  If I run into you and seem less "there", this is why.  Anyone else feel this way?


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Monday, December 28, 2015

An Adventure-Filled Winter Wonderland: Sea To Sky Gondola

What says "B.C." to me?  Nature's adventure-filled playground with breath-taking views.  Over the holidays we love to do one extra special excursion and this year's location was spectacular! The boys and I drove to Squamish to experience some of the sights that beautiful B.C. is famous for on the Sea to Sky Gondola.

Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish BC

The twelve minute gondola ride (which was Koen's highlight) gave us an amazing view of Howe Sound. It is open year-long and we will definitely have to go back to experience hiking in the alpine beauty during the summer.

Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish BC

Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish BC

Once up at the top, we did a loop. We started at the Spirit Viewing Platform and then walked along the Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge. I'm glad I had just two kids with me because it was a bit slippery and I'm afraid of heights.

Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish BC

Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish BC

Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish BC

Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish BC

Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish BC

Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish BC

Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish BC

We then walked along the Spirit Trail which is about ten minutes long and does not require snowshoes (note that you can rent snowshoes there or bring your own up!)  It was perfect for my boys as it was completely safe and they could let off excess energy by throwing snowballs, shaking snow off of trees onto themselves, and falling into the snow banks.

Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish BC

Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish BC

Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish BC

Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish BC

We had passes to go to the Tube Park which is a definite "must do" if you have kids over 42" tall. The pass is just $5 a person and the ride down had me screaming more than once. 

Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish BC

 You need to slide down and walk up so be prepared for that (and possibly pulling your six-year-old son's tube up too!) There is a sweet cliff-top viewing deck where you can watch all of the action.Tubing was the highlight for Kai.

Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish BC

All of the attendants that we ran into were so friendly and helpful, I truly appreciated their service!

Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish BC

We took a break to enjoy some lunch at the Summit Restaurant. Koen loved his crepes off the kid's menu and licked his plate clean. Kai and I shared a tomato bisque soup and hamburger – super yummy food! The view from inside the Summit Lodge is unbelievable and there are places to eat if you bring in your own food. There's also a train table and activity area for young kids to play at.

Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish BC

We decided to do one more loop over the suspension bridge before heading back home.

Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish BC

Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish BC

I have been wanting a mother-son(s) adventure day for a while and this was better than I ever imagined! A family pass is $95.95 but you can also purchase tickets online to save money (kids five and under are free.) If you live in B.C., a trip up the gondola would be highly recommended – I'm so glad we finally did it! Also, if you have a friend or relative visiting, what better way is there to show them B.C.'s beauty?

Have you been up the Sea to Sky Gondola? What season did you go?

A great adventure activity in the winter and summer near Squamish, BC.

PS Here's a video Gary put together of our fun morning!

**Disclaimer: We were provided with tickets to the Sea to Sky Gondola for this review and opinions are our own.  Seriously though, we LOVED it! **

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Gift of Comfort

I'm not a gift person.  I stress out buying them for others because I'm a people pleaser and I'm afraid they won't like it – I don't want to put them in the awkward position of pretending.  I like spending money on practical things so throwing out money to buy a gift because I'm supposed to goes against how I feel.  Sure, I like to buy my kids things that they need want "so badly", or maybe something for Gary if I know he'd love it, but other than that, I'd prefer not to.  I rarely get excited about anything given to me which is strange because I'm an expressive person.  I'm a sentimental girl who loves words of affirmation (a card can most definitely make me cry!) and appreciate the practicality of a gift card. Oh, and anything food related is always enjoyed.

What was my favourite gift this Christmas?  A pillow – but not just any pillow.  My mom passed away ten years ago and although I have photos and a few keepsakes, it is hard to truly recall the comfort and closeness of our relationship at this stage of grief and loss.  To be honest, sometimes I don't want to feel that connection to her because it just makes the reality harder.  As a family, we have very few personal items of hers around.  I have a special ring and some of her dishes and, well, I guess nothing would ever make it enough.  This Christmas, my dad's wife Joanne, made all of us sisters a pillow out of my mom's special bathrobe.  

I love this gift.  I cuddled up to that pillow in bed and felt like I was hugging my mom.  It was comforting after all of these years and yet I was tempted to remove it from my bed because I felt so much.  I think I might even go as far as buying her favourite face cream and putting it on the pillow as it would remind me of when she would come and kiss us goodnight before we fell asleep.  I highly recommend saving clothing from a loved one that has passed to make a pillow or quilt (well, I can't sew so it requires asking someone else.)   I know others have made quilts of their kid's baby clothing to remember just the sweet days that have passed by.

Do you have a special way to connect to those that you have lost?  What kind of gift do you appreciate most?


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Thankful Thursday

Merry Christmas, friends.  We had a rough week with a mix of fevers, croupy coughs, and vomiting but Nya is now on antibiotics for bronchitis and an ear infection so we should be better by tomorrow. This week I am thankful for:

1. Birthday parties for the cousins. My kids have 18 cousins (total from both sides) and all live within an hour of us.  My side of the family has all young ones so birthday parties are mostly made up of our families :)

2.  Time away with friends.  It is nice having Gary home for a break!  I got away with my friends for an afternoon to go snowshoeing at Seymour.  It was definitely nice just focusing on dressing myself and not worrying about any complaining :)

3.  Snowshoeing with my family.  I love the age that Kai is at (9) as he just goes and doesn't complain.

4.  Prebuilt gingerbread houses.  Let's be serious, there's no way I can handle anything more than that at this point :)

5.  How Koen spells my name.

6.  A day with just our family.  I feel bad leaving our Little One behind but we hadn't done a family activity with just us since August.  It was nice.

7. Snow.  We had a little taste of it this week :)

8. Cuddles with Nya.  She loves to say things about how much her heart loves me and needs me and how I'm her best friend.  We share a love language of words of affirmation so we just encourage each other daily :)

9.  Going to the "Grandma Tree". Gary's parents have a tree with small gifts for the kids and we go there several times before Christmas for the kids to pick a gift each time.

 10.  Dinner by candlelight. It was a hit.

Oh yes, I'm also thankful for a date night with Gary where we went to see Star Wars.  It was a late show but it was great to get out together and see Gary giddy over a movie.

Merry Christmas, friends.  I hope you are having a wonderful Christmas Eve!


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Ten Tips for Snowshoeing With Kids

Every year we go snowshoeing with our kids. We own our own snowshoes and hike in the Provincial Park so it is free. This year, we experienced the most beautiful snow we have seen up there – it was gorgeous!  About ten minutes into our snowshoe, I asked Koen how much energy he had and he said 88% left. Thirty seconds later he gave me an update: 23%. Snowshoeing is always an adventure for our family and that is mostly in regards to our kids' attitudes as it's cold, they are in different clothing, and it takes a few minutes to get used to walking in snowshoes. 

Before heading out into the wilderness always be sure to tell someone else your plan (route and return time) and have a map and emergency supplies with you. Emergency supplies include an emergency blanket, food, water, flashlight and matches. 

My tips for snowshoeing with kids:

1. Arrive early for a good parking spot so you don't have to spend too long getting the trail head. 

We usually aim to arrive at 9 am.

2.  Give the older kids their own backpacks and hydration packs if you have them.

Then you won't be opening your backpack every five minutes to get them water.

3. Pack snacks.

It takes a lot of energy to snowshoe so make sure to have snack breaks! 

4. Wear layers. 

You never know what the conditions will be like; toques and gloves are a must.  Snow pants aren't necessary (temperature dependent) and rain pants work just fine over a warm base layer. 

5. Have a giant bin for all of your clothes in the trunk .

Once you are done you can toss all of the wet stuff in there. Be sure to pack some extra dry socks in case someone's boots aren't completely waterproof and it always feels good to put on different shoes afterwards.

6. Be flexible and choose a simple route.

You might envision getting to the peak but making it just halfway to the lake is okay too.  Let them slide down the hills or write their names in the snow. It's more about the journey which I remind myself of frequently.

7. Bring a thermos of hot chocolate!

We have ours once we're done – it's the perfect way to warm up and celebrate!

8.  Take a carrier for kids four and under.

They can get out and run around in their boots on the trail but I do find it is difficult for younger kids to "get" snowshoeing. 

9.  Bring a hiking pole.  

Our six-year-old found that it helped him up hills and when he didn't use it, Gary used it as a selfie stick for his GoPro.

10.  Make sure to wear comfortable waterproof boots.  

One year we made the mistake of putting Koen in boots he hadn't worn before and when the blisters came, the snowshoeing was no longer fun.

{"Snow is my favourite season" said Nya}

I hope that no matter where you are that you have the chance to enjoy some snowy goodness! Have you gone snowshoeing before?


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Would you like to go snowshoeing with your kids? It's an affordable winter activity that is good for all ages! Here are ten tips to make it go smoothly.