When a group of moms plan a night out together, the simpler the process the better! Check out our Paintball experience with WagJag and Paintball Nation here!
When a group of moms plan a night out together, the simpler the process the better! Check out our Paintball experience with WagJag and Paintball Nation here!
How do you do it?
No seriously. HOW do you do it?!?!
I am a planner, so before we head out anywhere, I’ve got a trunk full of supplies that we might need if someone spills something, pees something, gets cold, gets A cold, is hungry, bored, and so forth. Even with that extra tonnage in my poor little trunk, a Mom’s plan doesn’t always stick. #rude. Also, don’t get me wrong. I am NOT (I repeat, NOT) one of those lovely patient Mom’s who walks into a situation like this looking like it’s a breeze. I’m worked up and constantly telling myself it’s not ok to jump out of a moving vehicle when things get crazy.
So here’s the trick, in my opinion of course:
1. I really feel like kids don’t need a lot of STUFF, but COLOURING can keep them busy forever. Crayola seems to be my new best friend these days because you can print off a thousand colouring pages from their website and continue passing them into the back seat. (A THOUSANDDDD? Really…Ok, I’m dramatic, but let’s not forget that I’m TRAVELLING WITH KIDS FOR GOODNESS SAKES!!)
2. Snacks!! Yes, I know, my trunk is already filled with my trusty cooler in tow, but there is more fun to be had than just eating snacks. It takes a little bit of imagination and time, but it’s worth it for the 17 minutes of sanity you get in the car. Pack a a sandwich container (also used to display the little snack men and women) with edible items that can be put together to make a person. We’ve used a few straight pretzels, large and small marshmallows, licorice strings, Cheerios, berries, chocolate chips (those never seem to last), berries, shredded coconut and popcorn. I will not lie to you…I have no plan for these items, and there are often other randoms thrown in, but it’s the imagination part that is so entertaining for them.
3. Seat back DVD players. I’m no Saint. Mama needs some quiet time.
4. Depending on the length of the trip, wrap different toys they already own with newspaper (do those still exist?) Each hour they get to open a new package that will excite them for another 6 minutes until you’re yelling that they need to “FIGURE IT OUT” for another 54 minutes. It’s like that age old trick where you tell them to clean their room and they spend the entire time playing with toys they found. #winning
5. Pool Noodles. No, this isn’t a joke. You’ll likely have to cut them into thirds, and your kids need to be good sports about it, but these soft little swords can make for endless entertainment. First – hit each other with them. Then, when everyone is crying, pull out the pipecleaners and turn it into another craft. There is no doubt in my mind that your car will be an absolute disaster when you arrive at your destination but guess what….
Everyone arrives alive.
If you’ve got some brilliant ideas of your own, do not hoard them like you do with chocolate or wine. This is about sharing and we want to hear it! Send to firstname.lastname@example.org
Check out our NEWEST blog, highlighting our Dad & Daughter Date to uFly Simulator through WagJag Canada HERE!!
“What? That’s boring!”
Those above words came right out of my own mouth when someone suggested I have a weekly date with my husband at home in order to better balance my life with family and a home based business.
Let’s back up a little bit here. Anyone who has a job or kids, knows that time can fly by in the blink of an eye, and before we know it, weeks and sometimes months have passed without a date night. That was us. Our excuse was that since we both ran our own businesses, mine from home, and his with flexible hours, we saw more of each other than the average couple. True…BUT…what kind of quality time were we spending together?
Our date nights consisted of going grocery shopping together (a real treat without kids, let me tell you), followed by dinner. I can’t tell you how many times we planned for a movie on top of that (a real triple whammy), but when the clock said 8:45, we were just too tired to go.
At one point in my business, I had realized that the time I was putting into my work was taking away from the time I was spending with my husband. I told myself that because he was so understanding about what I did, that he didn’t mind, and he didn’t for the first few months. But, there’s a point where husbands and wives can become roommates if you don’t put in the time, and that’s what was happening to us.
When thinking about going on a date, the idea that a night out is expensive can cross the mind a few times. Add a babysitter on top of that, and this good ol’ Dutch girl starts averaging out what we might spend and what we could do with that money instead, so it gets kiboshed pretty quickly.
What we recognized though, was that dates don’t have to be expensive to be good dates. It’s not about where we go, how fancy our dinner is, what we wear or who we see. Dates are about spending time together and completely unplugging from the world, so we committed to making a weekly date night. Every Thursday night we put the girls to bed, close the laptop, put the phones away, and just spend time together to reconnect.
Here are a few of our date ideas that can be enjoyed at home, and just about at zero added cost:
Here’s the real dinger, my friends.
We do these things. We cook, bake, eat, watch TV, dream, and play, but the #1 thing that has helped our relationship grow to higher levels is adding communication to whatever we are doing. In a world filled with stimulation, the art of communication is easily lost. Compliment each other. Tell your spouse what you admire most about them. What makes them a great parent? What is their greatest quality? What made you fall in love with them?Dating at home is easy, affordable, and the most beautiful way to be without makeup, in the glow of the life you’ve built, dreaming of the next chapters you will write together.
The picture above is one we took together at home, girls napping, an hour to ourselves. Raw, real, together. Chairs on the table because our toddler is a climber. Laundry piled high. Dust bunnies in corners. Together. Forever.
Though we’re only about a week into November, stores have been showcasing their Christmas gear for a couple of weeks now, and guess what? I love it! But, if you’re like me, two plus months of Christmas all up in my grill meant I was spending twice as much money on STUFF.
When my first daughter was born, Christmas morning was a gong show. She didn’t care about anything but the crinkle sound of the wrapping paper, and my idea of a “perfect Christmas” was squashed when she wasn’t as excited for her brand new pink shoes as I was when I bought them. Uh, excuse me, 11 month old…these kicks are amazing. *crinkle crinkle* Oh great, her full priced, unpractical, name brand pink kicks that she will only wear 4 times come with tissue paper. Neat. I might as well crumple up a few $20 dollar bills in a box and watch her rip those up instead.
Being the new baby, it seemed like everyone wanted to give her a toy or stuffie, and while the generosity and love oozed out of our friends and family during the season, the gifts didn’t get used nearly enough, and sat in her playroom looking adorable until the time came to donate to a new family.
So how do we get ready for the holidays and start new traditions that have less to do with presents, and more time with moments? I have been on many donation rampages where I whip through the house filling garbage bags and bins full of STUFF just to clear the clutter, and you know what? It feels GOOD! Last month I donated 4 garbage bags full of toys that the kids still haven’t noticed are gone – that was a real wake up call, especially when I was preparing myself for a war. (I shall consider this a Mom Win since those don’t happen so often. Note to self: send myself a medal).
Though STUFF is cute, fuzzy, twinkly and loud, it doesn’t do too much in the department of making memories or spending time with family, and before anyone thinks “She doesn’t like toys?? I bet she doesn’t let her kids watch TV either”…I do. More than they should. In fact, I would love for Santa to bring me some seat back DVD players for my car so I can drive 15 minutes in peace. The truth is, I waltz through Costco or Toys R Us and look at all the beautiful toys I know the kids would love for about 11 days, but I force myself to leave them on the shelves, because do you know what we have the most fun doing? STUFF.
Not having stuff, but doing stuff!
Here are some ideas that we try to follow as a family, and perhaps it’ll give you an idea to incorporate into your own traditions, or even give you a great gift idea for nieces, nephews, friends and grandparents:
My girls are 5 and 18 months, so when we write to Santa, we kindly ask him to only bring a few fun things for us, and to be sure to give the other toys to kids who are in need. (As a side note: teaching kids to GIVE more is a gift in itself). While Santa brings crafts, toys, and games, Mom and Dad are in charge of the books, needed clothing, and the STUFF that we hope they will remember doing as a family, like seasons passes to the African Lion Safari, which is amazing for all seasons (great splash pad!), indoor playground passes, butterfly conservatories, and movie tickets.
Some of my favourite gift ideas come from WagJag where you can search Family Activities like Disney On Ice tickets, Paintball, or even a Flight Simulation Experience! They’ve also got Travel experiences (my FAVOURITE) which are great for short getaways, dates with your significant other, or full out vacations! Right now, my list to Santa includes the Ice Hotel in Montreal (you hear me, Santa?), and some awesome getaways to Niagara Falls that include your stay, plus a ton of credits and discounts at local restaurants and attractions!
Now what on earth do we do with the pictures we take on these dates, because my scrapbooking career ended long ago after spending a bajillion dollars on supplies, only to make 3 pages and quit. With the ability to make awesome photo books through Shutterfly, I really don’t have to do any thinking (great news) and they look incredible! (Another great stocking stuffer idea for Mom! Santa…you better be reading this blog!)
Ultimately, we didn’t decide to have kids only to miss their milestones, or to work ourselves to the bone to see them before bed. This life, these kids, and our time is so precious, so when our kids are 30 and they tell us their favourite memories growing up, we’ll know it was more about the time spent together, and less about the stuff that filled their rooms.
…and if I may add one more thing here (I can, it’s my blog), take more pictures. I love a good selfie on occasion, but Dad – take more pictures of Mom, and Mom – take more pictures of Dad, both individually and with the kids. Take pictures when someone is laughing to tears, when one is reading to another, while someone is sleeping, while they hold hands walking into a store. Take pictures to mould memories of the little things that may not have formed as a memory yet, but when the kids look back at their photo book, they’ll see love in many forms. (Can I cry? It’s my blog)
I LOVE spontaneous dates. Love them. It was 3pm on Sunday afternoon, and we were all lounging around the living room after a tantrum, a walk, and some lunch, and I looked over to my husband and said “If I were to plan a surprise for the family, would you be in for it?” He, likely assuming I meant for another day, said yes…
12 minutes later, we were booked for a night at Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara Falls, and I was herding cats to get ready to leave the house within the next 20 minutes. Now, if your Mother comes running upstairs and yells “I don’t have time to explain!! Grab your costumes, a bathing suit and your toothbrush” you just do it. I wish I could have captured their faces as I yelled it. Confusion mixed with pure fear.
Note to self: yell more, I really get stuff done.
We usually can’t get further than 7 minutes in the car without being asked “Are we there yet?” so this hour drive was interesting. Thankfully, Nova knew we were off for some fun, and Luna goes with the flow. Every second of our experience with Great Wolf Lodge, from the moment we walked up to the front doors, to the moment we left, was magical. It was like that Disneyworld feel, without having to fly or wait in line ups, so it was the perfect short getaway for our family.
I could barely contain myself just watching the awe in these little eyeballs, and I try very hard not to get emotional with stuff like this, (Okay, I don’t try, I let it rip) because the experiences are the moments I’m so in love with. Being October, we experienced their Howl-O-Ween event, so the lobby (they call it their Grand Living Room) was decked out beautifully while adding a little kid-friendly spook to it. Everything is very “lodge-y” so it’s a little dim for lighting, but all a part of the awesomeness.
We quickly checked in (with the very friendly Adam (the vampire) – they all wear costumes for Howl-O-Ween) and ran to our rooms to get into our bathing suits, but the girls kept stopping along the way to check out the talking Forest Friends, the gift shop, and all the mini creatures who greeted us. Now, I have been to an indoor waterpark or two in my lifetime, but this one topped them all. EVERYTHING about the waterpark was squeal-worthy (I’m talking about me here) With two kids, four years apart in age, we were still able to do so much at the same time, even one of the huge waterslides which our 18 month old LOVED, and with our waterproof bracelets (also used as room keys – GENIUS) we could tap before we went down the slide and the camera would snap our pictures!
You will definitely want to check out all of the waterslides, pools, and water activities HERE because I spent more time in the water than I did taking pictures (family win)!
There’s one slide I forced Morgan to go on, strictly because I wanted a photo for this blog. This thing terrified me (and I can’t stop laughing at how terrified he looks as the floor drops from beneath him). YES – the FLOOR drops out and before your heart has a full attack, you’re at the bottom safely within about 6 seconds. I might have made a joke or two about him peeing himself out of sheer terror, but was reminded that I’m the one who does that (thank you Baby 1 and Baby 2).
Since we arrived around dinnertime, our first evening of waterparking was successful, but we were tuckered out, so we headed back to the room for a few snacks and a pizza from Northwoods Pizza Company (YUM/affordable/they sell wine), threw on our costumes and went back to the Grand Living Room for “Spooktacular Story Time” and Trick-or-Treating! Again, the waterworks in my own eyeballs started to kick in, but the girls kept busy, and entertained with everything their family event calendar offered, so I just sat back and snapped pics while storing some in my mental bank.
While we were there, we saw kids and adults running around with these awesome magical wands they had purchased at the gift shop so they could experience their MagiQuest journey. At first I thought they magically did your dishes, or the laundry, but apparently it’s a different type of magic (rude). They were able to open treasure boxes of jewels, receive hints on where to go next, while deciphering hidden messages along the way, meeting Pixies, battle an evil dragon and fight the Goblin King! (Or that’s what some 5 year old boy told me anyway, after giving me a disgusted “you DON’T KNOW what MagiQuest is?” look). The gift shop though, is a must visit. I didn’t find it overpriced which is always a nice treats for adults – (we cheered)
Though it’s a huge resort, everything is very centrally located, so we didn’t have any troubles getting around, even though we forgot our stroller (that happens when you plan a trip in 20 minutes). Between the 1st and 2nd floor you’ve got everything you need – lobby, gift shop, buffet restaurant, coffee shop, waterpark, pizza, the arcade, a mini bowling alley, and even the most adorable Scoops Spa for kids and adults. Though busy, it was never too much to handle. It seemed like all the kids were so well entertained that you didn’t hear any tantrums (except for the one my kid gifted us with) or screaming, except for the shrieks of pure joy (again, from me).
While poking around the Grand Living Room, we found out there are SO MANY annual celebrations at Great Wolf. Whether it’s Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, a Birthday, Easter, Hallowe’en, or Christmas, the entire place is transformed to make sure that you too can create beautiful memories together. While planning an overnight in such a short period of time doesn’t always flow so smoothly, Great Wolf Lodge was the PERFECT mini getaway to recharge our batteries and get reacquainted with each other to have some fun.
Life can definitely get busy, and though this was also a busy getaway, it brought us a brand new bank of memories and moments to last a lifetime. We will be back, and next time we’ll plan ahead and book a themed suite because they are “SOOO SUITE” (#momjoke).
Exploring is by far one of our favourite family dates. We head out with what we’ve got on, a few snacks for these little gremlins (because, Heaven forbid we end up 6 minutes from home and someone is suddenly mere seconds from “Hangry”), a couple changes of clothes (because we NEVER know what could happen) and a camera. This picture was taken while exploring our backyard and where it led to from the property line, where we discovered whimsical trees, the most beautiful Fall colours, a “secret” pond, colourful berries (which we didn’t eat) and the quiet of just the wind blowing, leaves crunching under our feet, and the occasional toddler tantrum (seems there’s no escaping that one!).
To add to the lessons of life and love into our day date, we talk about how the animals raise their young within these trees, what their names are, and what they are having for dinner. Our kids are just 5 years old, and 18 months, and the power of their imagination is so important for us to embrace. Plus, sometimes it’s hilarious enough to keep a straight face when you’re told that Mr. Bird’s real name is Leenis, and he has a …well, you know.
As Nova gathered ingredients for her magic potion, she would stop along the way to mash them together with a heart-shaped rock. Smearing the colours of nature across her rocks, she left them to the side to feed any stray animals who might be making their way down the path. Luna…well, we had to keep Luna from eating the magic potion – a challenge.
Time spent with the people we love so deeply is our #1 priority, and something that is only a few years new to us. We had never recognized the opportunity to create more time together when we were giving all of it to our jobs, but thankfully, we figured it out and now we MAKE the time. Even when it’s a full moon (or, is it? All I know is that no one slept last night), getting outside to breathe in the fresh air, and to feel so small in a world so big…it just seems to ground us. We are reminded of what time together does for our spirit. Life can be so busy, and though we promote time freedom, we are also busy raising kids, and working our own businesses too, so these date reminders are not just for you, but for us too! It’s funny, but I always have to remind myself to take pictures with my husband and I, instead of just the kids, and when the sun is so bright you are blinded, you still take it and remember the good times! I sort of love these types anyway…I might save them to embarass the girls with when they’re older *slides file into “Teenage Years” folder*
Parenting can be tough thought, right? My husband is the most patient man on the face of the planet, and I strive to learn more about patience each day, so even when a date is spontaneously planned, or has been planned for a while, we can’t always expect it to be flawless. Even the simplest dates, like a gorgeous stroll through Mother Nature’s creations, someone can end up face first in a burr bush within the first two minutes.
We can’t possibly go another day having missed moments due to the hustle of life, because those of us who have kids, or plan to expand their family in the future, or are working on the process right now (we’ll post some dates for that another time *meow*), we don’t welcome these sweet spirits into our life to miss moments.
It truly is time for freedom, isn’t it? While raising these little ones, the days can sometimes seem so long, but the years seem so short. Already today, after putting Luna down for a nap, I asked Nova to talk to me…about life, school, even Christmas, and guess what, she wanted to read instead, and at that very moment I felt pride but also a little bit of sadness. It was one of those nudges from the Universe that reminded me that she won’t be little forever.
Whoa, did this just turn into a Mom blog? No. Well, sort of.
It always will be a part of these dates because that’s my #1 job – Mom. Here’s the thing though, these free dates, this time spent being blessed by simple moments, they’re memories. I want my kids to grow up remembering that Mom and Dad didn’t spend money filling their toy room, or buying them the newest clothing or gadgets, but instead, moments were made, and sometimes those moments required money, but ultimately the goal was the same: to be together.