Great Wolf Lodge

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.

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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.

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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.GWL 30.png

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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)!

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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).GWL Morgan.jpg

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.

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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)

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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).

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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).

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Exploring Our Backyard

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!).

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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.

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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.

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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*

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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.

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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.

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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.

Forever.

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Westfield Heritage Village

We spent Friday morning at Westfield Heritage Village as a family, which offered us a great balance of education while also being fun, and of course entertaining for kids to see what life was like 200 years ago! Walking through the gorgeous village, there are over 30 historical buildings which have all been carefully restored, and throughout our self guided tour we were met by costumed interpreters, making our experience that much better (almost makes you feel bad whipping out your cell phone to take a selfie…but we did it anyway).

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Westfield Heritage Village is now owned and maintained by the Hamilton Conservation Authority so their Conservation Pass is entirely worth the investment to visit places like Westfield in all seasons, as well as for events surrounding the Ice Cream Festival, Maple Syrup season, Hallowe’en and Christmas. Whether you’re walking through the coloured leaves of Fall, or through a light dusting of snow in December, the pictures you take will be frame-worthy, and the memories made are priceless.

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I recognize how challenging it can be to find a wedding venue that offers a beautiful place to say your vows, followed by a reception area that suits everyone from kids to your Great Aunt Mildred (who disapproves of almost everything/everyone), with the most scenic backgrounds for your forever photos, but THIS is the place. I’ve been to a wedding at the Victorian Church myself, and look forward to a few of you readers getting hitched here with the hopes you invite me so I can experience it again! Plus, if you need a bridesmaid, I am available…*checks calendar*…yup. Wide open.

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Another great family date idea is to visit their annual Telling Tales event, where thousands of kids are entertained by 25 of Canada’s best children’s authors, illustrators, storytellers and musicians. Now, before I lose you, the grounds here are so large that “thousands of kids” are widely spread out among the village, so it’s always a comfortable crowd. Mine are usually tugging me in the direction of the gift shop which offers melt-in-your-mouth maple treats, plus some sweet memories of toys and trinkets from before iPad’s were a thing.

All in all, Westfield Heritage Village is a stunning place for a day date. I visit with my husband on weekdays when it’s quiet so we can walk around slowly, admiring the buildings and the stillness of the village, and with the kids we attend all their big events on weekends! Visit their website or Facebook page to show off your pictures and review of this beautiful collection of heritage buildings, meadows and trails!

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Pictures used from westfieldheritage.ca and personal iPhone pictures.

Rockton World’s Fair

The Rockton World’s Fair is a family tradition many hold close to their hearts each Thanksgiving weekend as we remember how grateful we are for fair food (Panzerolli’s, Poutine and Mini Donuts – to name a few of my faves), the Demolition Derby, the largest pumpkins, pie eating contests, and carnival rides. Oh, and family. Also grateful for family.rockton fair games.png

I’ve been going to the Rockton Fair for as long as I can remember. Neither my husband or I have missed a year, and now that we’ve got two kids ourselves, we continue the tradition each Thanksgiving weekend. First stop – The Panzerolli Wagon. This might just be a personal choice here, but that place is a staple at the Rockton Fair and everyone knows about it, and boasts about it. Thursday nights are Toonie Thursdays where each Midway ride is only $2 but the best part about it (for you families with kids), there are no lines! You basically get the place to yourself which is ideal when you’ve got an 18 month old who would rather touch the ketchup dispensers, and steal the rubber ducks from the carnival games than go on rides. This makes it easier for our 5 year old who loves them!rockton fair carosel.png

Friday nights the Midway starts at 4pm and you can get yourself an “All You Can Ride” bracelet and enjoy being tossed around the rides that I used to love as a kid and now get nauseous looking at as I walk by. If you’re smart, you’ll stand under the really scary ones and catch the cell phones and wallets that fall off the passengers. At night, bring your blankets and your ear plugs to the Demolition Derby and watch the drivers immitate mall parking lots a week before Christmas. It’s loud, and smokey, and another must see at the fair.

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Throughout the days and nights, there are showcases for some beautiful animals which many have been raised by and cared for by kids. The exhibition buildings are also open to showcase artwork by school aged children, crafts from the young and old, baby shows, spelling bee, talent show, karaoke, and the famous pie eating contest (aka: me at Thanksgiving dinner)

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It’s entirely worth coming out to enjoy the weekend with your family, but first, stop by participating Scotiabank locations to get a deal on your fair tickets, then bring your camera and have a great time! I’ll definitely see you there!

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Pictures taken from http://www.rocktonworldsfair.com and personal iPhone pictures.

 

Canada’s Wonderland – Hallowe’en Haunt!

wonderland.pngNow that we are into October, that means Canada’s Wonderland is ready to scare the life out of us every Saturday and Sunday with Halloween Haunt up until Oct 31, and what better way to get to know someone you’ve just started dating than by seeing what a sissy they really are! Or, if you’re really into them, this is a cute way to get close!

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You don’t even have to be new to dating! I mean, with 20 haunted attractions and 700 monsters, my husband is already embarrassed to be seen with me. Something about a grown woman screaming that she’s about to pee herself in public might have something to do with it, but then again I’ve had two kids so this won’t be the first (or the last) time it happens. I might just surprise these characters with what my face looks like after being up 3 times in the night with a toddler. Let’s just change that to 701 monsters.haunt_attractionsIf you’re not into being scared, visit during the day and have a blast with the other sissies in the daylight (me). The rides are always the most thrilling (I swear I thought Leviathan was as scary as childbirth, I just wasn’t sure we’d make it out alive) but there is definitely something for everyone. Make sure you grab your FunPix for the rides that do take your picture. There is nothing more entertaining than making fun of your friends and family for being scared, and storing it away for important moments like wedding slide shows and Christmas cards.leviath.png

If you’re bringing smaller kids, Planet Snoopy and Kidzville will be just as thrilling with their own rides, games and restaurants, and each day you’ll find characters walking around the grounds ready for a perfect photo opportunity! Every Saturday and Sunday in October there are shows to entertain your kidlets, like Charlie Brown’s Trick-Or-Treat Show, It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, Spooky Tales with Snoopy and Lucy Van Pelt’s Costume Contest!camp_spooky.png

Ultimately, Canada’s Wonderland is a hoot and a half any time of year, but October has got to be the most fun, in my opinion anyway. It’s at the top of our Bucket List and we’ll be headed there in the next few weeks to be sure we catch it all before it’s gone for another year. While you’re there, grab your 2017 Season’s Pass so you can save (you know I love a deal) and experience the park in all seasons of the year!

What it’s REALLY like travelling with small children.

Ah, small kids…toddlers…even babies…the loves of our lives, the little screaming banshees who don’t let you get 15 minutes to the grocery store, yet we decide to travel hours with them in a car or on a plane to cherish the moments that will last a lifetime.

Oh you’ll remember the moments alright. I remember taking my 18 month old to Florida to meet up with my parents who were staying at my brother’s house.

“It’ll be so great” I tell my husband. “It’s like having built in babysitters, but with a pool”.

I had all these grand plans of my parents waking up with my daughter to make her heart shaped pancakes in the morning as I slept in, only to come out and see them lounging by the pool where I would sip mimosas while taking in some sunshine after a long hot shower. Maybe I’d even head out into town by myself to grab a few things from the store, walking slowly through the aisles with a smile recognizing all the different things the USA had, which Canada didn’t. I’d come back to lunch being made for me, only to spend the rest of the day at the pool, have Oma and Opa tuck young sweets to sleep, and read the rest of the evening in the cool evening breeze.

What I forgot, was the fact I had to actually GET to Florida first.

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We get to the airport in Toronto and my then 18 month old discovers the moving sidewalks. Neat. Let’s do that for 2 hours while Security radios back and forth wondering about my abandoned luggage sitting in a corner. As we are finally called to board the plane, Fun Toddler has now had enough and wants to go home, and while my anxiety is basically through the roof, I looked pretty suspicious. I was sweating, pacing, breathing heavy and had tears in my eyes while my toddler does one of those drop moves where every muscle in her body lets go, and she flops backwards, (basically in half) while travellers nearby signal others wondering if I just kidnapped this Airport Angel. We get on the plane, and the man I am to sit next to rolls his eyes and says “GREAT!!” but lucky for me, a sweet woman switches seats with him, telling me she loves babies. Awesome, because mine is pretty much up for sale at this point.

Here’s where it gets good.

First Time Flyer is sitting quietly on my lap as we start to taxi down the runway, and who turns her sweet little head, makes awkward eye contact with me as her face goes red and the entire back of the plane starts to smell like the lavatory overflowed? That’s right. Plane Pooper.

Now we’re taking off, and Plane Pooper is furious. She drops again, this time to the floor where I see the poop is also trying to take off. As she tries to scoot her bum across the (super clean) plane carpet,  I am furiously shoving wipes into the back of her diaper, hoping nothing falls out, but nothing has gone my way at this point so why start now, right? Poop wipes fall out of her diaper and onto the carpet, making the plane smell even worse, so I signal to the Flight Attendant and say “SIR, I have GOT to get into that bathroom!!” to which he replies “Ma’am, the seatbelt sign is still on”, to which I REPLY, “I’m pretty sure we have soiled the seatbelt already, so I’m going to risk my life and get into that bathroom.”

As it turns out, 18 month olds are a little longer than the pull down baby change table in the lavatory, and being that we are still in take off mode, I remove her diaper while my screaming poop machine is angled with her head near the back of the plane. Her flailing legs kick into her own feces and in a windshield wiper sort of way, starts to smear the poop all over the baby change table, all while this friendly Flight Attendant starts waving shiny green bags of Crispers in her face, singing “BABYYYYY you want some CRISPERRRRSSSS”.

She did not want Crispers. She wanted wine. Oh no wait, that was me.

ANYWAY, we made it out of that bathroom alive. Her, naked. Me, in tears.

We made it to Florida alright, but now that I’ve got a second child who is 18 months old today, these are the types of trips we are taking now.

Hikes in our backyard, where we wave to planes instead of flying on them, and when I get the bright idea to book a trip, I remind myself of this story, and we make moments at home instead.

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A Perfect Fall Day in Niagara On The Lake

Girls Day at Niagara On The Lake, with great ideas for couples and families, too!

With Fall being my favourite season of all, yesterday’s perfect day was full of sunshine, while still allowing us to wear a light jacket (enter me singing “These are a few of my favourite things”). Being a Girls Day Out with my Mum, we cruised down to Niagara On The Lake taking the beautiful back roads through the vineyards to the downtown area where we parked in front of Zees patio. After a rushed and slightly uneasy escape from the house in the morning due to a screaming child who wanted cheese, the first thing we did was grab a local glass of Pinot Grigio from our friendly waiter, Trevor. We sat on the patio watching locals and tourists enjoying the day, too, as it really didn’t matter if you were from near or far, this town had everything from delicious to luxurious.

imagehttp://www.niagarasfinest.com/restaurants/zees/

After lunch, we crossed the street to the Shaw Festival for their production of “Alice In Wonderland” which included my favourite parts of the children’s classic, while adding in beautiful story telling and music. Alice herself was easy to fall in love with.

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As we left the Shaw Festival with promises of many more Girls Days like this, we met up with a handsome man (my Dad) who waited patiently to take us to one of his favourite NOTL restaurants, The Epicurean, for dinner. On our way there we visited beautiful shops, the bakery, and even did a little dream shopping at the local real estate windows. This place made me want to use words like “succulent” and “rich in flavour” when all I really came out with were grunts of happiness and a wish that I had worn elastic waist pants.

Though this day date went by quickly, we were surrounded by the beauty of the town, the perfect gardens and the vibration of the happy visitors in that short time.

On my list for the next visit:
A stay at the Prince of Wales hotel.
Horse and buggy ride through town.
More butter tarts and wine.
Rent bicycles.
Winery tour.

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As always, I’m open to your suggestions for some of your must-see attractions, events, restaurants and more! Girls day was a success, and we will see you again soon, Niagara On The Lake!

All photos sourced from http://www.niagaraonthelake.com and my personal iPhone.