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
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.
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).
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.
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.
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!
Pictures used from westfieldheritage.ca and personal iPhone pictures.
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.
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!
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.
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)
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!
Pictures taken from http://www.rocktonworldsfair.com and personal iPhone pictures.