Unsupervised Play – The Genius of Play Play Talk

Unsupervised Play – The Genius of Play Play Talk

Should Kids Be Allowed Unsupervised Play?

Genius of Play - Play Talk

I let my kids play unsupervised.

There.  I said it.

Some of you are praising Hallelujah! I have the good sense God gave me to raise strong, independent, creative kids.  Some of you just clutched your pearls and prayed on my feral children.  Most of you likely fall somewhere in between.

Perfect parenting doesn’t exist and we all do the best we can with the tools at our disposal.

The Genius of Play – Play Talk

Since we’re all sitting in this kumbaya circle of acceptance, lets talk play as we sip our (cold) coffee and (sorta) watch the wee ones run around the park like banshees.

The Genius of Play has generously offered to compensate me for oversharing but trust all mom-fails and opinions are strictly my own.

Responsible or Negligent

There’s a big difference between age-appropriate unsupervised play time and being negligent of your children.  I’m certainly not advocating for the latter and trust you keep your kids’ safety in mind.

I, for one, certainly pass no judgement on your parenting style.  You won’t find me casting stones if your kids play outside alone or – heaven forbid – have learned to responsibly take city transit for short distances.

What’s the worst that can happen

We all ask ourselves this, and while I have no suitable answer I can tell you what * has * happened.  Shining moments of glory these were not, and certainly no Mother Of The Year awards were handed out.  

#Parenting What happened when I allowed unsupervised play #geniusofplay @TheToyAssoc by @XD_Impact Click To Tweet

Dancing in Windows

Jasmine & I were a fierce duo nearly from birth.  Around the time she was about 18 months old we shared a bedroom in a ground floor apartment.

I’ve always enforced nap times and on this particular day I could hear Jasmine messing around in the bedroom.  I was determined to let her fall asleep – were were both exhausted – and knew if I just gave her enough time she’d tire out and hunker down.

Except it suddenly got quiet TOO quiet.

I peeked into her bedroom and almost pissed myself laughing.  Knowing no one would believe me without hard evidence, I quietly made my way outside – phone in hand – ready to record this nonsense.

< Waves Furiously >

My dear, sweet, child was standing in the windowsill wearing naught by a nappy and a t-shirt, waving furiously at all the cars that went by and the people walking out front.  She was dancing, playing peekaboo, and having a blast.

Oh.  Um.  Small detail. …We lived on the main drag.

A minute went by before she noticed me, and she was so proud it was hard to get mad.

The Holiday Haircut

Annabelle has always been more independent than her sisters. Her art desk is her ‘Office’ and she can be found there doing ‘Homework’ she’s invented or drawing endless pictures of who and what she misses.

On a few occasions I have found myself coming out of the washroom to find her in a pile of bread or engrossed in ‘The Elements of Style’ – upside down, of course.  She ‘read’ that book for 1/2 hour before letting it down!

Usually a fairly tame child, she did surprise us with an impromptu haircut a week before Christmas one year.

The Evidence

That Time I took a Shower

One afternoon I decided to have a shower while Chloe napped.  I needed sleep, but that day I needed a shower even more.

I waited until she was snoring and ninja-rolled out of the bedroom.  I came back to find her with headphones ones, 1/2 dressed, writing on her foot with  pen (I’d been working in the bed previously).  I sat there and watched until she realized I was back.

Chloe’s Cat Soup

When Chloe was a baby I couldn’t turn around for a minute without finding her attached to one of the cats.  It seems they gravitated towards her, and she to them.

These guys were great – and after 3 babies were extremely tolerant.  Plus, she was kind of their favorite because she shared food with them.

Once she started crawling we’d find her making ‘cat soup’ – dumping all the cat food in the water bowl, then trying to shove it in her mouth – if we accidentally left the gate open or even escaped for a minute to go pee.

That Time UPS Rang the Doorbell

Being the youngest of three there was a year when Chloe was still at home and both her sisters were at school.

That child did not waste a single moment of those hours, as can be evidenced here.

I came back from signing for a package and found her sharing a sucker with Olaf.  Gramma gave her the sucker.  Olaf gave her the puppy eyes.  “I’m SHARING Maman!”.

Olaf’s Piano Lessons

In case you haven’t figured it out, Chloe is our Animal Whisperer.  On this day I had to take a work call and she went to the other living room to play quietly for a few minutes.

This is what I came back to.

Olaf The Baby

I’m not ashamed to say that I let me kids play in a room alone – be it the living room, their bedroom, or somewhere in the stairs.

Once again, I found Olaf in a compromising situation.  His lips were sealed though.  Never once did he tattle tale on her!

Helicopter Parenting?

Clearly, “Helicopter Parent” I am not.

My kids regularly participate in age-appropriate unsupervised play such as spending 15-20 at the park after school (1 block away), playing out front on their bikes (I‘ll add I would never have allowed this in our old neighborhood), and for the oldest allowing her to go for a short walk on her own before dinner.

All three benefit greatly from being able to spend time by themselves.  I have seen their creativity flourish, their problem solving skills improve, and  their self confidence take a boost when they accomplish something they’ve been working on for a while, supposedly in secret.

They’re so damn loud though, what they’re up to is rarely secretive.

What’s the worst that could happen?  Probably a lot, likely no different than the risk of driving to the supermarket.   What has happened isn’t all that bad, all things considered.  They are safe, they are well, and that’s what matters to me.

How do you navigate keeping * your * kids safe while giving them the independence they crave? 

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Netflix Brings Offline Viewing to the Table

Netflix Brings Offline Viewing to the Table

Netflix Brings Offline Viewing to the Table

#StreamTeam

When do I get on a plane next, because I need to try this feature.

Netflix now allows you to DOWNLOAD designated programming to your tablet or phone for offline viewing. No more paying through the nose for Boingo Hotspots just so I can keep busy on a layover.  No more paying for on-board WiFi only to find out it doesn’t support streaming.

And being able to watch anywhere, without having to worry about my data?  Priceless.

Now on @Netflix_CA - Downloadable content for #OfflineViewing Click To Tweet

So – What’s the first thing you’ll be downloading?

While you’re here – Check out my gift guide & shop the Finding Funny store to help support this blog

As a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam I receive special perks and incentives in exchanging for sharing the awesome, however all data overages and binge-watching exhaustion are all mine.  Oh, and my opinions, too :).

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Dating 101 and Uncommon Goods

Dating 101 and Uncommon Goods

Ya’ll know I have a gift guide, right? One that strives to deliver unique gift ideas at all price points, for everyone on your list?

Yeah.  That one.

So it was no surprise when an email came in asking if I’d review their wares and share my thoughts with you.

What was surprising, however, is the love affair that ensued.

Whhoooooohyyy it’s a hot one

It all started with a simple glance.  A peek, a look-see… could this be a match?

uncommon goods

OMG Glitters & Sparkles.

Because anyone who knows me will tell you – If it glitters and sparkles… it’s all me.  Following the glittery gold my eyes went straight for the ampersand cheese board.

Sold.  Done.  I’m in.

As I spent hours (!!!) going through the site I just couldn’t get enough.  If products could be soulmates, these were my soulmates.  The anywhere travel guide? It gets me.

When I got to the F-Bomb paperweight… I whispered “You complete me“.

Dating 101

As in online dating, I went CSI Google to find out as much as I can before I agreed to a date.

I found out integrity & sustainability is important to Uncommon Goods.  From providing fair wages and health insurance to their staff to being committed to selling products that do no harm to animals or people.

Find someone you can bring anywhere

Ends up you can dress this one up and take it out.

Need a birthday date (gift)? Uncommon Goods.  

Going to a wedding?  Uncommon Goods is all dressed up and ready to go, complete with personalizing.

Fiance camping with the boys pre-wedding? Send him packing with Uncommon GoodsI hear it’s great for groomsmen gifts.

A lady should never get sloshed on the first date

Better to let them see you naked before you puke on their shoes.  

It’s easy to get carried away.  You’re clicking through pages, you’re full of endorphin, and you’ve just found the. perfect. thing. for everyone you know * and * their cat.

Calm down, relax, step away from the shopping cart.  3 date rule, right?

Kidding!  (But the look on your face…)

I’m not saying don’t buy anything… I’m just saying you can come back for seconds, thirds, or however much you want!  Your credit card will thank you for showing mild restraint.

Swiped Right?

If I could have swiped right or left instead of bookmarking all the things, the following is what I would have picked.  Check them out, and peruse the site.

I’m guessing you’ll have a few new must-haves that will leave you pining till you clear up some available credit on your credit card.

Have any dating tips?  Looking to compare notes on the (uncommon) goods?  That comment box ain’t going anywhere 😉

Halloween Fun with Beat Bugs & Word Party

Halloween Fun with Beat Bugs & Word Party

Halloween Fun with Beat Bugs & Word Party

#StreamTeam

My kids love Halloween and they were stoked when we got a pumpkin carving kit from Netflix. We had several designs to choose from, and they picked Beat Bugs and Word Party.

It’s easy to make fun and interesting pumpkin designs – here’s how we did it.

Start by printing your desired designs.  Thicker stock paper works better, as does ‘chunkier’ designs.

You’ll also need to gather a few useful tools.  You can kits at places like Walmart or the grocery store.

Cut out the insides of your image – the parts that will be removed – and tape it onto the pumpkin.

These two designs worked really well because they didn’t have many intricate details.

Trace out and / or fill in the design on your pumpkin, as if you were using a stencil.

Filling in is a little messier than tracing but it really helps the kids see what needs to come off versus what stays.

Now, destroy your masterpiece.

I mean… Use your tools to carve your design.  Yes, there’s a How to Train your Dragon in there… It was disastrous, the boy fell off at the last cut.

And Voila! Beautiful-ish pumpkins that didn’t stress you out at all while the kids insisted on doing everything themselves ;).

Now the fun begins, your kitchen will be a disaster.  Enjoy the fruits of your labour (pun intended).

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McDreamy is McGone

McDreamy is McGone

My McDreamy is McGone

and so I Netflix

I pay for cable.  I pay a lot of money for cable.  

The one cable box we have?  It’s in my parents’ living room.  If I’m in the mood to watch junkyard wars, every kind of bush / naked / alaska people argue it out on screen, or deadliest catch ad nauseam… I could watch all the TV I want, 24 hours a day.

Sadly (or thankfully, depending on where you stand) none of these interest me and I get twinges of cable withdrawal syndrom from time to time.  Mostly in the summer when all the shows are on break.

So I Netflix.  A lot.

When my television alerted me new episodes of Grey’s Anatomy were now available, I had the brilliant idea to binge-watch from the very beginning.

Do you remember those first few seasons?  Addison, living in the trailer with Derek.  Derek & Meredith, sharing a dog.  Becoming friends.

The way Shepherd looks at Grey the crinkling of his eyes as he laughs from the heart. His gentleness and compassion as he helps her through rough moments.  The sadness in his eyes when she’s not looking.

McDreamy

I had my McDreamy.

An old boyfriend, married (as I was), a friend.  Perhaps the only friend who knew all of me.

The way Derek looks at Meredith?  He used to look at me that way.  Our friendship evolved over the years, going from the ‘happy b-day / merry xmas’ type, to the once a month chat kind, to the weekly and eventually almost daily chats.

We laughed – a lot.

We were there for each other as a sounding board.  Comforting, supporting, and helping each other out through our respective marital issues.

The tension was always there.  I spent years making sure our conversations didn’t cross the line, reigning it in when it got too close to too much.  We were both so miserable… He was my cheerleader, never failing to believe in me. We were the escape we both needed.

I don’t need to tell you what happened next – I’m sure you can figure it out.

I tried leaving my husband a few times, but he always begged for me to keep fighting for us.

He found out about a year ago and by then we were truly having an affair, having seen each other a few times over the previous months.

Needless to say, my McDreamy is McGone.

I still think of him.  I still reach for the phone when I need a joke, or when I come across an article I think he would like.  And then I stop myself, because he’s no longer there.  I am dead to him, and he to me.  Or he should be.  But I still think of him.

I miss him, our friendship, the easiness between us.

So as I navigate this world of dating I fill the empty moments with Mer/Der screen time.

What are you binge-watching these days?  What fills up your moments?

As a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam I get perks, but all stories, laughs, and heartbreaks are my own 😉

 

 

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The Beatles… euh…. Beat Bugs on Netflix

The Beatles… euh…. Beat Bugs on Netflix

The Beatles... euh.... Beat Bugs on Netflix

#StreamTeam

“Lucy in the sky-yyy- above!”

What the ever loving…

The three year old has been humming and signing Beatles songs all morning.  After the King Julien fiasco, I * know * this isn’t a time warp… but it sure does feel a lot like Mr Soulard’s 7th grade music class.

And it feels good

I had wondered, who would instill a love of the Beatles in my kids the way our middle school teacher did.  I may have spent more time reminiscing today.

The kids are hooked.  I haven’t watched the show yet, but they sure as heck look cute!

beat bugs

I’m all for TV giving my kids missing pieces of culture, if they’re sitting there watching the boob tube anyways.

Sight unseen – but not unheardI’m a fan.  You should watch it, and so should your kids!

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Slapstick Comedy for Kids on Netflix

Slapstick Comedy for Kids on Netflix

Slapstick Comedy for Kids on Netflix

Bernard & Larva

I love watching stupid funny.  The slapstick stuff you don’t need to think about to enjoy.

And maybe it’s a little ‘pipi-caca-fesse‘ but let’s be honest – sometimes that’s exactly what you need.

Ends up the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  The girls’ current favorites for non-stop laughs is Bernard and Lava.

Bernard is a bear who gets into situation.  He’s been a staple on our Netflix roster for a while now.

Netflix Bernard

Larva

The other day I let the girls watch a bit of TV in my room and they begged for Larva.

WTF is Larva was my first thought.  I’d never heard of this show before but the kids seemed to know what they were talking about.

Thankfully I didn’t have to go looking far for it, it was a suggested option on the kids’ profile.  And instead of working (which is what I was planning on doing) I sat there and laughed my ass off for two hours right along with them.

larva netflix

Seriously funny stuff over there, you should check it out.

This post is brought to you by my participation in the Netflix #StreamTeam.  I have not been paid for this post but I do get some nice perks :).

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I Like to Move It | #StreamTeam

I Like to Move It | #StreamTeam

'90's hits & King Julian

#StreamTeam

I Like to Move-it-Move-it

The kids are * supposed * to be sleeping.

Except I can hear the 3 year old, singing at the top of her lungs in her bed.  “I like to move-it-move-it” – Over, and over, and over again.  Ad Nauseam.

That can only mean one thing: “Hot Tub Time Machine” is actually a thing and I’ve fallen back to the ’90’s.  With all the plaid I’m seeing these days I wouldn’t be surprised…

Guess Again, Watson

Nope.  No time warp.

King Julien.  He’s back.  Like… back! back.  Season three.

I never told them.  They found it on their own.  Damn thing started yesterday and they’re already halfway through the season.

It appears King Julien and his come-hither eyes are here to stay, for the next little while at least.  The kids love his eccentric tendencies, and I love ’90’s dance music.  Win-Win, right?

Right?!?

 

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Outaouais Tourism invites you to sleep with wolves

Outaouais Tourism invites you to sleep with wolves

Last month Outaouais Tourisme invited me to try out the new  Parc Omega camping in the park experience.  I was skeptical at first, camping for the first time as a single parent, but I bribed begged managed to woo Ann into joining us for 2 days of fun.

The Experience

The Outaouais region is a popular destination packed with hidden gems just waiting to be discovered.  Located in southwestern Quebec by our nation’s capital it’s an easy choice for family getaways no matter the season.

We’ve been to Parc Omega many times – almost twice yearly since Jasmine was a toddler.  Seasoned veterans we still discovered new things and lived an unforgettable experience.

Our adventure started with a private tour led by the park’s zoological director, Serge.  We had brought plenty of carrots to feed the large animals but if you didn’t come prepared you can purchase some onsite.

We visited the Old Farm including pony rides for the three girls.  A black wolf sat in front of her den, newborn pups peering out from just beyond the edge.  A visibly pregnant arctic fox digging a tunnel kept us entertained as she started and stopped to look at us.

There were so many little moments of magic, and perhaps a few good lessons.  Keep reading as I share the captured moments and anecdotes.  You’ll also find some some time-saving, stress-busting tips along with a few hard lessons learned.

Last month Outaouais Tourisme invited me to try out the new  Parc Omega camping in the park experience.  I was skeptical at first, camping for the first time as a single parent, but I bribed begged managed to woo Ann into joining us for 2 days of fun.

The Experience

The Outaouais region is a popular destination packed with hidden gems just waiting to be discovered.  Located in southwestern Quebec by our nation’s capital it’s an easy choice for family getaways no matter the season.

We’ve been to Parc Omega many times – almost twice yearly since Jasmine was a toddler.  Seasoned veterans we still discovered new things and lived an unforgettable experience.

Our adventure started with a private tour led by the park’s zoological director, Serge.  We had brought plenty of carrots to feed the large animals but if you didn’t come prepared you can purchase some onsite.

We visited the Old Farm including pony rides for the three girls.  A black wolf sat in front of her den, newborn pups peering out from just beyond the edge.  A visibly pregnant arctic fox digging a tunnel kept us entertained as she started and stopped to look at us.

There were so many little moments of magic, and perhaps a few good lessons.  Keep reading as I share the captured moments and anecdotes.  You’ll also find some some time-saving, stress-busting tips along with a few hard lessons learned.

parc omega fox digging

Making Memories

After several stressful months a day with nature was just what the girls & I needed. A short break from real life to reset the mind.

Edited to add: A year later they’re all still talking about how much fun they had.

parc omega
parc omega
parc omega
parc omega
parc omega
parc omega animal encounters

Pony Rides

Pony rides are always fun, whether at the local fair, the zoo, or other attraction. At $3 per ride (or 2 for $5) this is one of the easiest (read: affordable) ways to give all three some breathing space.

Much needed when traveling in close quarters.

parc omega pony rides
parc omega pony rides
parc omega pony rides
parc omega pony rides
parc omega pony rides

More than carrots

The animals you see on the trail are just a fraction of the four-legged contingent. All species are provided a balanced diet to meet their nutritional needs. Their care is overseen by Parc Omega’s zoological director.

Carrots, however, a huge treat for them. When the urge to snack comes on, they wander over to the trails where your kids’ hands are waiting with carrots.

context travel in montreal
context travel in montreal
context travel in montreal
context travel in montreal
context travel in montreal
context travel in montreal
context travel in montreal

Baby Fever

Visiting Parc Omega in May you might get a few glimpses of babies and some very pregnant mommas.

The kids had fun trying to spot the mums-to-be and looking for babies in the various dens.

parc omega
parc omega

Baby Fever

Visiting Parc Omega in May you might get a few glimpses of babies and some very pregnant mommas.

The kids had fun trying to spot the mums-to-be and looking for babies in the various dens.

parc omega

Staying the Night: What You Need to Know

parc omega accommodations

Pro Tip

It may sound silly but it never occurred to me there would be little to no cell service in the deep woods of Parc Omega.  Yeah…  it’s not like it was the playoffs or anything….

If you’re planning on entertaining yourself after the kids go to bed have your devices fully charged before you arrive.  Remember to also download your e-books or Netflix show.

parc omega solar energy
parc omega dry toilet
parc omega camping trail to site
parc omega camping trail to site

Accommodations

(updated spring 2017)
Parc Omega features five types of accommodations: tipis, wi-tents (3), prospector tents (3), log cabins, and a house on stilts (1).

Each site features a private dry toilet a few meters away, a fire pit, and beds.  Bedding is available for rent if you forget to bring your own.  You may also purchase fire wood and carrots for the animals.

Solar energy is used for lighting inside all lodgings (except for tipis) and there is access to a community building with stoves, microwaves, coffee makers ( ! ), kettles, heaters, and more.

As you can see from the map above, there is ample space between each site providing plenty of privacy. This also means there’s quite a hike from the parking lot to your cabin. Thankfully the park provides a utility wagon for each site to facilitate the process of getting all your gear up the trail (and back to your car when you leave).

We stayed in prospector tent #1.  The wagon was very useful, but it’s still a winding, uphill, trail in the woods.  A pair of sneakers to switch into would have been great, instead of my ‘ol trusty flip flops.

Successfully making fire on my first solo trip with the girls felt like I’d conquered the world. I may have thumped my chest and lifted my hands up in the air declaring fire. The kids may have shook their heads in shame over my exuberance.

parc omega prospector tent

Pro Tip

After going through a few dozen matches trying to light said fire I gave up and shoved the lit citronella garden stake in the fire pit (where I’d already added kindling and paper) and Voila!

< thumps chest triumphly > I didn’t fail at fire – I succeeded at thinking outside the box. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. < / end celebratory shenanigans because kids >

parc omega camping fire pit

Last But Not Least: Packing

Pro Tip

We had planned to go offsite for dinner – except it was a holiday Monday in the middle of nowhere. We had to drive quite a bit to find an open diner, restaurant, or casse-croute.

A few minutes of research can save you lots of driving. Short-list a few possibilities and you can choose the day of. If you’re traveling on a weekend or holiday, call them to confirm hours of operation.

Gear Up!

Packing up for a few days with 3 kids is a challenge.  Packing it all up in a small car while remaining visibility is an art.  They don’t call me the Luggage Whisperer for nothing!

Have just bought a new car, a newer-model Ford Escape (which is significantly smaller than older models), it took some imagination to get everything – and everyone – in comfortably.

The kids, being used to our old van, bickered the whole way up.  Something about breathing the same air as their siblings.  They also whined, bitched, and complained all the way from Parc Omega to downtown Montreal the next morning.

Edited to add (2017): Lets just say… I’m pretty sure Ann is still suffering from PTSD after this experience.  

 

parc omega car gear

Soft Shell Cooler – Huge

Costco has these great insulated bags in the spring. I added some ice and put all the perishables (see list above) in this bag. It also held the snack foods that didn’t fit in the smaller one, such as the chips and corn puffs.

One of the girls had an ear infection at the time. I put her meds in this bag.

Food – lunch meat, mustard, juice box X 6, apples, 1 package of hot dogs, a bag of corn puffs, a bag of chips, 2 cans of beer, 3 X 1 liter water bottles, 1 box of cereal, 6 iogo minis, a big bag of ice.

Soft Shell Cooler – Small

A generic soft shell cooler bag designed for beers and such will do. This bag had the bread, snacks, peanut butter, a few butter knives, and one of the beer cans (taken from the fridge) to keep things relatively cool.

Food – loaf of bread, jar of peanut butter, roughly 30 granola bars and such, 2 cans of beer

Personal care – 1 brush, toothbrushes and paste, a handful of elastics, medication (mine), Advil (kids & adult), allergy meds (kids & adult), sunscreen, deodorant, bug spray, 2 packages of baby wipes,

Beach / Park blanket

This rolled up beach blanket was great for sitting on by the fire.  It was also used to cover the stroller when Chloe fell asleep on our Montreal tour.

A wrap style baby sling is also great for covering the stroller, as you can configure it in many ways.

Camping Stuff – 1 large beach / picnic blanket, 4 citronella garden stakes, a pack of matches.  The park provided us with bedding and wood as part of our experience.

Full-size Stroller

We were booked for a 3+ hr walking tour of Montreal on day 2.  Need I say more?

Full-size versus umbrella will take up more space but make your life much easier.  We placed it on it’s side to maximize trunk space.

Miscellaneous – 1 stroller (full size), Ann’s stuff (a few bags, a camera bag, several water bottles and some pop)

Canvas basket

Given the size of the car, the amount of people going in it, and the afore-mentioned stroller I put all of our clothes in a soft-sided, collapsible, canvas laundry basket.

You can’t see it in the picture, but it’s hiding behind the small cooler and part of the stroller.  It doesn’t matter how big your stroller is, or which wheel gets in the way – it will always fit.

Clothes – 2 pairs of underwear for everyone; 1 each [pant, short, t-shirt, sweater, socks] per kid, 1 pant and 1 short for myself, 2 t-shirts for myself,  Sneakers for the kids as we were in Montreal the following day.

Electronics

I put all the chargers, batteries, and electronics in one bag so we wouldn’t constantly be looking through bags to find them.

This particular one is an insulated lunch bag. I put it in the fridge the night before (or the freezer, if there’s room) with the top open.  This helps prevent overheating, specially if it will be in the car for 2 days.

Electronics – chargers – phone, camera, laptop, Surface Pro 3, my camera, and a power inverter (the kind you plug into your car to power).

Famous Last Words

Parc Omega is always a fun day with the family. Regardless of how you feel about your “outdoor” skills and experience, consider staying the night at the parc.

The accommodations are rustic – I wouldn’t mistake this for “glamping” – but it’s definitely a few steps up from pitching a tent in the ground and hoping the wind doesn’t blow you away.

Bonus: Unlike many other campgrounds here you are pretty much guaranteed to not run into a bear or two. Fallow deer and other small animals run freely in the lodging area but the bears and other animals are nicely contained in their respective areas.

You need a key to drive into the lodging area, there’s a guard on duty 24/7, and being afraid of bears is no longer an obstacle. There’s plenty of privacy and you get to sleep on a real mattress. Heck, you don’t even need to pee in a bush!

So what say you? Feeling up to an adventure you won’t soon forget? Check out Parc Omega’s website and start planning your stay!

parc omega outaouais tourisme

Single Parent does Roadtrip, Survives #StreamTeam

Single Parent does Roadtrip, Survives #StreamTeam

Single Parent does Roadtrip... Survives, Barely.

#StreamTeam

I’ve been known to take the kids away in May for our ‘summer’ trip – mostly because I hate crowds and inflated prices.

Except this year was different. 

This was the first time I loaded up the new Ford Escord, stuffed 3 kids and 2 carseats + gear, and headed out into the unknown that is #kickassroadtrip.

Logistics

Thankfully, I had the sense God gave me and split up our trip in 2 segments.  Monday & Tuesday we were at Parc Omega – where we camped amidst the wolves and such – followed by a wonderful tour of Montreal with Context Tours.

We were supposed to leave for Toronto on Wednesday morning but we took a break (more on that soon) and spent Thursday & Friday in Toronto with the help of CityPass.

Beg & Bribe

This being my first trip outnumbered 3-1, I begged and bribed Ann to come with us to Parc Omega & Montreal.  I may have made unfounded promises that she would not get eaten by a bear (ends up that’s true!), I may have bribed with the idea of a memorable #kickassroadtrip… And so she came.

I don’t think Ann will ever come on a trip with my kids ever again!  We laugh about it now… 

“I HOE, I HOE…”

Thursday morning came too fast.  Into the car I shoved the kids and our gear, this time sans 2nd adult.  About 7 hours later we reached Toronto (should have been 4…).

This time I decided to bribe my friend Maureen.

“Come with us to the CN Tower, I miss you!”

“The aquarium will be fun with 3 kids, I promise!”

Truth is I bribed her with wine and much gossip.  After an exhausting afternoon and dinner the kids enjoyed “the best part of the whoooole week”: sleeping in a hotel room.  I’m not ashamed to admit Maureen & I made a ‘picnic’ area on the door of our tiny hotel room and gossiped till the wee hours, when she stumbled (ok, walked) into an Uber and left me with my captors children.

Friday morning I ventured out to the Science Center like the grown-ass woman I am – alone with the kids.  I felt… ready.  Ready to take on this challenge, something I wasn’t earlier in the week.

3 museum hours, 6 driving hours (why does it take so much longer with kids!!!) and we were finally home, where I declared I wasn’t taking them anywhere until next summer.

Chaneling Diana Ross

Three days have passed and I still haven’t recovered.  But I will survive.

I’m well on my way to recovering thanks to the magic of Netflix.  

Yup.  After a hectic week I was * that * mom.  I let them watch as much and whatever they wanted.  And watch they did.

I can’t tell you exactly what they streamed as my eyes are still glazed over from last week – but it was definitely in the kids’ profile.  And they LOVED it.  And I survived.

I survived my first post-divorce, single-parent, trip with 3 kids, and you will too.   You might need to beg and bribe, but you will survive this.

I will survive

* as part of the Netflix #StreamTeam I receive perks and goodies in exchange for my words, but rest assured all glass-eyed inducing activities as well as my views are strictly my own. 

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Traveling to Key West – An Insider’s Look & Pro Travel Tips

Traveling to Key West – An Insider’s Look & Pro Travel Tips

Welcome to Key West

Ann & I were in Florida for TBEX and decided to knock an item off our bucket list while we were there.

Driving down hwy 1, crossing the 7 mile bridge, was like falling down a rabbit hole and finding a mysterious and wonderful secret world. Time… doesn’t * exist * on the island.  It appears that it slows to a halt right after that bridge, making the lower keys the ideal place for a truly relaxing getaway.

The only time that seems to exist is the scheduled departure for your sunset cruise.  Just saying.  But don’t worry, it comes back around tomorrow night.  Meanwhile, head to the boardwalk and take in the sights.  Every night is a celebration and the sunsets are spectacular regardless where you’re standing.

The first thing you’ll want to do as you step out of the car is turn your face to the sun… soak up some therapeutic rays, breath in the smell of the salt in the air, and listen to the waves crashing against the shore.

That’s the island’s song and it may just seduce you.

It certainly worked on me.  So well, in fact, that I’ve been back from Key West for 4 months now and I still can’t write about it.  Writer’s block.  It’s never convenient.

I found a piece of myself on that island, a piece that’s made it hard for me to put pen to paper. I’m finally able to share some of the more memorable moments of our trip and my tips for making the most of your visit to Key West.  You won’t find these in guide books, so stick around.

Size Matters

The island is bigger than it appears and if you’re not careful you’ll end up in the most gorgeous hotel by the ocean a quarter mile from everything else.

This Canadian girl managed to screw up the conversion.

Key West The Inn at Key West

Going the Distance

When planning your trip to the keys remember – Location, Location, location.  ‘Waterfront’ or  ‘Ocean front’ is not synonymous with ‘close to the action’.

We stayed at the gorgeous ocean front Inn at Key West without realizing 1/4 mile was a 15 minute cab ride downtown.  Our cab fares averaged the same amount for a daily rental car.  Best to do the math before you leave home.

sebago key west

Shopping

Mallory square is a great place to find unique items, official Conch Republic souvenirs, and gorgeous jewelry. On Duval st you’ll be able to find fashions of all kind… for all kinds of bodies.

Explore

Once you’re done feeling sorry for yourself ‘cause you can’t have this year round you should head to Duval St and Mallory Square where you can shop, dine, and stroll to your heart’s content.

Mallory square is a great place to find unique items, official Conch Republic souvenirs, and gorgeous jewelry. On Duval st you’ll be able to find fashions of all kind… for all kinds of bodies.

conch republic key west
mallory square key west street food
conch republic key west

Pro Tip

If you love steak as much as I do and you either don’t like the high price tag or the huge portions order a steak salad or a flank steak appetizer. It’s served BESIDE the salad, not on it, and the portion is perfect.

Add a side of steam veggies or mashed potatoes and you’re eating like a king without mortgaging your kids.

Key West food

Missed the Sunset Tour?

You now have the perfect excuse to eat at some fabulous restaurants. Many have ‘happy hour’ specials when drinks and apps are ½ price. Can you say… Yum?

Key West sunset tours

So. Much. Fun.

My favorite part of the day is was parasailing.  I’m afraid of heights but when that parachute lets go and the rope unravels all you feel is freedom.

It’s like floating through the air on a cloud.  I was so comfortable I would have stayed up there all day if I could.

Key West Sebago Watersports
Key West Sebago Watersports
Key West Sebago Watersports

Forgotten Contact Lenses

We were brought out to the coral reef to snorkel and I chose to dive in blind for fear of my glasses ending up in the ocean. I have no idea what the reef looks like, I couldn’t see jack-sqwat, but I was told it was gorgeous.

Key West Sebago Watersports

Wearing Glasses?

Don’t let that stop you!

I was hell bent on parasailing so I maguyvered some holders to make sure I got the best view from the top.

Soon everyone was making holders with yellow duct tape.

The captain said it best – it takes a Canadian to come up with the best ideas. 

Undead to Unclothed

Our trip coincided with Fantasy Fest think… Mardi Gras on crack.

Upon our arrival on the island we were greeted by 10 thousand zombies and 2 police officers 400 metres from the airport entrance.  Needless to say I called budget and told them the zombie apocalypse was right outside their door and we would be late returning our rental car.

Never in a million years have I imagined the words ‘If there weren’t so many zombies around I wouldn’t feel as safe’ would escape my mouth.

Flip-Flops & Flooded Streets

Some things can’t be unseen. A fella with nothing but red glitter paint on his crotch. A very old couple baring all save the world’s largest spray painted bush. 

Just don’t look down, mkay? You’re welcome.

Key West fantasy fest 2015

Got Wet Feet?

High Tide. Full Moon. Flooded streets.

Forget looking down to see if what you just stepped in is water or a gross mix of something else.

Looking down means you have to look back up and you’ll find yourself face-to-face with a full-frontal.

The George Clooneys of the island must have stayed home all kinds of bodies were on display.

Key West fantasy fest 2015

Your Flight Awaits

Key West is truly a magical place and I can’t wait to go back! I hope you’ve enjoyed the video (missed it? At top of page ;)) and the pictures. Armed with the best Key West travel tips you won’t find elsewhere, start planning your dream adventure. You deserve it!

context travel in montreal
key west sunset gorgeous

Explore Key West

Sunset Ceremonies - Daily

Every night crowds gather at the pier for the Sunset Celebration, a nightly arts festival at Mallory Square.

Mermaids playing the yukelele, sword swallowers telling tall tales and fresh-made-right-in-front of you guacamole are just a few of the highlights well after the sun bids farewell.

Conch Republic Independence Celebration

With events ranging from wacky bed races, to a lighthearted sea battle featuring tall ships, the Conch Republic Independence Celebration is a 10-day birthday party showcasing the independent and eccentric spirit that characterizes Key West.  The event is held every year in April.

What exactly * is * the Conch Republic?  Read here for more information!  I was fascinated by this little piece of history and invite you to learn more.

Fantasy Fest

Marketing geniuses decided October needed a party to keep businesses afloat during the slowest season of the year.

Fantasy Fest is a 10-day party in paradise for grown-ups, held annually in October.  Fun-loving revelers from around the globe bring their creativity and imaginations as they descend upon Key West each year in October for 10 days filled with costuming, parades, libations, and excitement!

Galleries

Key West is rich in culture.  Tour some of the many local art galleries to experience Key West arts.

Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum

The home of Nobel Prize winner Ernest Hemingway, where he wrote many of his most notable works, is now a museum featuring some of Hemingway’s original furniture as well as artwork and his wife’s chandelier collection.

The grounds also host the descendants of Hemingway’s cats and beautiful gardens filled with Angel’s Trumpet, Hibiscus and Gardenias.

Bike (and more!) rentals

Rent a bike and explore the island on your time.

This budget-friendly option means you can reach all of the attractions in Old Town within five to ten minutes.  A great way to explore the island!  You can also rent motorcycles and Jeeps.

Free (ish) Things to do in Key West

Key West is a little piece of paradise that doesn’t have to cost you a fortune.

Visiting Key West on a budget is a piece of cake, or Key lime pie. Check it out!

Things to do - Kids

From a museum featuring shipwreck salvage to one of the oldest marine mammal facilities in the world, Key West is a kid-friendly vacation destination that is sure to create memories for the entire family.

So Much to See

None of the locals are locals, and as Ms Beth (one of our Sebago captains and all around awesome woman) would say people just fall in love and come back because they can’t imagine living anywhere else.  I can believe it!

They weren’t kidding when they said #FLKeys had the best sunset in the world @visitflorida #lovefl Click To Tweet.

They weren’t kidding when they said it was the best sunset in the world.

At the table next to us at the restaurant was a woman wearing nothing but a grass skirt and artful body paint.  Men were wearing what can only be described as leather nutsacks on a string and group theme costumes were all the rage.

Never mind shilling out beads for a flash – Body paint is the fabric of choice during these festivities.  I’ve never seen so many Nekkid people at once before.

A new year with netflix and unexpected gifts

A new year with netflix and unexpected gifts

Netflix starts Year 3 of #StreamTeam

and apparently I can be dense. oh well...

There comes a time in a blogger’s life where you feel like you’ve ‘arrived’.  You’ve made it.  Then 10 minutes later you hear about this great new high profile campaign that everyone but you seems to have been selected for and once again you are firmly grounded in the real world.

Milestones

I felt like I’d arrived a few times these past years.

But here’s one my favorite moments, one I’ve rarely spoken of publicly.

Last summer I met the #ShareYourCare team at a conference and signed up for their ambassador program.  National Share Your Care day was coming up and we were told that in exchange for posting we would get a piece of original Care Bears animation art.

This is what I was expecting, because apparently I’m really freaking dense:

disney parks vinylmation

I don’t know why ‘Animation Art’ translated to ‘Vinylmation’ in my head… but it did.  I was expecting some sort of vinylmation-type Care Bears figurine that my kids would adore.

Instead a stiff envelope marked ‘Do Not Bend’ showed up on November 25th.   What went through my mind?

OOOHHHHHHHHHHH, ‘animation art’.  A poster!  Of course!

Because, of course, I’m still dense and clueless at this point.

What I found inside brought me to tears.  I grew up watching the original series and I’m a huge fan.  When the show premiered on Netflix I just had to show my kids and share with the world.  

IMG_20151125_124711682

So when this priceless piece of history showed up in my mailbox I was rendered speechless and until now didn’t quite know how to express my gratitude in words.

Once I got over how the shock I had a good laugh over my denseness.  Of course ‘one-of-a-kind animation art from the original series‘ would be ACTUAL ANIMATION ART from the original series.  #facepalm

And now for today’s program…

Care Bears and Cousins are Coming Back!

Today I caught up on some emails and found out that Care Bear & Cousins Season 2 is premiering exclusively on Netflix February 5th.  The kids are, shall we say, excited ;).

Netflix & Chill (and yes, I know what it means)

Care Bear Stare doesn’t get your gander going on date night?  Thankfully there’s much more to Netflix than just kids’ shows.  Currently we’ve been streaming Brooklyn 99, a hilarious comedy set in Brooklyn’s NYPD precinct.

brooklyn99

Not much of a date-night thing, but Fuller House is also premiering February 26th and I’m beyond excited.  I am clearing my schedule for 3 days following the launch and if you can’t reach me you’ll know why.

Clearing my schedule for #FullerHouse premiere on @Netflix_CA #StreamTeam Click To Tweet

Are you excited for Fuller House?  What else are you streaming?

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Ford Road-Trips & The Luggage Whisperer

Ford Road-Trips & The Luggage Whisperer

Fun On The Road with Ford

The Expedition, Fiesta, and Convertible Mustang: Built for road-trips?

It appears this was the year of #KickAssRoadTrips.

First Christa & I drove to Prince Edward County for a bloggers’ retreat followed by  Ann & I #KickAssRoadTrip to NYC for #BlogHer15.  Ford Canada generously let us borrow the Ford Expedition for the ride.

Tee-hee.  What. A. Car.

Aside from the ‘jet’ for an engine (man that thing goes fast when you’re not looking!) and amazing little details like the step that comes down, the pedestrian and other obstacle sensors, the butt-coolers (yes my friend – AC for your bum!) and more the Expedition comfortably held our gear… coming and going.

Ford Road-Trips Expedition NYC

the @fordcanada #FordExpedition comfortably held our gear... coming and going #RoadTrip Click To Tweet

We wrote our hashtag and twitter handles on the windows with chalk markers.  Which was great until we got stuck in NYC traffic and we were making enemies just by trying to follow directions.

ford road-trips

People and cars kept coming out of nowhere. It was ridiculous.  Shorlty before we arrived at our hotel we were instructed by a police officer to turn left immediately.  Except the light changed 1/2 way through the intersection and out came no less than 1000 pedestrians.

Those sensors I mentioned?  They work.  Really well.  The sound comes from the direction of the obstacle, so the car was pretty much singing at us in stereo as we were stuck in an intersection with the wide-ass of the Expedition hanging out into oncoming traffic.

ford road-trips nyc driving

Still stuck in the intersection, letting the last of the pedestrians cross as they’ll do it whether you’re moving or not…

Thankfully we manged to get through that corner and soon after reached the hotel.  Ann firmly declared that * I * would be driving us out of the city.

Except we lost our parking stub and almost didn’t have a car to drive home in.  We’d forgotten to wash off the chalk marker before leaving it with the valet and it ended up being what saved us.  We were able to show that we had pictures of us in front of the car with the writing, and the car we were trying to take was the exact same one.

The gas tank on this beast is huge and this time we didn’t get stranded 15 minutes from home.

Florida Keys – U.S. 1 & the Overseas Highway

On our latest trip to Fort Lauderdale for TBEX we decided to take a few days and detour to Key West.  This time we had Ann’s university freshman daughter with us.  I’m not sure who had more stuff between the two, but one of them may or may not have had to switch things around in order to avoid airport overages.  Which means one of them had over 50 lbs of stuff.  Can you guess which of the two packed heavy?

Airmiles balance in tow we booked a rental car to drive from Fort Lauderdale to Key West;  Airmiles balance running low we took the cheapest option, a red Ford Fiesta with all the trimmings.

It just so happens I was really tired and completely forgot to take pictures of our luggage in the car.  I will say that our 3 suitcases – 2 hard-shells and 1 soft-shell – fit comfortably (if snugly) in the caboose and everyone had plenty of leg room.

I love all the safety features in the Ford lineup including BLIS, the blind-spot sensor.  I usually have my mirrors set ‘just so’ that my blind spot is barely there but this was much better.

Safety features aside the Fiesta won’t save you from the zombies.

As we were driving to the airport to return said rental car we were attacked by 10,000 (yes, 10k) zombies 400 meters from the airport entrance.

Well, not… attacked per se, but we were made to turn around by a couple of laid-back officers who thought nothing of the 10,000 zombies blocking the airport.

Our @FordFiesta was attacked by zombies in #FLKEYS and survived #FantasyFest @FordCanada Click To Tweet

There should be a disclosure when calling the rental company for directions that it’s Fantasy Week in Key West and * today * is the zombie bike ride.  Which I told the guy when I called him back to say we’d be returning the car once the zombie apocalypse was over.

key west ford road-trips

Women drive Mustangs too

We had booked the same Fiesta to return to Fort Lauderdale a few days later but upon our zombie-free arrival at the airport we were offered a $20 upgrade to a Ford convertible Mustang.

Women drive @FordMustang too #RoadTrip with @FordCanada Click To Tweet

Now, I thought the Expedition was a sexy car… but nothing – nothing! – beats driving top-down in a bright yellow Mustang on the most scenic highway in America.

Oh…. WOW.  What a drive.  What a car.  Fast.  Bold.  Sexy.  Driving that puppy felt like I owned the road.

Nothing beats driving top-down in a @FordMustang in #FLKEYS @fordcanada #roadtrip Click To Tweet

Except I had to fit 2 hard-shells, 1 soft-shell, 1 carry-on, 2 backpacks, 2 camera bags, 3 purses, our combined purchased treasures and 3 full grown, full size humans in a car the may as well fit in the palm of my hand – or so it felt.

Mission Accomplished.  * I * am THE luggage whisperer.  I can fit anything in any car.   I did it in NYC 2012 with room to spare.  I did it in Chicago 2013 even if I was stuck in a hobbit hole for 17 hours.  And I’ve done-gone did it again.

Going on a @FordCanada #Roadtrip? Meet the luggage whisperer Click To Tweet

Ford Road-Trips Key West Mustang

Look at it.  It’s a thing of beauty!  Not a wasted space; luggage versus human Tetris at its best.

I’d thought I’d be nervous driving such a muscle car but this may have been the most comfortable drive of my life.  Small car it may be the Mustang does not lack cohones.  Driving down the 7 mile bridge and zipping through Miami traffic it felt as big and powerful as the Expedition, no small feat I’m sure.

The @FordMustang felt as big as the #FordExpedition on the hwy @FordCanada #RoadTrip Click To Tweet

The verdict: Ford cars are build for road trips

In the last decade I have road-tripped in several Ford cars.  When my oldest was a baby we used my old 5-speed Ford Focus sedan.  Following the birth of my 2nd child (and through my 3rd pregnancy almost to the bitter end) we had a blast in our Ford Escape SUV.

I’ve already told you about our adventures in the Ford Expedition, the Ford Fiesta, and the Ford convertible Mustang.

With absolute certainty I can tell you each and every one of these cars were build for road-trips.  They were built for much more, sure, but they sure as heck made great road-trip cars.

Are @FordCanada cars built for #roadtrips ? @Shoeboxbegone says YES, all of them Click To Tweet

The smaller ones may need some creativity in order to cram everything and everyone in it but it’s worth the effort.

I’m getting a tired of the van – or rather, its lack of all-wheel drive and auto-start.  I have fallen in love with the Expedition we drove this summer and went online to ‘build’ my own… and came down with a small case of sticker shock.  All that means is we’ll be buying used again, but hubby already knowsthe Ford Expedition is our next car.

Ford Road-Trips

Did you know it fits 8?

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Just 5 More Minutes – Again

Just 5 More Minutes – Again

#5moreminutes

#5MoreMinutes

‘Just one more, pwease, I pwomise!’

Really?  Really kids? Suuure, ‘one more’.  And three hours later we’ll still be fighting about this.  Nah-han.  No way.  Not happening.  #5MoreMinutes is a myth and you & I both know it.

There is a certain satisfaction in knowing you’re not letting your kids get away with nonsense – a feeling of pride that you’re raising future reasonable law-abiding citizens who understand that each decision has a consequence.   That surely your efforts will pay off when they’re all doctors making a shit-ton of money and will take care of you till you outlive them all.

Except I’m tired of being the bitch.  The party-pooper.  The buzz-kill.

I’m tired of being the parent my kids dislike the most because quote ‘No Fair’.

With Jasmine, who’s 9 yrs old, it’s hard.  Her current Netflix obsession is Full House.  I had hoped she’d like it as much as I did as a kid but it appears I’ve created a netflix-marathon-monster.  ‘Just one more’ is 23 more minutes.

23 more minutes of TV watching that I don’t necessarily agree with.  I have no issues with television per se.  But the attitude that bleeds from her pores after she peels herself away from electronics could freeze the warmest Care Bear hug.

The other two?  It’s a bit easier.  Netflix and DreamWorks Animation launched Dinotrux Favorites – three  #5MoreMinutes episodes that will let them think they’ve won the battle.  You can now confidently say ‘sure, one more!’ and watch as they march themselves up the stairs a mere 300 seconds later.

Bedtime achievement unlocked. 

Bedtime achievement unlocked with @Netflix_CA #5MoreMinutes #Streamteam Click To Tweet

So let’s hear it.  What are your kids’ best excuses for staying up?  For watching more TV?  Comment below, I need a few laughs today :).

#5MoreMinutes

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Care Bears and Cousins are Coming to Netflix!

Care Bears and Cousins are Coming to Netflix!

Care Bears & Cousins are Coming to Netflix

I can’t look at a Care Bears doll without getting that warm and fuzzy back-to-my-childhood feeling.  My Care Bear and I had many late-night conversations, along with my cabbage patch and my blue doll.

Saturday mornings meant Bugs Bunny and Care Bears on TV;  is just me or did Beastly and the girl look way scarier in the 80’s?  Today’s Care Bears are much more fun for the littles.  No more scary castle with trembling thunderstorms when a bratty girl doesn’t get what she wants.  My kids?  They love it.

As a Share-Your-Care ambassador and a Netflix #StreamTeam member I’m proud to say that Care Bears and Cousins – a new Netflix Original – is coming to Netflix on Friday November 6th.

To celebrate @BlogginMamas & @CareBearsFriend are hosting the #CBCousins premiere party on Twitter on November 6th at 9PM EST.  Of course, there will be prizes along with some sharing and caring.

The @CareBearsFriend is coming to @Netflix_CA on November 6th! #StreamTeam Click To Tweet

So what are you waiting for?  RSVP today and join the best viewing party in town!

Join @carebearsfriend & @blogginmamas for the #CBCousins Twitter Party 11/06 @ 9p ET RSVP http://bit.ly/cbcousinsparty Click To Tweet

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Surviving Halloween with Wine and Percyvites

Surviving Halloween with Wine and Percyvites

Surviving Halloween and You're Invited!

It’s October! That means my kids are singing joyful songs of smelly feet and ginormous candy; by the time we head out to mingle with the spooks I’ll be more than ready to move on to Christmas music.

School costumes.  Going out costumes.  Boxes of candy that disappear weeks before the grand event.  School dances, hyper kids, stressed adults and OH MY GOD make it stop.

So as per tradition this year we’re going out in style.

That means we’re taking the stroller (or wagon, or both…) for candy stashing and cranky-child carrying.  The lot of us congregate at our house and head out for hours of walking.  The kids and their cousins have a blast while the parents and grandparents make inappropriate jokes all evening.

With ratios of at least 2:1 adult per kid we’ve got this.  It’s usually cold because Canada and year after year we come prepared with a thermos of hot chocolate for the little kids and several travel mugs of wine for the big kids.

You heard me.  Wine.

Because it warms you up from the inside.  Because by the time we come back home we’ve reached a happy place called “I don’t give a rat’s ass how you want to organize your candy”.  No longer giving a #$%@ makes dealing with hyper kids that much more enjoyable bearable.

Brilliant, right?  I might just have to post this one in life hacks!

To up the class factor a bit we’ve recently moved to an upper-middle-class neighborhood.  That means better candy for us the kids.  I can still drink my cheap $10 wine right?  Right?!?

So today I’ve sent out some invitations to our usual spook crew.  I’ve been a fan of Percyvites since they first came out but never had the opportunity to try them.  Mostly cause I can be very disorganized with these things.  As I’m writing this post, 6 days before thanksgiving, I’ve yet to invite everyone in the family from lack of time / organization.  But…. I’ll be on the ball for Halloween!

The Percyvites platform was so easy to use it took me 5 minutes start to finish…. after I’d selected a design.  Kids designs (sorry Caillou, not today!), adult designs, sports, chichi Paris inspired…. I finally went with the dinner party invite.

I plugged in the date, my address, a short message (shorter than twitter!), and uploaded an image.  I entered everyone’s email addresses. Boom.  I’m done.  Just like that.

I liked that you can always add on to your guest list, and that your party dashboard allows you to manage replies and such.  I loved the straight-forward approach and the ability to send both invites and thank you notes.

I wish I could have included a longer message – 60 characters goes quick – but I will definitely be ordering again.

I’ll be hosting a BrightStarts play date in November and now that we are FINALLY – 4 years later – in a home that fits our family I’m looking forward to entertaining more than once a decade.  From family affairs and kids’ birthdays to #kickass girls’ night in I look forward to sending out many more cute invites because how much fun is this!?!

Have you tried Percyvites before?  Which design would you choose?  For which event?  Comment below, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

ps – I’m fully aware that my street address appears briefly on that invite, but I really wanted you to see the finished product.  If you show up on the 31st unexpectedly…. bring your own wine ;). 

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Dragons: Race To The Edge

Dragons: Race To The Edge

Dragons: Race to the edge

My girls?  They.  Are.  Girly girls.

BUT!  They are also big fans of all things loud, dirty, dangerous, and geeky.  As long as there’s wipes nearby so they can clean off their hands right away.  We can’t let that princess dress get dirty – so they’ve told me.

J-F being a great ‘How to train your dragon‘ fan the kids have seen the movie about a zillion times.   With ‘Dragons: Race to the Edge’ the kids are excited for some new ‘mom approved’ streaming time.  J-F has some time off this month and they’ll be able to all watch it together as I pack up the house for our move.

Jasmine is already planing her binge-watching time (ha!) and the other two are playing swords with forks.  The cat is apparently a dragon and is being patient at the youngest’s attempts to ‘train’ him.  Such a good cat, my Owen.

So while I’m packing make sure to enjoy the new Netflix series!

Dragons

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Welcome Back Garfield!

Welcome Back Garfield!

Welcome Back Garfield

I love that my oldest loves the same things I did in my youth – The Baby-Sitters Club (and all things reading), Full House (OMG she’s obsessed!), and now – apparently – Garfield. 

And… She’s gotten the littles obsessed as well.  Garfield and his antics are still just as entertaining and with her developing wit she’s also ‘getting’ some of the nuances.  Its nice to see her appreciate both intelligent and no-brainer humour.

What retro (oh good god I can’t believe I’m referring to 80’s and 90’s stuff as RETRO.  Wasn’t that, like, just yesterday?) shows are you passing down to your kids?  Share below and check out some great throwback titles on Netflix!

Garfield is on @NetflixCA - Just as good as I remember! Click To Tweet

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Sometimes Family Chooses You

Sometimes Family Chooses You

Sometimes Family Chooses You

They say you can’t choose your relatives but you can choose your family.  Though I wholeheartedly agree with this I also believe that sometimes it’s the other way around.

Sometimes that crazy family you never would have picked chooses you and becomes an indispensable – no matter how hard you try to avoid this.

Grace & Frankie, a Netflix Original series now streaming globally, is the perfect example.

Beyond the talented actors (and their chemistry), beyond the beautiful settings (hello beach house!), and the laugh out loud moments, this series has touched me in a weird way.

Wait.  Not, like, in a w e i r d way…. that just sounded icky and gross.  But I was hooked from the first few minutes and experienced a slew of emotions as I binge-watched the first season.

I won’t spoil it for you, but I will say it was very well done.  Classy, tasteful… Funny as heck.

Families are complicated.  Families are a pain in the ass.  Families are what saves us.  Enjoy this one, and be thankful for the family that is yours on this Mother’s Day weekend.

Sometimes #family chooses you #GraceAndFrankie @netflixCA #Streamteam Click To Tweet

grace_and_frankie

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Parenting with White Lies

Parenting with White Lies

Parenting with White Lies

Last night I found ‘Liar Liar’ on Netflix and bribed the kids to watch an ‘old person movie’ with their crazy mom.

Joke’s on them, they actually enjoyed it!  Jasmine had a hoot when she discovered one of my oft-repeated lines came from that movie – when Jim Carey announces the arrival of a character by signing “Here She Comes to Wreck the Day!!!!”.

She’s growing fast that one, and starting to grasp the nuances of sarcasm and wit.  A great skill… until its used on us parents lol.  But I digress.

The movie got me thinking about white lies.  Those little nuggets of half-truths we tell to soften the blow, ease a difficult conversation, or avoid hurting someone.   Don’t try to tell me you don’t do it – every parent becomes masters of The White Lie whether we want to or not.

So here are my white lies ’cause I know y’all won’t spill the beans to my kids right?  Right?!?

White Lie

The tooth fairy needs to know you lost your tooth by 6PM or she may not get the message on time.  She leaves her home with limited coins so you’ll get something different each time.

The Story

When my oldest lost her first tooth I slipped a 5$ bill under her pillow.  My mom thought I’d forgotten and she ALSO slipped a 5$ in there.  $10 for one tooth.  Oy.

The next time, she got 1$, 1 day late.  She. Was.  Pissed.  So I did what any self-respecting parent would do and said the first thing to come to mind: she doesn’t have a cell phone so I can’t call her after 6pm and she has a set number of coins for each night, so you may get something different each time.

To this day she still says the Tooth Fairy is on a budget and ‘you get what you get and that’s what you get… but I hope not too many kids lost their tooth today!’

White Lie

I know you jumped off the bunk bed because I can see through walls

White Lie: Moms See Through Walls. Truth: You're FREAKING LOUD #Streamteam #Parenting Click To Tweet

The Story

Seriously?  My kids are so.  flipping.  loud!  I know exactly when they’re up to something ’cause I hear it all.  Every jump, fall, and pummeling comes straight to my ears.  But yes….. Of course I see through walls.

White Lie

“I’m just going to the bathroom – and it’s going to take a while.  I’ll be right back I promise”

The Story

I’ve used this one a few times.  When we were trying to get rid of Jasmine’s soother (she had terrible rashes on her lips from it), when Annabelle couldn’t find her stuffie before bedtime, and when Chloe transitioned from the playpen to a toddler bed.

I’d tell Jasmine that I couldn’t find her soother but I’d go looking for it soon as I was done in the washroom and bring it to her.  The next morning?  ‘I came in and you were already sleeping’.  Conveniently, I’d lost it again by bedtime.  It took 10 days of ‘losing’ soothers to break this habit.  Maybe that’s why my kid thinks I’m full of shit?

The younger two are more skeptical than Jasmine was at their age, but I do manage to get away with this one once in a while.

White Lies are to #parenting what Jelly is to Peanut Butter #wealldoit Click To Tweet

What white lies do you tell your kids?  Do you have a few standing favorites?  Share them below!

Once you’re done lying to your kids about your digestive system check out Bloodline, a new Netflix Original Series that follows a family caught between the ugly truth and a terrible lie.  This would be a great time to steal some Easter chocolate and come up with an excuse later. 

#Bloodline is on @NetflixCA - Caught between an ugly truth and a terrible lie #StreamTeam Click To Tweet

netflix bloodline

As a member of the Netflix #Streamteam I have been compensated for this post. All views & opinions – as are my carefully (ahem) crafted white lies – are my own :).

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Reclaiming your space after kids

Reclaiming your space after kids

Reclaiming your space after kids

Your home looks like a cross between a college dorm and a nightmare-worthy daycare.

You’ve fully embraced the land of naked barbies and the marker on the wall adds character.  You’re secretly cursing the day stickers as we know them were invented as you peel yet another one off the floor.

You can afford nice furniture, but why bother?  The kids will just ruin it anyways.

Isn’t it time you reclaimed your space?  Your sanity? Sometimes a few modest changes can make a huge difference.

Reclaim your space among naked barbies, g.i. joe's and tonka trucks Click To Tweet

The Living Room

Our house is quite small and the living room gets rather crowded.  I got rid of the sectional, bought J-F a ‘man chair’, and grabbed this beauty for myself.


With a 5′ diameter it’s perfect for snuggling the kids but also great for ‘me time’ – or ‘Coffee Time’ as I’ve taught the kids.  My spot.  My playground.  No matter what the room looks like I can come on my chair and pretend I’m in my own little world. I’ve added a plant stand and floor lamp from Ikea and a print from Minted.com, premium provider of wedding invitations and stationary.

The Bedroom

That feeling when you wake up and realize you’ve got a barbie shoe stuck on your ass and someone ate crackers in your bed… again.  I desperately needed a sense of ‘adult’ in our bedroom so I bought new pillow cases & a comforter.  These ‘Fuck You, Love Me’ pillow cases by Said The King are flipping awesome!  I added a frilly lavender comforter – because, frilly – and 100% white bamboo cotton sheets.

bedroom
The Bathroom

Since we’ve yet to find our forever home and I’ve grown quite tired of the extra long, extra ugly counter and cabinet in the bathroom, I took advantage of J-F’s hunting trip to tear the beast out and replace it with a modern sink on sale at Lowes.  A quick coat of paint, a little shelf with baskets, a new mirror (clearance bin!!!), and a black stool from Ikea.  Voila, new bathroom.

Where once you couldn’t move around much at all there’s now plenty of room for both of us to get ready at the same time, even when the kids are circling like vultures.  It’s not exactly a new house, but for $250 I no longer feel claustrophobic in the loo and it definitely looks more grown up than it ever did.

baathroom-1

Little Change, Big Impact

You don’t always need a full tear-down or complete makeover to reclaim bits and pieces of your home.  Find pieces that make you feel good and incorporate them in your ‘design’.  A few little changes here and there can make a big difference and help you reclaim that grown-up feeling, even amidst G.I. Joe’s & Tonka trucks.

How do manage the toy madness?  What have you done to make your home feel grown-up again?

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Feeding the Mind & The Miracle of The Universe

Feeding the Mind & The Miracle of The Universe

Feeding the Mind & The Miracle of The Universe

The universe – the whole, wide, thing – has got to be the most beautiful sight you can see.  Satellite images and documentaries leave me in awe at the wonder, beauty, and miracle that is the universe.

It’s no secret my childhood was unique.  Wonderful!  But certainly unique by most standards.  We didn’t have television, we had a pet monkey,   and thunderstorms were enjoyed in front of the picture window – popcorn and wine (for the adults!) in hand.  To this day I still make popcorn and open up a bottle of wine to watch thunderstorms!

I loved these moments as child and enjoy creating similar memories with my kids.  Now that the internet has replaced the Complete Britannica Encyclopedia it’s increasingly easier to share the wonders of the world with the girls.

march 2015 streamteam

With march break 1/2 over and the kids getting antsy I’m planning on watching Deadliest Volcanoes with Jasmine while the little ones nap.  She loves science and I know she’ll enjoy this very much.  And if she doesn’t throw too much attitude around, I’ll add Cosmos – A space time odyssey to her list.  She’s using my parents’ old iPad and likes to relax with Netflix on Saturday mornings.  Y’all know I’m not a fan of most shows that top her list, so if I can avoid arguments over why she can’t watch such & such show by getting her interested in this series… all the better for everyone! 🙂

Are your kids showing interest in science?  Start them with baking – it’s a great way to start exploring reactions between elements!

As a member of the Netflix #Streamteam I have been compensated for this post.  All views & opinions are my own, and clearly I built the universe 😉

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Garnier Clean+ VS DiorShow Mascara

Garnier Clean+ VS DiorShow Mascara

Garnier Clean+ VS DiorShow Mascara

Once in a while a fantabulous mascara comes along and no matter how hard it is to wipe off you’re a devoted fan.  That’s what happened to me with my DiorShow blackest black mascara.

I don’t wear much makeup;  concealer, mascara, lipgloss…. maybe a brow highlighter if I’m feeling adventurous.  Having fantastic lashes is an absolute must, as is a quick and easy beauty routine.  Washing the stuff off?  Not no easy.

My New Miracle

I’m not one of those bloggers who receives unsolicited review products – ever.  So when I got a package in the mail from Crowd Social, a division of SheBlogs, I may have squealed just a little bit.  I have been a member for some time but had yet to be included in a campaign.

As I opened up the package I pulled out the Garnier Clean+ cleanser and makeup remover.

Tadaaa!

I wish I had a picture to show you, but the kids are usually playing with my phone when I need it most.

Bottom line?  I love it.  You’ll probably love it too, so you should go out and buy it 😉  Seriously though, it hasn’t failed to deliver.  I’ve been using it for a month now and have not had any mascara emergencies since.

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Blue Prints, Mr. Wonderful, & Discussions with an 8 year old

Blue Prints, Mr. Wonderful, & Discussions with an 8 year old

Blue Prints, Mr. Wonderful, & Discussions with an 8 year old

According to my kids, TV is where it’s at.  At the ripe old age of 2, 4, & 8 they know what they like & don’t like, what’s in, what’s out, and what’s what.

Now, I don’t pretend to know what goes on in other households.  But in this house?  The kids LOVE watching ‘our’ shows.  All 3 are avid fans of The Big Bang Theory and love to sing the opening song.  They enjoy cheering along with our favorite tribe in Survivor and encourage The Biggest Loser contestants from our side of the screen.

I don’t always like it when they watch our shows, but it does bring on many opportunities for real-world discussions that don’t involve My Little Pony and Ever After High.

Dragon’s Den is one of those shows.  Jasmine has been watching this with me since she was about a year old.  She knows the Dragons by name and can predict when deals will flop or close.  She sees entrepreneurs think outside the box to solve problems.  We talk about why some deals are closing and others aren’t.  About planning and execution, effective marketing, what an entrepreneur could have done differently to build a better business.  Using words an 8 year old will understand, of course.

She sees me run my own business and likes to talk about the empire she will one day build (paying all of us $5 / day to slave work for her while she goes shopping, as I’ve been advised recently).

She’s had the opportunity to meet Arlene Dickinson & Kevin O’Leary, and dreams of meeting all of the Dragons (and Sharks, since the US tank has recruited a few of her favorites). On both occasions there was a talk followed by a book signing.  She’s always picked out a book to have signed, and enjoys the talks almost as much as meeting the Dragons.

Jasmine & @ShoeboxBeGone meet @KevinOLearyTV with @indigoFR & @IndigoGreenRoom! http://goo.gl/MKYniX Click To Tweet

 At the age of 3 she designed a lipstick machine, in magic marker, on her wall.  The thing was about 4 ft wide by 3 ft high.  It was very intricate, but the end result was that it expertly applied lipstick to your lips.  Of course, in order for the ‘prototype’ to work it needed real lipstick.  FYI, industrial quantities of lipstick are almost impossible to wash off a wall.

Then again, I remember my own room being plastered with posters of Joey Lawrence, Marc-Paul Gosselar, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, and Brad Pitt.  If she wants to look up to self-made millionaires… who am I to complain?

She’s on a Dragon Den kick again, so thankfully seasons 5 & 6 are now available on Netflix.  I like having mini-marathons with her but frankly I’m getting sick of hearing Barbies & ponies argue.  So we listen to grown-ass adults argue…. LOLbut at least their voices aren’t as high pitched!

What do you watch with your kids?  What conversations are you hoping to start with them?

As a member of the Netflix #Streamteam I have been compensated for this post.  All views & opinions are my own, and all engineering prototypes are clearly my daughter’s.

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