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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The Baby-Sitters Club & My Youth – StreamTeam

The Baby-Sitters Club & My Youth – StreamTeam

The Baby-Sitters Club & My Youth - StreamTeam

OMG.  Shut the front door. 

The Baby-Sitters Club is on Netflix.  We’re talking the series – the one I couldn’t watch growing up because we didn’t even own a television.

BSC Series on Netflix

I don’t think you understand.  These books?  They saved me.  And they were everywhere.  I hid them in between towels in the bathroom, inside pillow cases in my bed, under my desk at school, and even between couch cushions.

Piles.

Piles, and piles, and piles of books.  

By the time I grew out of the life and times of The Baby-Sitters Club and the Stoneybrook community I’d amassed quite the collection of dog-eared paperbacks.  The series was my prized possession and followed me through my mid-twenties, only to perish in a flood.  Some parents keep Disney books for their kids – I kept my BSC collection.

The novels are an integral part of my youth that I want to share with my daughters.  Jasmine – who is 8 and attends French school – is on book 5 and she loves them as much as I did.

I was waiting for her to get through at least 15 books or so before showing her the 1995 movie, but who are we kidding?  You can bet your bottom dollar we’ll be watching the 13 episodes together.  And then maybe the movie.

Cause is there anything better than sharing a slice of your youth with your kids?

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NYE with kids: Bringing Sexy Back

NYE with kids: Bringing Sexy Back

NYE with kids: Bringing Sexy Back

I used to be the queen of NYE.  I always had plans.  They were always epic.  I celebrated in style.  Sometimes en grandeur, sometimes en tête-à-tête – clothing optional – but always in style.  Champagne, chocolate strawberries, a multitude of hors d’oeuvres that didn’t feature tostitos or pinwheel PB&J’s.

Great outfits, simple updos, and fancy underwear were a staple in my celebrations – as was great food, flowing wine, and chickie cocktails because why not.

Cost was never a factor.  I’m a New Year’s baby so the money I saved on birthday celebrations I used to splurge on my NYE plans.  Because who am I kidding?  Most people are usually too hungover to remember my birthday or too broke post-holidays to come celebrate with me.  Even if it wasn’t ‘my’ party, it was *MY* party and no tears were allowed.

In (out?) comes kids, Out goes the fancy underwear.

And, frankly, all semblance of party plans.  Ever since I had Jasmine 8 years ago I have spent the eve alone on the couch in PJ’s.  In the 6 years JF & I have ∗ celebrated ∗ together he’s been working or sick.  I’ve stopped making plans because even when I do, he gets called into to work (apparently someone needs to answer those pesky 911 calls).

This year, I had ALL the plans.  And…. true to tradition hubby’s schedule got switched.  Because you’re an awesome bunch – and I’m just nice like that – I’m sharing how I planned to bring sexy back to our NYE celebrations… even if it’s with kids.

3 tips for celebrating nye with kids

 Get in the mood with accessories

Not those kinds of accessories, you sick bastard – the jewelry kind.  I was shopping at Aldo and found this really cute headband that reads ‘Meet Me At Midnight’.  Can it get more suggestive?  Also great no matter your relationship status.  You’ll stand out in a sea of ‘2015’ and ‘Happy New Year’ glitter headbands.

For you non-parent people sometimes a great kiss is all the action you have time or energy for.  Those kisses help you remember that there’s still an grown-ass woman under all that extra baby skin.

Get cheeky with the menu

Toffee bars?  Nah-ah!  Sinful Threesomes.  Get the recipe HERE.  How about some beer cocktails?  F*Bombs & Mistletoe are sure to keep you both smirking.

Molson Mistletoe

While you’re having fun sipping your drinks – serve them in martini glasses for a fancy look – let the kids pretend they’re big people for a while with their own ‘cocktails’.  Milk flutes, complete with chocolate chip cookie sticks, and homemade sparkling apple cider.

NYE mocktails

Lie to your kids

By now you must have heard of Netflix’ new Dreamworks original series All Hail King Julien the wacky lemur from Madagascar.  

King Julien likes to party and get his shake on.  He’s famed for rocking out to ‘I like to move it-move-it’ and crazy pineapple hats.  For a lemur he sure spends a lot of time glaring at us through the screen with his come-hither look.

Maybe that’s why he wants to help you lie to your kids.  ‘Cause now the folks at #AllHailKingJulien have created a fake  3 minute NYE countdown that you can show the littles….. at whatever time you see fit!!!!  To watch the countdown, go here: http://nflx.it/kingcountdown

No more waiting for Time Squares to get with the program, no more fumbling for good YouTube footage of celebrations in Australia, and no more whiny kids who won’t sleep ’cause they’re wired!  Brilliant, right?  Maybe you won’t be able to fool the older kids but at least the wee ones will be squared away long before you pucker up.

Let them have their fun with noisemakers, streamers and New Year’s Eve glasses – then off to bed they go!

All Hail KIng Julien NYE Party Pack

 NYE with Kids – Can you still bring sexy back?

Well, like I mentioned you need 2 willing participants.  And sleeping kids.   But even if you can’t ring in the new year with a bang the sous-entendres are sure to keep you both on your toes and – at the very least – remember that you still like each other – because that’s always important!

Can't ring in #NYE with a 'bang'? @Netflix_CA helps you create time to pucker up in peace 😉 Click To Tweet

bringing sexy back to #nye

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Sick in Bed with Russell Peters

Sick in Bed with Russell Peters

Sick in Bed with Russell Peters

It’s been one of “those” days.  The kind of days where the baby just wants to sleep and nurse.  Oh, and be stuck thisclose to you.  Failing to abide by these requests will treat your neighborhood – and possibly the whole county – with apocalyptic screams.

Oh, the joys of a growth-spurting, molar-breaking, almost 2 year old.  At least is was just the 2 of us and I was able to stay in bed with her.

Facebook gets boring after a while and Twitter – well,  Twitter just isn’t what it used to be.  Color me happy because is there anything better than snuggling with a baby under thick blankets, the window cracked open just a bit, and some hi.la.ri.ous. comedy?

Remember the days of trekking out to Blockbuster in PJ’s and fuzzy slippers, toque firmly in place because bed hair?  For the young’uns reading this, Blockbuster was where you went to rend VHS videos and eventually DVD’s.  You hoped to get there before all the new releases were gone or you were watching 3 Men & a Little Lady for the millionth time.  Or Ghost.  Or the newest Olsen twins made-for-tv movie.

netflix logo

Luckily I have Netflix on my tablet and spent the day in bed with Russell Peters, sans toque.  Jim Jefferies, Eddy Murphy, and Joan Rivers also made an appearance but they don’t know me like my Russell does.  He had eyes only for me, and knew just what to say to make me feel better.  And he did!

Maybe on Friday I’ll have him over for a glass of wine and invite him to stay till breakfast.   

Connect with Netflix & discover comedy lineup!  And since you’re here…. Who’s your favorite stand-up comedian, and why?

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

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Are you ready to #StreamInto2015

Are you ready to #StreamInto2015

Are you ready to #StreamInto2015

home-alone-1-poster-widescreen-2I know we’d all like to forget, but Christmas is less than 2 months away!

My favorite holiday pass-time?  Watching all the classics.  From Home Alone to National Lampoon, and all the cheezy love-sappy movies in between.

This year I’ve decided its time for our family to crown OUR all-time favorite holiday movie.  I’ve teamed up with Staples Canada to #StreamInto2015 and 1 month from now we’ll unveil our family’s favorite.

Follow along our journey, there will be prizes for you to win!!!!

Meanwhile…. What is your favorite holiday movie and viewing traditions?  Each year, the kids & I snuggle up with big blankets and real popcorn for National Lampoon.  It’s a must, and it’s not Christmas without it!  You?

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Painting with Penguins in Camden NJ – Adventure Aquarium

Painting with Penguins in Camden NJ – Adventure Aquarium

Painting with Penguins in Camden NJ - Adventure Aquarium

Once again my career took me on the road.  My mission?  Find 1 ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity and make the most of my 1 day of visiting.  You may remember I did the same thing in San Francisco last fall

Though I was in Philly for the SITS Girls Women Get Social conference I decided that a small detour to Camden NJ was in order.  Why Camden?  Wasn’t I getting enough love from Philly? Sure – but Camden has Adventure Aquarium.

As in – come swim with the sharks and paint with penguins Adventure Aquarium.  So I did what any sane blogger would do and got myself a media pass which covered my parking and general admission.  Nothing was going to keep me away from the sharks and the penguins.

Of course by the time I got everything sorted out the shark tank was full but I managed to get a ticket to go paint with penguins.  The cost of an experience can be a little steep compared to general admission but if you love penguins (or sharks, turtles, etc…) it’s worth every last penny you’ll put down.

I’m glad I had time to explore as I really wanted to spend some time in Hypo Haven, the Jules Verne Gallery, and Shark Realm.  I would have LOVED to also visit the turtles but there are only so many minutes in one hour.  Wide-eyed and elated after going through the shark tunnel I moseyed on over to guest services where a cute cabana boy whisked me away to South Africa.

Painting with Penguins in Camden NJ - @adventureaqua #travel Click To Tweet

Actually, that didn’t happen but wouldn’t it be nice?  I did, however, meet 2 wonderful handlers who brought us to meet the locals.  I’ve always loved penguins.  Now I know why.  They are cute, they have personality, and they (mostly) love 2-legged creatures.

Penguin Experience

My artist groomed me, kissed me, and generally played nice with this human thing that was willing to give it all its attention.  This particular penguin was new to the arts and must have been sporting some sort of performance anxiety – it was, after all, her first time painting in an experience.  She handled it like pro though and you could tell she was having a blast.  She may have stolen a piece of my heart back there.

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Every time I come home I tell J-F we have to go back as a family cause wherever I just came from is so so cool.  But its true!  There are hidden gems in every city and it’s my mission to find them for you!

There are hidden gems in every city! Click To Tweet

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Are you a good mother?

Are you a good mother?

Are you a good mother?

Summer always starts off with the gentle earth-mother-esque firm-yet-gentle whisper-screaming-scary-mom voice. By the time back to school rolls around the earth mother has disappeared.  Her replacement must shout scream bellow just to be heard over the herd of screaming hyenas posing as innocent children.

Yeah, I know.  I should scream less.  I should be more patient and understanding.  I should probably stab myself in the eyes with a cayenne-laced pencil instead of getting upset.

The newly folded laundry is on the floor mixed with the dirty clothes that WAS in the basket.  There’s an (empty) bowl of cherries under the table and you know that’s going to end up in a shitstorm.

The preschooler found time to pee in the potty but the 3rd grader was doing ‘running-jumping-dance-gymnastics‘ and tripped over the pot while the other one was pulling up her pants.   Meanwhile, the toddler has a sock in one hand and my brand new shirt in the other, attempting the clean the pee in a ‘wax-on-wax-off’ fashion.  

There’s a decapitated naked Barbie on the floor and Daddy’s shoes are wedged between the seat cushions of our couch.  The now-empty laundry basket is turned upside-down, trapping the cat who’s furtively trying – and failing – to escape his new cage.

All of this because I decided that my exploding bladder was more important than, say, just about anything else in that moment.  All of this for a quick 30 second pee-wipe-flush-wash sprint.  There must be a time-warp vortex in our house – how else can you explain so much damage in so little time?

Does this make me a bad mother?

GoodMothersmaller

Probably not.  But I won’t lie, I’m super excited for Back-To-School.  So excited that when I saw this post about turning shower caddies into homework stations I just had to make some for the kids (and maybe for me too…).  All I needed – other than copious amounts of school supplies – was a dollar store shower caddie and some chalkboard labels from Kidecals.

Ultimate-Back-To-School-Party-Ideas-Printables-AfterSchoolSnacks-Recipes-More-Must-Have-Mom

Awesome post from MustHaveMom.com

Kidecals

I recently discovered Kidecals and now I might be getting slightly obsessed with this whole labeling thing.  I got labels for the pantry (breakfast stuff does NOT go on the pasta shelf and vice versa!).  I got more of the chalkboard labels to use over the hooks I bought to organize the kids’ coats (the fact that said hooks have been in their Ikea bag for 6 months is besides the point).  I might even have gotten a label for my bin of labels.

Kids still driving you nuts?

Grab a glass of wine, sit back, and browse the Kidecals website while dreaming of your perfectly organized pristine dream home with white towels and sheets that stay white and a kitchen devoid of fruit flies as you’ll never discover a shriveled up old orange in the (properly labelled) utensil jar.

While I didn’t find my dream home for sale on their website, I am excited to reorganize my life once the kids are back in school and label the heck out of  everything 🙂 Shipping to Ottawa was roughly $13 and the prices are super reasonable.  What are you looking forward to labeling?

KDL_stickers_fnl

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Sex Tape The Movie VS The Real Thing

Sex Tape The Movie VS The Real Thing

Sex Tape The Movie VS The Real Thing

**** DISCLOSURE ***** This post contains adult content and is not intended for all viewing audiences INCLUDING my mother, my sister, my mother-in-law, my husband, or anyone else remotely connected to us by blood.  Kids, if you find this in 15 years, move on please – move on!

What’s the worst that could happen? 

A little bit of this, a little bit of that, all in efforts to rekindle that seemingly long-lost spark.

Let me be the first (if not the last) to tell you that married sex is different than dating sex – even if you were in a committed long term relationship before you got married. 

When you’re dating, ‘date night’ is a night off.  You take your time getting ready, shaving your legs, listening to your favorite music, maybe have a glass of wine.  By the time the bedroom tango comes along you already came at the door, in the stairs, and on the floor beside the bed. 

Married sex?

It’s different, but you don’t really notice it as much until you have kids.  Experience tells me there’s an 18 month lull – or dry spell, if you will – after each pregnancy.  You just don’t feel it!  At all. Screaming kids, poopy shit-fests, mountains of laundry and that good’ole glow, a remnant of sweat accumulated since your last shower four days ago!

We all do it: mercy sex.  You know, the “Fine, cause if we don’t tonight you’ll pout for a week” kind of mercy sex?  That.  Sometimes you’re in the mood, but its never at the same time as your partner’s mood.  Not to say you don’t enjoy it…. but you do need a lot of convincing!

I can understand the drive to try just about anything to get that spark back but it doesn’t always work out as planned, does it?  (continued)

We don’t have ‘The Cloud’ as they do in  Sex Tape The Moviebut we do have cats.

The new cat has a sex radar.  If we don’t close the door she’s right up in there, trying to get in between our legs.  She once cleaned our sheets while we were looking for a towel, and God forbid you take out the vibrator!  She’ll sing (purr?) in tune with it while pawing away at your leg.

Sex tape?  BAHAHAHAHHAHAHHAAHA!  It would likely end up looking like this:

So grab your main squeeze and head out to watch Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel battle The Cloud in Sex Tape The Movie, in theatre everywhere July 18th!  I’m sure it will be more entertaining than my cat, and perhaps provide fodder for the imagination 😉

Even if it doesn’t get you laid you’ll at least have had shower and a few laughs 😛

Though I was compensated for this post all cat interruptions, 4-day-old-mom-stink, and thoughts are my own. 

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Mastermind Toys Opens a 3rd location in Ottawa – Barrhaven!

Mastermind Toys Opens a 3rd location in Ottawa – Barrhaven!

Mastermind Toys Opens a 3rd location in Ottawa - Barrhaven!

#haveyouheard

Mastermind Toys is now open in Barrhaven and they’re having a party!

Join the team for The Grand Opening of Ottawa’s 3rd store from July 10th – 13th, 2014.  A party wouldn’t be complete without loot bags for kids, special offers and of course giveaways.  If you happen to be there on Saturday, there may or may not be cupcakes 😉  #earlybirdgetstheworm

mastermind toys barrhaven now open

71 Market Place in the Chapmen Mills Marketplace

I love this store!  From the first time I walked in last year and every visit since, they are the best.  In a hurry?  No problem.   Need to find a gift for the pickiest kid?  No problemGiftwrapping?  Right this way please!   The complimentary gift wrapping team will be there all weekend!

Our Generation Dolls

Love ‘American Girl’ dolls?  Hate the hefty price tag?  Fear not 😉  Our Generation Dolls have arrived in Ottawa and they  do.  not.  disappoint.  Outfits, accessories, chapter books…. When the Mastermind Toys team sent me one to review I quickly hid it away for Thing 1’s birthday – she’s turning 8 this week!

FLASH GIVEAWAY FOR OTTAWA READERS!

In honor of  The Grand Opening of Ottawa’s 3rd store, Mastermind Toys is giving a $50 gift card to one (1) lucky reader!

Enter your information below and be instantly entered to win!  #whoot

Winner will be drawn on July 9th and prize will be available for pickup in the Ottawa location of your choice.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Whatcha waiting for?

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Keeping it real with the Surpahs digital bathroom scale and body fat monitor

Keeping it real with the Surpahs digital bathroom scale and body fat monitor

Keeping it real with the Surpahs digital bathroom scale and body fat monitor

Yeah, I said it.  Body.  Fat.  Monitor. 

In the last few years I’ve relied on my own body fat monitor.  I call it a mirror.  There’s no mistaking the dimples on my behind and the wrinkles where my abs used to sit.

I’ve had 3 kids, and lost ALL the baby weight within 8 weeks for each of them – without trying, really.  There are some advantages to Hyperemesis Gravidarum –  A non-glamorous pregnancy one may have, but it’s pretty hard to gain non-baby weight when you can’t keep anything down for 9 months! 

The only thing is, with the last 2 I gained it ALL back (and then some!) AFTER losing the weight.  You can’t really call it baby weight at that point….  After many attempts to normalize my weight my doctor & I discovered that a change in medication is the most likely culprit.  We’ve switched things up and I can feel myself getting smaller – 1/16 of an inch at a time! 

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Knowing that I was on my way back down I didn’t hesitate at the chance to review the Surpahs Digital Bathroom Scale and Body Fat Monitor.  I like numbers and this seemed a good way to geek out my weight loss journey.

After putting in our profiles (age, height, gender, athlete or not) we each stepped up on the scale to see what’s what; it almost felt like the Biggest Loser without the crowd, and the trainers, and the cameras, and the…. Ok.  It was nothing like Biggest Loser – except for the wait.   At least I wasn’t hanging precariously off the edge of the scale – with a weight capacity of 400 lbs its built solid!

Surpahs Digital Scale & Body Fat MonitorThe results were in and I’d  lost a total of 10 lbs in four weeks!  Yeehaaw!  A few seconds later the scale showed my body fat percentage (not BMI, but actual percentage of our body that is made of fat), muscle and water percentage, and bone mass (weight). The numbers didn’t shock me…. but they didn’t necessarily please me either!

1 week later I jumped back up on the scale.  I’d been good all week:  I exercised, ate well, minimized evening snacks….. all of this and its been crazy hot outside!  So I peer down, almost afraid to look, and BOOM!  I lostshit, I gained – 1/2 lbs.  

“Common Baby, give me my numbers!” It’s like that moment when you’re playing the slots and there’s just the last reel left to stop and you’re just missing 1 genie lamp to launch the feature.  Aaaannnnd….. Body Fat %: no change!  Water percentage, however, did creep up.  Everything else was the same as last week.

I’m not happy – It’s definitely not the number I wanted to see on the scale – but I am encouraged.  I never drink pop and had 2 sodas in the last day or so – my rings were tight and I felt a little bloated.  Knowing that the gain really was water retention, and not an increase of blubber, made me feel better about what I was seeing on the scale.  We tell ourselves these things all the time, ‘it’s just water weight’, but we never really know, do we?  Until now.

Bottom line, I’m glad I got the Surpahs digital bathroom scale – it’s a great buy!  You can add up to 8 profiles (the kids had fun weighing themselves!) which is awesome for large families.  Nothing like having to draw straws as to who gets left out!  The science – or bio-metrics if you will – behind it?  Check out their website for more detailed info.  It’s worth every penny… even better if you get it on sale 😉 

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Symphony DLX All-In-One Car Seat By Evenflo #clickclickpush

Symphony DLX All-In-One Car Seat By Evenflo #clickclickpush

Symphony DLX All-In-One Car Seat By Evenflo #clickclickpush

While at Blissdom Canada last year I met the wonderful PR team from Evenflo Baby.  Having a few wee ones, I was interested in seeing their newest technology – SureLatch auto-retracting connectors.

Huh?

“It’s simple!” the guy told me, “You just Click, Click, Push!”.  It’s so easy to remember that even my kids knew what to do!

Apparently all you had to do was click each latch into the latch hook, and push on the seat to tighten.  I fell in love. Move over Honey, there’s a new stud in town and its name is SureLatch! 

I may have spent some time chasing down the right person.  I may have sounded over-eager.  Truth is, I LOVE this technology and wanted to share it with everyone I know.  I may have yelped a little a lot when the FedEx guy showed up with my brand new Symphony DLX All-In-One Car Seat, courtesy of Evenflo Canada.

I’m not going to waste your time listing the specks (there are plenty other reviews for that) – but here’s what you need to know:

  • You’ll never need another car seat again – from newborn to 10 yrs old if you wish!
  • The padding is not only safe, it’s comfy for the little one.
  • My mother-in-law has no problems installing and removing this thing – a bonus since she takes the baby once a week.  If she can do it…. anyone can!
  • It’s large and in charge – may not be suitable for your convertible mustang or VW Bug.  Truth be told, your convertible mustang may not be suitable for a young family regardless…. #justsaying.
  • It really *is* that easy: Click.  Click.  Push.

Check out this awesome review video Jasmine & I did and see it in action!

 

Personally, I would still use a newborn seat that is part of a travel system for the first 6 months – the ability to take a baby in and out of a car without waking them is priceless – but otherwise this is the best car seat we’ve ever used!

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Staples Valentine’s Day Gift Guide

Staples Valentine’s Day Gift Guide

Valentine’s day is coming up soon and I can’t help but think back to those awful gifts that I – and my friends & family – have received over the years.

I know of one woman who’s husband buys her things like smoothie makers, food scales, ‘people’ scales in efforts to give her an incentive to reach for her weight loss goalsSupportive?  Sure!  Romantic…. not so much?

One year for Christmas I got a whole case of microwavable popcorn from my parents.  I didn’t own a microwave.  I thought it meant I was getting one and they were being cheeky about the reveal.  Ends up they forgot I didn’t have one.

I just read a story online of a family who decided to prepay their dying family member’s funeral as a Christmas gift.  They wrapped up an empty box with a note on it by way of demonstration.  I think this one tops the list!

Thankfully there are many options out there, not least of which is the Staples Valentine’s Day Gift Guide.  It’s not just liquid paper and pens – they have some awesome stuff both in stores and online!

staples gift guide

There’s something for everyone though I would prefer to get something for me!

The kind folks at Staples are letting me choose 1 (one) gift from this guide, and 1 lucky reader gets to pick a gift too!

The purple bag looks awesome, and so does the iPhone compatible watch.  Ultimately I think I’ll choose the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 and give it to Jasmine for her birthday.  She’s been asking for a tablet and is getting frustrated with the toy versions, saying they’re took ‘baby’ for her.

What would you pick?  Comment & enter below for your chance to win! (CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED)

Editor’s Note:

Congratulations to Melinda Bergeron, entry number 2293 – SHARE ON FACEBOOK!  – for winning this giveaway!  Thanks to everyone who entered, and keep checking back there’s more fun stuff coming on the blog!

San Francisco Tours – When Business Meets Pleasure

San Francisco Tours – When Business Meets Pleasure

I’ve travelled a lot for business for in the last few years it’s always the same – get in, get out, and next thing you know you’ve haven’t seen more than the few blocks surrounding your hotel… If you’re lucky!

Last week I spoke at a conference and decided to stay an extra day to see the sights.  I was in San Francisco.  I’d never been and didn’t know when I would be back.  Also, I’m a huge Full House fan, and who doesn’t remember the opening scenes of that show?

But how do you pack a whole city in one day?  Where do you go? What do you see?  I decided to challenge myself,  ‘around the world in 80 days’ style, and see how much I could get done while not going completely mad.

Oh and by the way, I was touring the city alone.

Yeah you heard me.  A woman.  Alone.  In a foreign (ish?) country where horrific mass shootings are sadly becoming the norm; in a state known for really bad earthquakes.  My worst nightmares had me stuck at the bottom of a rumbling pile of rocks and no one would find out I was missing until the next day.  I watch too many cop shows. 

When Grey Line of San Francisco heard about my mission (insert theme song from ‘Chuck’) they let me hop on their Ultimate City Tour and Bay Cruise.

WOW! I ended up taking the early tour, then visiting the pier for a while before doing the cruise, followed by more walking and a mad dash to the airport.

City tours are the sampling menu fare of travel's happy hour. Click To Tweet

Tours are the ultimate sampling menus. 

Not only did I get to see most of the major sites, I also found out a bunch of nifty facts and local lore I wouldn’t have discovered if I were on my own. When I go back, I know exactly which areas I want to explore.  The tour guide was funny, I got to take many amazing pictures (see the slideshow below) and I met some interesting people.  If I’d had more time I knew exactly what I wanted to order from the full menu.

Also, I felt safe.

California has Welcome Centres in major urban areas!

When I heard about this I was ecstatic.  Though my day was already planned, welcome centres offer many other services.  For a small fee I was able to leave my luggage for the day in a secure area… A bonus since I’d already check out of the hotel and my carry-on was becoming a problem.

I’m sure most states have them, and I know in Canada the major cities have tourist information centres and welcome areas.  Check them out – it could make the difference between a great day and an awesome day.

You can’t buy a swimsuit in California…

Well… Maybe you can, but I had terrible luck.  It was cold in San Francisco, but the hotel had a heated pool and I was tempted.  5 stores later I’d found bikini tops…. and nothing else.  Needless to say I didn’t buy one, but I did post a comment to my Facebook page.  My friend Meghan?  She’s a funny girl:
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Relax and enjoy the ride!

I started the day with a tight schedule and that flew out the window when I woke up 2 hours late.  All I knew is I had to make it to the bus on time, and at some point take the cruise.  It would appear one can’t just snap one’s fingers, yell ‘Garcon!’ and expect a boat to appear.  But otherwise?  I stuck to the touristy area, taking free shuttles when I could, and enjoyed the sunshine on my nose.

Avoid public restrooms and hot dog stands.

If you don’t head this advice, the latter and former go hand in hand.  Trust me.

Make memories, not just great pictures.

I enjoy photography as much as the next camera geek – see the slide show – but don’t fall for the ‘click-click-we’ll-see-the-landmark-in-the-pictures’ mentality.  At several look-outs and stops I saw so many people taking loads and loads of pictures of themselves with the landmark.  No one was taking the time to appreciate the beauty and grandness of the sights.  Do you really want to remember your trip as a series of poses?  Not me.  I’ll admit to a total of 3 selfies, but otherwise I filled my camera (and phone…) with the sights that impressed me. I sat down on a bench with a coffee and people watched for 10 minutes. I had a conversation with the sax player on the corner who made an old lady dance to ‘Blurred Lines’.  I’m sure that woman would be scandalized if she knew what she was dancing to, and the thought made me smile.

The tour was great for this.  We had about 20-30 minutes at each stop to take in the sights as well as use the facilities and indulge in our need to memorialize our faces in front of large monuments.

Its not always about the new roller coaster

As with the Time Squares NYE Ball debacle I had a must see on this tour – the Golden Gate Park and the house from the opening credits of Full House.  Our guide didn’t disappoint.  We’re not allowed out of the bus anymore – the guy who owns the house is tired of people showing up at his door looking for the Olsen Twins – but he did drive by r-e-a-l slow for me.

Don’t be afraid to tell your guide if there’s something on the tour that’s really important to you.  By that point I’d made a few funnies and there was a feeling of camaraderie on the bus.  No one minded the extra 45 seconds it took to drive in front of those houses and the only thing that would have made it better for me was if John Stamos was leaning against the rail in those tight leather pants, flashing those pearly whites and offering me a ride on his motorcycle

Focus!  So.  Not about the biggest roller coaster.  Its your trip after all – make the most of it!

Roll with the waves

If your destination has a waterfront and offers 1 to 3 hour cruises – TAKE IT!  Not only is the view fantastic and picture perfect, but again you’ll get a bit more history about the wonderful sight’s you’re seeing.  I really can’t say enough about these – I’ve done them in my home town too, and its a great way to put your feet up for an hour and still manage to see some sights.  Pack a lunch – or pick something up on the way – and when you’re done you’ll still have plenty of time left to get those few souvenirs.

I had 8 hours to enjoy the city.  I have no regrets and look forward to going back there with my family one day.  Definitely schedule San Francisco Tours if you can squeeze it in.  It’s a great primer to your vacation if you’re staying a few days or longer, and if you only have a day you’ll leave knowing that though you may not have experienced it all, you definitely saw the great stuff to see.

How about you?  What are your best tips for braving the big city on your own? Let’s talk 🙂

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Mastermind Toys: Not just for kids!

Mastermind Toys: Not just for kids!

Did you know Mastermind Toys is now in Ottawa?!?

I had never heard of them before, but I’m now thrilled that there are 2 new locations in Ottawa: Kanata & Ottawa-East.

I mean what store can you go into and pet a larger-than-life hand-painted plush elephant?  Or play with the coolest new toys? Or rush in for a last minute gift and walk out 15 minutes later with a perfectly appropriate gift-wrapped toy?

Amazing Brands, Top-Notch Quality

I had a blast looking at all the really cool stuff they had.  Some brands I new really well, others were more obscure.   But one thing prevailed: Coolness.

Speaking of coolness, I found this neat little thing called the ZOKU.  Actually, ZOKU is the brand and they make a few different things including a popsicle maker (which I also bought) and a slushie maker.

Oh Yes!  The good ‘ole Slushie.  Stick the empty container in the freezer for 24hrs, pour in your favorite drink (no aspartame – it won’t work), stir frequently for 5-9 minutes, and Voila!  Instant (ish) slushie for you to enjoy.

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Great for the kids right?  How ’bout great for moms too?  I used mine to make a beer cocktail.  Equal parts lime & simple syrup (about 1 to 1.5 oz of each, to taste) and fill up with the beer of your choice.  Sweet.  Sour.  Yeasty.  Cold…. Yummy.  In slushie form?  All the better!

Who says these toys are just for kids anyways?

 

 

Niagara Falls: Survival Tips

Niagara Falls: Survival Tips

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Things to Do Survival Tips

You’ve picked a destination and decided it was time for a vacation.  What’s next?  Here are my Niagara Falls Survival Tips.

Choose your dates wisely

We went in May because kids were still in school and the crowds wouldn’t be as bad.  Also, we went on a weekday.  If you get overwhelmed in large crowds avoid long weekends.  If you’re on a budget travel during the week.  Be strategic, it will pay off.

Choose your venue wisely

We chose the Comfort Inn Clifton Hill.  It was comfortable, clean, and the staff was amazing.  Breakfast was included with our stay, there’s a nice big pool, and a Kelsey’s attached to it.

More importantly, it was within walking distance of almost everything we wanted to do.  The only time we took the van was to go to Marineland.  We walked on the hill, walked to the falls, hopped the WEGO from there – it was great.  Thank goodness too because we not only had 6 people to fit in the van but also a scooter and a double stroller.  Bonus, we didn’t spend our week looking for parking.

Road tripping?  Don’t overstuff the car!

Many cities have baby gear rental businesses and most hotels have basics like playpens and cribs.  Don’t spend 6 hours in the car wedged between a car seat and a double stroller, and don’t try to navigate narrow airplane aisles with the limo on wheels.  Rent what you can and arrange for pick up and delivery to your hotel.  We rented a double-stroller from Baby Travels and it cost us $50 for the week.  It was dropped off at the hotel and picked up there as well.  Worth every penny!

Wedged between car seat and stroller? Leave the limo on wheels at home #travel #rentit Click To Tweet

Adult:Child Ratios

Bring as many adults (or capable teens) as you have small children, specially when there are gender and age differences.  Makes it easier to split up when each child wants or needs something different.  If you have 3 or more kids, consider paying the way for a grandparent, and older niece or nephew, or hire a local babysitter for the week.  They get a trip and you get an extra set of hands.

Itinerary

Plan ahead.  Find out what there is to do, choose what you want to do, figure out the budget, and stick (mostly) to that list.  Once you know what you want to do you can find the best deals and plan out an itinerary for the family.

Down time

Kids get tired, big people get cranky, and no one has fun when you’re rushing around.  We stayed 3 nights instead of 2 so we could sleep in if we wanted to.  It also allowed for extra flexibility as we were road-tripping AND the weatherman was forecasting doom and gloom for the whole week. Ends up the weather was perfect but I was glad we had that extra time to shuffle things around.

Kids will be kids

And kids will get hungry.  Plan ahead and pack some snacks for each day.  Having healthy food handy squashes the cravings and the whining that follows cause you’re stuck in a lineup for the ride and everyone decided they were hungry.

Have fun.  Laugh.  It will be over soon.  I promise 😉

Bring a bottle of wine.  There are openers and glasses at the hotel.  Have a glass after the kids are in bed.  You’re welcome.

What are you best travel survival tips?  Please share in the comments below!

 

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Niagara Falls: Things to Do

Niagara Falls: Things to Do

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Things to Do Survival Tips

Why Niagara Falls?  What Can I do there?

This is my roundup of the best things to do in Niagara Falls.  Information and pricing can be found through the Niagara Falls Tourism website.

Niagara Falls is more than ‘just’ the falls.

The falls are great, but you can’t spend the whole week on the Maid of the Mist.  Thankfully there’s plenty to do.

In the heart of it all is Clifton Hill.

That’s where you have the big Skywheel, the dinosaur and glow in the dark mini-put, all the Ripley’s stuff and the Guiness World of Records stuff.  There’s also a few different wax museums.

What I loved about the Hill is that most places had this ‘open air / outdoor market’ feel at the front and you could buy tickets to see more.   Our first tour of Clifton Hill we didn’t actually go into any of the attractions – we just experienced what was right there in front of us and the front-end of the attractions!  Ice cream shops, fudge, souvenirs, games… The whole thing has a carnival feel and it’s all been cleverly built into the landscape of the hill.

The Falls. 

The falls are great, and there’s plenty to do and see there as well.  My kids wouldn’t do the white water walk and the journey behind the falls would be too complicated with the stroller but with older children this is definitely a great choice.  And who can forget the Maid of the Mist?  You might think it’s just a boat and some water – but it’s not.  Its experiencing in ‘live HD’ the forces of nature.  It’s an experience you won’t soon forget and is worth getting a little wet for.

Helicopter Rides.

The best view of the falls – We almost went on this but by the time Date Night rolled around we were too exhausted.   Our hotel had special pricing tickets available and it was about 50% off!  Definitely worth it.

The Parks. 

Botanical gardens, butterfly conservatories, flower clocks, walking trails – A few minutes on the WEGO and you’re there.  The kids will love the opportunity to run wild and spend some pent up energy and you’ll enjoy the tranquility of the parks.

Fallsview Boulevard.

Upscale restaurants, the Fallsview Casino, higher-end hotels… If you want to indulge, this is the place to do it!

Lundy’s Lane. 

If you love to shop this is the place to do it! Factory outlets, boutiques, originals… you name it!

Theme Parks.

Marineland, Safari Niagara, Waterparks – something for everyone!  Bring sunscreen and enjoy the attractions and unique experiences!

The Wine.

I’ve had these tickets for a private wine tour for ages but we never seem to get around to it.  Last year I was pregnant so we cancelled our trip, and this year we didn’t have time!  A short drive away you’ll find some of Ontario’s finest wineries.  Many offer free tours, with deluxe  / private tasting tours available.  Cheers!

Whatever your tastes, whatever you decide – there’s something for everyone.  Check out my survival guide in the next tab for smooth (er) traveling with kids!

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Niagara Falls Day 4

Niagara Falls Day 4

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Things to Do Survival Tips

They’re all in the car looking at me through the windows as I check out of our pre-paid hotel room.  “Pretend this is complicated business – they’re watching!”  The poor boy doesn’t have a clue.  “I’m serious – you can’t me go back in there – please! don’t make me go back!”

“Traveling with the inlaws?”

“No!  My 3 kids.  My husband.  My mom.  You can’t make me go back there I won’t go!”

We have a few laughs while shuffling a few pieces of paper back and forth.  I refill my coffee mug.  I think I’m ready.  I can do this.  I can spend the next 6 hours in the car.  This is not a vacation.  Next time I’m running away alone;  I might consider taking J-F.  A cruise maybe?

Shit.  The wax hands.  I promised Jasmine she could have 2 souvenirs and 2 souvenirs only > A dolphin stuffie from Marineland and a wax hand that we’ve yet to do.

I kinda want one too.  I can see it now: A big huge poster with my logo and my hand ‘Need a hand?’… Don’t judge.

So we get 2 hands done – Jasmine has hers together in prayer-like form.  Mine’s standing up.

How long does it take to make 2 wax hands when you’re in a hurry and the crew keeps circling around?  About 40 minutes.  But they’re so cool they were worth every penny.

 And the trip?  Worth every penny.  It wasn’t easy.  It was complicated and messy and normal.  Normal…. Mission accomplished!

Will I do it again?  Probably.  Anytime soon?  Probably not.

As I crawl into my bed with fresh sheets I’m so glad I thought to wash them just before we left.  J-F is snoring, the kids are konked out in their beds, the baby is nursing… Tomorrow, we get back to our routine.

This week?  This week was absolutely amazing. 

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Niagara Falls Day 3

Niagara Falls Day 3

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Things to Do Survival Tips

We’re taking it easy today!  Since everything we want to see is on the WEGO line, we’re going to walk down to the falls, do the boat thing and go from there.  I’m really excited to have Mom come today ’cause everything is supposed to be accessible.

In retrospect, her day of ‘freedom’ was her favorite day of the trip (probably cause she’s been stuck on the top floor of her house all winter).  Her house is now adapted but it was a rough winter for her.  Being able to go out freely, alone, without having to worry about the battery dying on the scooter or not having the strength to push herself in the chair.  She did her own thing and she was in a great mood when we came back! Sometimes, mums do know best…

I’m pumped, I’m excited, and the kids can feel it.  Of course when we get on the boat I figure it can’t be that bad so I put on the poncho but fail to put on the cap.  I got some great pictures but the closer we got the more the wind picked up.  The more the wind picked up the more we got wet.  The more wet we got the more Jasmine was determined that she did NOT like the boat.

They say the falls will take your breath away – that’s because the wind is so strong down there you can’t breathe!

We hopped on the WEGO and headed out towards the butterfly conservatory.  Of course we missed the stop and it took another 15 minutes to circle around.  I guess that’s a good think – we got to get out to see the flower clock.  These parks we’re driving through are absolutely gorgeous, and I wish I had a day, kid free, to go walk through all the parks.  Next time.

To see the kids with the butterflies was amazing!  A few landed on Annabelle, and finally – finally – one landed on Jasmine near the end.  We went around twice, mostly cause the baby was sleeping and it was easier than going back out in the heat.

Up next is Bird Kingdom.  You have to understand that since Jasmine heard about Bird Kingdom she’s been asking why we don’t have a bird like Grandma used to have.  Teehee.  This kid is in for quite a surprise!

The 2nd floor has 2 encounter rooms plus that really dark section with the bats and the owls.  The second floor isn’t air conditioned.  We’re in a really old building, with really old wood floors that hundreds (maybe thousands?) of birds have shit on in the past.  I don’t care how many times you wash those floors and clean out the habitats: in this humidity the stink is unbearable.  That’s why we don’t have a bird. 

I’m afraid for the 3rd floor and quite frankly I’m ready to turn around but when the elevator doors opened I was speechless.  THIS is what I came here for.  It’s gorgeous!  This huge fella (of the bird kind) & I had a conversation.  J-F says I’m weird and may have muttered something along the likes that I’m not the bird whisperer.

There’s birds everywhere!  Big ones, small ones, bright ones… It’s huge, it’s open, it’s cool, it doesn’t stink – and did I mention the birds are awesome? I’ve got a few great pictures of some of the more impressive ones.

It’s almost time to head back to the hotel and meet up with Mom for dinner and we have 2 options.  Walk down the road, up the hill, and back to almost the same spot we’re in now but 1 road up…. Or take a shortcut.  J-F’s idea of a shortcut.  Up about 100 stairs.  With a 15lb stroller holding a 40lb kid and a 15lb baby.  Shit.  Some shortcut.

By the time we make it up there we’ve decided we’ve bought enough fudge already; some shortcut that was.  So up the hill a bit more we go to get to the MGM Studio store ’cause Mamma wants an OSCARWhy?  Cause I want one, that’s why.  Except every time I’ve come by they either weren’t open yet or had just closed down.  The website says MGM fun everyday until 10 pm!!! But he didn’t open up before noon and by 3pm he was gone.  This is like the New Year’s Eve ball adventure I had in NYC.  We’re leaving tomorrow morning so its a dead dream.

I’d promised Jasmine I’d take her to the dinosaur mini-put but the baby needs to nurse and Annabelle needs a nap so J-F takes her.  He also takes her up on the skywheel – AT NIGHT – and to the midway and the XD theatre.

This kid just went on MY DATE I wanted to do the Skywheel at night I wanted to go to the XD Theatre with J-F I wanted to golf with the dinosaurs and flirt like we were 15 again.  Me.  NOT the Kid.  But the KID just snafued my date.

What else is a girl to do but ask her beau to take her to the casino?  His fault.  Got dolled up and off we go… I even got a nice glass of wine!  I.  Had.  A. Blast.  And so did he.  And we still flirted like we were 15.  And we didn’t lose any money – actually we came out a bit ahead.  I’m a lucky womanMy partner in crime is the love of my life and I’m so thankful we found each other again almost 5 years ago.

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Niagara Falls Day 2

Niagara Falls Day 2

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Things to Do  Survival Tips

The awesome thing about breakfast being included with the hotel is you actually have to get up on time to eat it.  Who knew?

There is not enough coffee in the world for me this morning but off we go to Marineland!  The kids are excited, the adults are stressed, it’s a great day! <insert fake-ass smile>

Today is the real test: We have to fit the scooter – which we don’t know yet how to pull apart – and the double stroller in the van.  Oh – and the humans too.  Ha! 

He said it couldn’t be done.  Well, ladies & gents…. It CAN be doneTa ta-ta Dah!!!!!

Now that we all smell like coconuts (thank you, coppertone!) we’re watching the show first.  We’re just in time so that’s a bonus.

I thought I remembered reading that there was a place to the side for people with wheelchairs but the young fella is directing us to the TOP of the stadium.  Via some steep, long – so long – ramp.  I am thanking my lucky stars we’ve got that scooter ’cause I do NOT want to push that wheelchair up there.

But wait!  There’s still that 15lb stroller.  With the 40lb kid and the 15lb baby.

Make sure you check out the slideshow – I am NOT a happy momma and it’s been caught on camera.  Not my proudest moment…

In my defense, I dropped my 1st coffee, had 2 sips of the 2nd and spilled most of it on my leg.  It’s hot.  I’m sweaty.  My thighs are already chaffing so I’m walking like I’ve got a stick in my bee-hind and damn-it I just want some coffee!

This kids want to go feed the whales so off we go in that direction.  Of course there will be rides and poor Annabelle is not happy when she can’t come along.  Jasmine & I make a pact to only do rides that Annabelle can come on.

And come on them she did!  What a little dare-devil!  I really am a lucky mom… I’m looking at my kids while we go around this little boat for the gazillionth time and they’re a pretty awesome bunch.

The whales!  We’re here!  Wow, what a team.  We were so well received and the kids has such a great experience.  Mom was even able to get close-up with her scooter so she could get up and feed the beluga too!  She’s having so much fun, and the kids are having a blast – I’m so glad I brought her.  We might kill each other before the week is done, but right now, in this moment… I see only happiness in all of them and my heart feels all warm and sappy.

Except for J-F – He’s off looking for shade with the baby and he’s not having much luck.

Check the pictures for my ‘sling magic’.  Even if your kids outgrow the sling bring it with you!  Chloe can’t get away from the sun so I’m using the sling as a cover – it’s great ’cause you can wrap it around the stroller as you would a person, and nothing flies off in the wind!

The rides, the food, the deer – it’s been a long day, the kids are cranky and it’s time to head out.  “Look Maman!  that sign says w h e e l c h a i r s…. o n l y… Wheelchairs Only?  What’s that Maman?”

Wow that kid is an awesome reader – they only taught them to read French in school.  Damn – that’s a wheelchair only sign for the DAMN SHOW! Oh well, can’t blame the kid it could have been his first day.  Shit my legs hurt though.

We might have gotten lost coming back from Marineland, and might have ended up at a family restaurant next to 3 strip clubs.  The kids were hungry, the adults were hungry, and no one wanted to wait 1/2 hour to drive back to the hotel.  And those super-duper-awesome-healthy snack packs?  No one wants to touch them.  Sigh.

By now I’ve got a permanent ‘deer in headlight’s’ look on my face, and I need some me-time.  J-F & I were supposed to have our date but he’s exhausted and Mom is hearing bells – the penny slot kind of bells.  Fallsview Casino… Here we come!

Mom came out even, I lost a few bucks, we may have bought some fudge… This was fun 🙂  I needed this.  We’ve got another big day tomorrow so I’ll finish this glass of wine and maybe have another bite of fudge.

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Niagara Falls Day 1

Niagara Falls Day 1

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Things to Do Survival Tips

YYYEEEEEEHHHHAAAAAWWWWWWWWW!

Let’s Giddy-up ’cause Momma’s on VACATION!

That’s right folks – this hard-working momma just got over tax season and has decided to pack up 3 adults, 3 kids, 2 car seats, 1 wheel chair and gear for 4 days including diapers and wipes for the wee ones.  What could go wrong?

3 adults, 3 kids, 2 car seats, 1 wheel chair, and 4 days of gear. what could go wrong? #travel Click To Tweet

Crowds?  Kids are still in school! Plus, we’re traveling during the week so we’re sure to avoid opening weekend mayhem.

Scheduling?  This is perfect!  J-F goes back to work in early from his 3 months of parental leave – it’s now or never baby!

Budget?  Easy peasy!  I’ve been squirreling away 50 bucks here and there and I’ve got the amount for the hotel in my personal account.  I also have a bit more for souvenirs and stuff.

J-F is covering meals and since we’ve got my super-duper-wonder-mom snack packs and breakfast is included with the hotel we should be good for about $500.  He thinks it will be closer to $1000, but what does he know? So $1000-$1500 total for the 6 of us, and we’re not bringing the credit card.

In full disclosure most of our activities have been sponsored by Niagara Falls Tourism and the Clifton Hill Comfort Inn so that definitely helps with the budget! Also, we were very lucky – and extremely thankful – that the MS Society St-Catherine’s Chapter lent us a GoGo Scooter for the week.

I hope everyone has gone pee cause we’re not stopping till we hit Trenton.

The plan is to check in at the Comfort Inn Clifton Hills by 2pm, unload & unwind, have dinner at the onsite Kelsey’s (LOVE their spinach dip so I was excited there was one attached to the hotel), then hit up the hill for some good ole’ fashion FUN.

Ahem.  Like birthing plans, road trips never  go according to THE PLAN. Don’t say I didn’t tell you so.  Don’t believe me?  Have a few kids then get back to me!

Things are going along smoothly; we’ve stopped at the customary Trenton OnRoute, spent way too much time getting everyone fed and to the bathroom and the GPS still says we’ll be at the hotel by 2PM.  It’s a holiday Monday so traffic is mild and the skies are beautiful.

We’re cruising along the 401 in the fast lane, about to hit Oshawa and the van in front of us is all over the place.  Suspecting either a drunk or severely distracted driver I grab the phone and dial 9-1-1.

“OPP What’s your emergency?”

I report the drunk driver and our location and as I’m reading off the licence plate…. KAAAPPPOOWWW! “And… we’ve just blown a tire.  In the fast lane.  On the 401.  No ma’am, it’s not safe.  Yes ma’am, please send police.  Yes ma’am, everyone is ok.”

I barely had time to hang up and dial our road side assistance that a truck pulls up in front.  2 emergency trucks are behind us, in 2 lanes, to block traffic and make sure we don’t get hit.  The (very nice) cop tells us there’s no way we can wait for road side assistance we have to use the guy that’s there.

Funny him.  Cause there’s no way, on the median, that we can take out 3 kids, 2 car seats, 1 wheel chair and my mom. 

So Cop-Guy pulls a move out of the movies – we get hitched up to the tow and escorted off the 401, sirens blaring and all.  There has to be a better way to save on gas!

About an hour later we’re back on the road and there’s now a full size tire amongst our gear.  I am SO glad we decided to rent a double stroller and have it delivered to the hotel.

Did I mention it’s a holiday Monday?  That most stores are closed?  I spend the next 1/2 hour mapping out Canadian Tires near the hotel and calling them all and hoping one of them is not only open but will be open at 4pm.

Lovely hotel.  With stairs.  Lots of stairs.  Everywhere.  Shit.  Yes, we got the accessible family suite we asked for… but no there’s no balcony ’cause it’s on the 1st floor ’cause there’s no elevators.

There are work-arounds, and we manage to get our gear in.  Winding down you say?  I check us in while J-F goes to fix the car and Mom goes out with Jasmine to test out the scooter.  I think that’s just a ploy to go smoke a few cigarettes, in peace…

The one thing J-F wants to see is the falls so after dinner we start down the hill.  Victoria Day.  Shit.  This is almost as bad as NYC! Have you ever maneuvered a double-stroller AND a scooter through throngs of people on a freaking hill?  Don’t.  Just don’t.

Cause then you have to go back up.  Oh Yeah!  40lb toddler. 15 lb baby, 15 lb stroller.  My trainer will be proud cause I have to push this thing – without running into anyone – all. the. way. up. the. hill. I’m grunting and sweating and the higher up we go the hotter it gets and sacremento are we there yet?

We take the time to visit the Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum and the wax museum.  There’s several of those but we picked the one that was included with our fun passes and other than discovering that my 6 year old is a complete wuss it was actually quite awesome.  Check out the ‘Things to Do” tab for a list of all the cool things you can do.

Tomorrow we go to Marineland then J-F & I get our date.  That means tonight I’m packing up the car for tomorrow morning and getting clothes ready for tomorrow morning.

I crawl into bed way too late and come to the startling realization that there is – in fact – quite a difference between a VACATION and a TRIP.  This is definitely NOT a vacation… but it’s gearing up to be a memorable trip!

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Niagara Falls: Wonders, Fun & Memories

Niagara Falls: Wonders, Fun & Memories

What an amazing trip we had.  Eventful.  Funny.  Stressful at times.  The weather was gorgeous all week and the kids are still talking about it.  But do you do summarize a 4-day trip into 1 post?  With a slideshow?

How do you also add your round-up of things to do?  Your family travels survival guide?

On this page you’ll find my posts for days 1 through 4 along with my round-up and my survival guide.  I’ve added these nifty little tab things to make navigating through the posts easier.  All of this awesomeness is followed by a slideshow of our best pics!

Have a laugh at my expense and make sure to enjoy the slideshow at the end of this post! And please, do share your own holiday bloopers and survival tips in the comments below!

YYYEEEEEEHHHHAAAAAWWWWWWWWW!

Let’s Giddy-up ’cause Momma’s on VACATION!

That’s right folks – this hard-working momma just got over tax season and has decided to pack up 3 adults, 3 kids, 2 car seats, 1 wheel chair and gear for 4 days including diapers and wipes for the wee ones.  What could go wrong?

Crowds?  Kids are still in school! Plus, we’re traveling during the week so we’re sure to avoid opening weekend mayhem.

Scheduling?  This is perfect!  J-F goes back to work in early from his 3 months of parental leave – it’s now or never baby!

Budget?  Easy peasy!  I’ve been squirreling away 50 bucks here and there and I’ve got the amount for the hotel in my personal account.  I also have a bit more for souvenirs and stuff.

J-F is covering meals and since we’ve got my super-duper-wonder-mom snack packs and breakfast is included with the hotel we should be good for about $500.  He thinks it will be closer to $1000, but what does he know? So $1000-$1500 total for the 6 of us, and we’re not bringing the credit card.

In full disclosure most of our activities have been sponsored by Niagara Falls Tourism and the Clifton Hill Comfort Inn so that definitely helps with the budget! Also, we were very lucky – and extremely thankful – that the MS Society St-Catherine’s Chapter lent us a GoGo Scooter for the week.

I hope everyone has gone pee cause we’re not stopping till we hit Trenton.

The plan is to check in at the Comfort Inn Clifton Hills by 2pm, unload & unwind, have dinner at the onsite Kelsey’s (LOVE their spinach dip so I was excited there was one attached to the hotel), then hit up the hill for some good ole’ fashion FUN.

Ahem.  Like birthing plans, road trips never  go according to THE PLAN. Don’t say I didn’t tell you so.  Don’t believe me?  Have a few kids then get back to me!

Things are going along smoothly; we’ve stopped at the customary Trenton OnRoute, spent way too much time getting everyone fed and to the bathroom and the GPS still says we’ll be at the hotel by 2PM.  It’s a holiday Monday so traffic is mild and the skies are beautiful.

We’re cruising along the 401 in the fast lane, about to hit Oshawa and the van in front of us is all over the place.  Suspecting either a drunk or severely distracted driver I grab the phone and dial 9-1-1.

“OPP What’s your emergency?”

I report the drunk driver and our location and as I’m reading off the licence plate…. KAAAPPPOOWWW! “And… we’ve just blown a tire.  In the fast lane.  On the 401.  No ma’am, it’s not safe.  Yes ma’am, please send police.  Yes ma’am, everyone is ok.”

I barely had time to hang up and dial our road side assistance that a truck pulls up in front.  2 emergency trucks are behind us, in 2 lanes, to block traffic and make sure we don’t get hit.  The (very nice) cop tells us there’s no way we can wait for road side assistance we have to use the guy that’s there.

Funny him.  Cause there’s no way, on the median, that we can take out 3 kids, 2 car seats, 1 wheel chair and my mom. 

So Cop-Guy pulls a move out of the movies – we get hitched up to the tow and escorted off the 401, sirens blaring and all.  There has to be a better way to save on gas!

About an hour later we’re back on the road and there’s now a full size tire amongst our gear.  I am SO glad we decided to rent a double stroller and have it delivered to the hotel.

Did I mention it’s a holiday Monday?  That most stores are closed?  I spend the next 1/2 hour mapping out Canadian Tires near the hotel and calling them all and hoping one of them is not only open but will be open at 4pm.

Lovely hotel.  With stairs.  Lots of stairs.  Everywhere.  Shit.  Yes, we got the accessible family suite we asked for… but no there’s no balcony ’cause it’s on the 1st floor ’cause there’s no elevators.

There are work-arounds, and we manage to get our gear in.  Winding down you say?  I check us in while J-F goes to fix the car and Mom goes out with Jasmine to test out the scooter.  I think that’s just a ploy to go smoke a few cigarettes, in peace…

The one thing J-F wants to see is the falls so after dinner we start down the hill.  Victoria Day.  Shit.  This is almost as bad as NYC! Have you ever maneuvered a double-stroller AND a scooter through throngs of people on a freaking hill?  Don’t.  Just don’t.

Cause then you have to go back up.  Oh Yeah!  40lb toddler. 15 lb baby, 15 lb stroller.  My trainer will be proud cause I have to push this thing – without running into anyone – all. the. way. up. the. hill. I’m grunting and sweating and the higher up we go the hotter it gets and sacremento are we there yet?

We take the time to visit the Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum and the wax museum.  There’s several of those but we picked the one that was included with our fun passes and other than discovering that my 6 year old is a complete wuss it was actually quite awesome.  Check out the ‘Things to Do” tab for a list of all the cool things you can do.

Tomorrow we go to Marineland then J-F & I get our date.  That means tonight I’m packing up the car for tomorrow morning and getting clothes ready for tomorrow morning.

I crawl into bed way too late and come to the startling realization that there is – in fact – quite a difference between a VACATION and a TRIP.  This is definitely NOT a vacation… but it’s gearing up to be a memorable trip!

The awesome thing about breakfast being included with the hotel is you actually have to get up on time to eat it.  Who knew?

There is not enough coffee in the world for me this morning but off we go to Marineland!  The kids are excited, the adults are stressed, it’s a great day! <insert fake-ass smile>

Today is the real test: We have to fit the scooter – which we don’t know yet how to pull apart – and the double stroller in the van.  Oh – and the humans too.  Ha! 

He said it couldn’t be done.  Well, ladies & gents…. It CAN be doneTa ta-ta Dah!!!!!

Now that we all smell like coconuts (thank you, coppertone!) we’re watching the show first.  We’re just in time so that’s a bonus.

I thought I remembered reading that there was a place to the side for people with wheelchairs but the young fella is directing us to the TOP of the stadium.  Via some steep, long – so long – ramp.  I am thanking my lucky stars we’ve got that scooter ’cause I do NOT want to push that wheelchair up there.

But wait!  There’s still that 15lb stroller.  With the 40lb kid and the 15lb baby.

Make sure you check out the slideshow – I am NOT a happy momma and it’s been caught on camera.  Not my proudest moment…

In my defense, I dropped my 1st coffee, had 2 sips of the 2nd and spilled most of it on my leg.  It’s hot.  I’m sweaty.  My thighs are already chaffing so I’m walking like I’ve got a stick in my bee-hind and damn-it I just want some coffee!

This kids want to go feed the whales so off we go in that direction.  Of course there will be rides and poor Annabelle is not happy when she can’t come along.  Jasmine & I make a pact to only do rides that Annabelle can come on.

And come on them she did!  What a little dare-devil!  I really am a lucky mom… I’m looking at my kids while we go around this little boat for the gazillionth time and they’re a pretty awesome bunch.

The whales!  We’re here!  Wow, what a team.  We were so well received and the kids has such a great experience.  Mom was even able to get close-up with her scooter so she could get up and feed the beluga too!  She’s having so much fun, and the kids are having a blast – I’m so glad I brought her.  We might kill each other before the week is done, but right now, in this moment… I see only happiness in all of them and my heart feels all warm and sappy.

Except for J-F – He’s off looking for shade with the baby and he’s not having much luck.

Check the pictures for my ‘sling magic’.  Even if your kids outgrow the sling bring it with you!  Chloe can’t get away from the sun so I’m using the sling as a cover – it’s great ’cause you can wrap it around the stroller as you would a person, and nothing flies off in the wind!

The rides, the food, the deer – it’s been a long day, the kids are cranky and it’s time to head out.  “Look Maman!  that sign says w h e e l c h a i r s…. o n l y… Wheelchairs Only?  What’s that Maman?”

Wow that kid is an awesome reader – they only taught them to read French in school.  Damn – that’s a wheelchair only sign for the DAMN SHOW! Oh well, can’t blame the kid it could have been his first day.  Shit my legs hurt though.

We might have gotten lost coming back from Marineland, and might have ended up at a family restaurant next to 3 strip clubs.  The kids were hungry, the adults were hungry, and no one wanted to wait 1/2 hour to drive back to the hotel.  And those super-duper-awesome-healthy snack packs?  No one wants to touch them.  Sigh.

By now I’ve got a permanent ‘deer in headlight’s’ look on my face, and I need some me-time.  J-F & I were supposed to have our date but he’s exhausted and Mom is hearing bells – the penny slot kind of bells.  Fallsview Casino… Here we come!

Mom came out even, I lost a few bucks, we may have bought some fudge… This was fun 🙂  I needed this.  We’ve got another big day tomorrow so I’ll finish this glass of wine and maybe have another bite of fudge.

 

We’re taking it easy today!  Since everything we want to see is on the WEGO line, we’re going to walk down to the falls, do the boat thing and go from there.  I’m really excited to have Mom come today ’cause everything is supposed to be accessible.

In retrospect, her day of ‘freedom’ was her favorite day of the trip (probably cause she’s been stuck on the top floor of her house all winter).  Her house is now adapted but it was a rough winter for her.  Being able to go out freely, alone, without having to worry about the battery dying on the scooter or not having the strength to push herself in the chair.  She did her own thing and she was in a great mood when we came back! Sometimes, mums do know best…

I’m pumped, I’m excited, and the kids can feel it.  Of course when we get on the boat I figure it can’t be that bad so I put on the poncho but fail to put on the cap.  I got some great pictures but the closer we got the more the wind picked up.  The more the wind picked up the more we got wet.  The more wet we got the more Jasmine was determined that she did NOT like the boat.

They say the falls will take your breath away – that’s because the wind is so strong down there you can’t breathe!

We hopped on the WEGO and headed out towards the butterfly conservatory.  Of course we missed the stop and it took another 15 minutes to circle around.  I guess that’s a good think – we got to get out to see the flower clock.  These parks we’re driving through are absolutely gorgeous, and I wish I had a day, kid free, to go walk through all the parks.  Next time.

To see the kids with the butterflies was amazing!  A few landed on Annabelle, and finally – finally – one landed on Jasmine near the end.  We went around twice, mostly cause the baby was sleeping and it was easier than going back out in the heat.

Up next is Bird Kingdom.  You have to understand that since Jasmine heard about Bird Kingdom she’s been asking why we don’t have a bird like Grandma used to have.  Teehee.  This kid is in for quite a surprise!

The 2nd floor has 2 encounter rooms plus that really dark section with the bats and the owls.  The second floor isn’t air conditioned.  We’re in a really old building, with really old wood floors that hundreds (maybe thousands?) of birds have shit on in the past.  I don’t care how many times you wash those floors and clean out the habitats: in this humidity the stink is unbearable.  That’s why we don’t have a bird. 

I’m afraid for the 3rd floor and quite frankly I’m ready to turn around but when the elevator doors opened I was speechless.  THIS is what I came here for.  It’s gorgeous!  This huge fella (of the bird kind) & I had a conversation.  J-F says I’m weird and may have muttered something along the likes that I’m not the bird whisperer.

There’s birds everywhere!  Big ones, small ones, bright ones… It’s huge, it’s open, it’s cool, it doesn’t stink – and did I mention the birds are awesome? I’ve got a few great pictures of some of the more impressive ones.

It’s almost time to head back to the hotel and meet up with Mom for dinner and we have 2 options.  Walk down the road, up the hill, and back to almost the same spot we’re in now but 1 road up…. Or take a shortcut.  J-F’s idea of a shortcut.  Up about 100 stairs.  With a 15lb stroller holding a 40lb kid and a 15lb baby.  Shit.  Some shortcut.

By the time we make it up there we’ve decided we’ve bought enough fudge already; some shortcut that was.  So up the hill a bit more we go to get to the MGM Studio store ’cause Mamma wants an OSCARWhy?  Cause I want one, that’s why.  Except every time I’ve come by they either weren’t open yet or had just closed down.  The website says MGM fun everyday until 10 pm!!! But he didn’t open up before noon and by 3pm he was gone.  This is like the New Year’s Eve ball adventure I had in NYC.  We’re leaving tomorrow morning so its a dead dream.

I’d promised Jasmine I’d take her to the dinosaur mini-put but the baby needs to nurse and Annabelle needs a nap so J-F takes her.  He also takes her up on the skywheel – AT NIGHT – and to the midway and the XD theatre.

This kid just went on MY DATE I wanted to do the Skywheel at night I wanted to go to the XD Theatre with J-F I wanted to golf with the dinosaurs and flirt like we were 15 again.  Me.  NOT the Kid.  But the KID just snafued my date.

What else is a girl to do but ask her beau to take her to the casino?  His fault.  Got dolled up and off we go… I even got a nice glass of wine!  I.  Had.  A. Blast.  And so did he.  And we still flirted like we were 15.  And we didn’t lose any money – actually we came out a bit ahead.  I’m a lucky womanMy partner in crime is the love of my life and I’m so thankful we found each other again almost 5 years ago.

 

They’re all in the car looking at me through the windows as I check out of our pre-paid hotel room.  “Pretend this is complicated business – they’re watching!”  The poor boy doesn’t have a clue.  “I’m serious – you can’t me go back in there – please! don’t make me go back!”

“Traveling with the inlaws?”

“No!  My 3 kids.  My husband.  My mom.  You can’t make me go back there I won’t go!”

We have a few laughs while shuffling a few pieces of paper back and forth.  I refill my coffee mug.  I think I’m ready.  I can do this.  I can spend the next 6 hours in the car.  This is not a vacation.  Next time I’m running away alone;  I might consider taking J-F.  A cruise maybe?

Shit.  The wax hands.  I promised Jasmine she could have 2 souvenirs and 2 souvenirs only > A dolphin stuffie from Marineland and a wax hand that we’ve yet to do.

I kinda want one too.  I can see it now: A big huge poster with my logo and my hand ‘Need a hand?’… Don’t judge.

So we get 2 hands done – Jasmine has hers together in prayer-like form.  Mine’s standing up.

How long does it take to make 2 wax hands when you’re in a hurry and the crew keeps circling around?  About 40 minutes.  But they’re so cool they were worth every penny.

 And the trip?  Worth every penny.  It wasn’t easy.  It was complicated and messy and normal.  Normal…. Mission accomplished!

Will I do it again?  Probably.  Anytime soon?  Probably not.

As I crawl into my bed with fresh sheets I’m so glad I thought to wash them just before we left.  J-F is snoring, the kids are konked out in their beds, the baby is nursing… Tomorrow, we get back to our routine.

This week?  This week was absolutely amazing. 

Why Niagara Falls?  What Can I do there?

This is my roundup of the best stuff to do when visiting Niagara Falls.  Information and pricing can be found through the Niagara Falls Tourism website.

Niagara Falls is more than ‘just’ the falls.  The falls are great, but you can’t spend the whole week on the Maid of the Mist.  Thankfully there’s plenty to do.

In the heart of it all is Clifton Hill.  That’s where you have the big Skywheel, the dinosaur and glow in the dark mini-put, all the Ripley’s stuff and the Guiness World of Records stuff.  There’s also a few different wax museums.

What I loved about the Hill is that most places had this ‘open air / outdoor market’ feel at the front and you could buy tickets to see more.   Our first tour of Clifton Hill we didn’t actually go into any of the attractions – we just experienced what was right there in front of us and the front-end of the attractions!  Ice cream shops, fudge, souvenirs, games… The whole thing has a carnival feel and it’s all been cleverly built into the landscape of the hill.

The Falls.  The falls are great, and there’s plenty to do and see there as well.  My kids wouldn’t do the white water walk and the journey behind the falls would be too complicated with the stroller but with older children this is definitely a great choice.  And who can forget the Maid of the Mist?  You might think it’s just a boat and some water – but it’s not.  Its experiencing in ‘live HD’ the forces of nature.  It’s an experience you won’t soon forget and is worth getting a little wet for.

Helicopter Rides.  The best view of the falls – We almost went on this but by the time Date Night rolled around we were too exhausted.   Our hotel had special pricing tickets available and it was about 50% off!  Definitely worth it.

The Parks.  Botanical gardens, butterfly conservatories, flower clocks, walking trails – A few minutes on the WEGO and you’re there.  The kids will love the opportunity to run wild and spend some pent up energy and you’ll enjoy the tranquility of the parks.

Fallsview Boulevard.  Upscale restaurants, the Fallsview Casino, higher-end hotels… If you want to indulge, this is the place to do it!

Lundy’s Lane.  If you love to shop this is the place to do it! Factory outlets, boutiques, originals… you name it!

Theme Parks.  Marineland, Safari Niagara, Waterparks – something for everyone!  Bring sunscreen and enjoy the attractions and unique experiences!

The Wine.  I’ve had these tickets for a private wine tour for ages but we never seem to get around to it.  Last year I was pregnant so we cancelled our trip, and this year we didn’t have time!  A short drive away you’ll find some of Ontario’s finest wineries.  Many offer free tours, with deluxe  / private tasting tours available.  Cheers!

Whatever your tastes, whatever you decide – there’s something for everyone.  Check out my survival guide in the next tab for smooth (er) traveling with kids!

You’ve picked a destination and decided it was time for a vacation.  What’s next?

Choose your dates wisely

We went in May because kids were still in school and the crowds wouldn’t be as bad.  Also, we went on a weekday.  If you get overwhelmed in large crowds avoid long weekends.  If you’re on a budget travel during the week.  Be strategic, it will pay off.

Choose your venue wisely

We chose the Comfort Inn Clifton Hill.  It was comfortable, clean, and the staff was amazing.  Breakfast was included with our stay, there’s a nice big pool, and a Kelsey’s attached to it.

More importantly, it was within walking distance of almost everything we wanted to do.  The only time we took the van was to go to Marineland.  We walked on the hill, walked to the falls, hopped the WEGO from there – it was great.  Thank goodness too because we not only had 6 people to fit in the van but also a scooter and a double stroller.  Bonus, we didn’t spend our week looking for parking.

Road tripping?  Don’t overstuff the car!

Many cities have baby gear rental businesses and most hotels have basics like playpens and cribs.  Don’t spend 6 hours in the car wedged between a car seat and a double stroller, and don’t try to navigate narrow airplane aisles with the limo on wheels.  Rent what you can and arrange for pick up and delivery to your hotel.  We rented a double-stroller from Baby Travels and it cost us $50 for the week.  It was dropped off at the hotel and picked up there as well.  Worth every penny!

Adult:Child Ratios

Bring as many adults (or capable teens) as you have small children, specially when there are gender and age differences.  Makes it easier to split up when each child wants or needs something different.  If you have 3 or more kids, consider paying the way for a grandparent, and older niece or nephew, or hire a local babysitter for the week.  They get a trip and you get an extra set of hands.

Itinerary

Plan ahead.  Find out what there is to do, choose what you want to do, figure out the budget, and stick (mostly) to that list.  Once you know what you want to do you can find the best deals and plan out an itinerary for the family.

Down time

Kids get tired, big people get cranky, and no one has fun when you’re rushing around.  We stayed 3 nights instead of 2 so we could sleep in if we wanted to.  It also allowed for extra flexibility as we were road-tripping AND the weatherman was forecasting doom and gloom for the whole week. Ends up the weather was perfect but I was glad we had that extra time to shuffle things around.

Kids will be kids

And kids will get hungry.  Plan ahead and pack some snacks for each day.  Having healthy food handy squashes the cravings and the whining that follows cause you’re stuck in a lineup for the ride and everyone decided they were hungry.

Have fun.  Laugh.  It will be over soon.  I promise 😉

Bring a bottle of wine.  There are openers and glasses at the hotel.  Have a glass after the kids are in bed.  You’re welcome.

What are you best travel survival tips?  Please share in the comments below!

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National Lampoon has nothing on us!

National Lampoon has nothing on us!

I love to travel – apparently no one else in my family does – but I’m determined that this year we’ll take a family vacation.  My oldest is 6 years old and we’ve yet to take a vacation as a family.

I remember, at the ripe ‘ole age of 11, my parents took us on a two week road trip to Florida; think 24 hr drive, a few kids, a hurricane, 2 days of sunshine, and Disney World.  We had a blast…. I’m not so sure my parents did though!

So off we go to Niagara Falls at the end of May.  We’re taking my mom with us cause who travels without their best friend?

Will it be easy?  No.  Will it get complicated?  Maybe.  We’re also traveling on a budget.  Yikes.  I’m still wondering how we’re going to fit a wheelchair, a double stroller, all our luggage, 3 kids (2 in car seats!), and 3 adults in our 7-seater van.  AHAHAHAHHAHA!

I’m laughing now cause lets face it, it won’t be funny on the road.  I can the taste the ‘are we there yets’ and the ‘I have to go pees’.  My dear, loving, thoughtful husband will tease the 6 year old – she’ll get angry at him, I’ll get angry at them.  The 2 year old might sleep a good way through and will keep us all on our toes.  The baby…. who the heck decides to go to Marineland with not only a mother in a wheelchair but a baby and a toddler in strollers?????

National Lampoon taught us that family vacations are complicated and messy and expensive and normal.  Normal.  That’s what we’re going for.  I will embrace the whining, the screaming, the crying for 4 days on the road with those that matter most to me and will enjoy feeling normal.  Not just me, but Mom.  Because more than anything she deserves every little shred of normal she can come up with.

We’ll be tweeting on this trip with the following hashtags: #NFwithkids #MSvacationinNF  #budgetvacayNF #NFfun – follow along as we attempt to stay sane! 🙂

 

Date Night: The Truth about Parenthood

Date Night: The Truth about Parenthood

beauty and the beast with jasmine purse  2Date night sure ain’t what it used to be!  Even with careful planning, it’s all in the execution.   You see – once you have kids, don’t believe it until you see it.

Dear & I planned a great evening out at the NAC – box tickets to Beauty & The Beast on Broadway, sitter for the kids, the whole shebang.  We both love musicals and the last one we’d seen together we were in high school.  Little did I know my hot date would be spent with my 6 year old.

Why?

Funny you should ask!  Most recently my ex and his wife suffered a terrible loss and my daughter was pretty upset over what happened.  We decided to give J-F’s ticket to Jasmine as a special ‘mommy-daughter-date-night’ surprise.

That’s right folks!  My hot date was with my 6 year old.

Don’t get me wrong – we had a great time!  The NAC is a wonderful place for date nights and mommy-daughter events alike.  They have a fantastic array of options from the ballet and classic theater (French and English) to variety events and children’s productions.  There were many little girls dressed up as Belle (pregnancy-brain: I never even thought of that!) and we bought souvenirs.  The best part?  We had a terrific view from our box seats and we managed to stay comfortable for the whole production.

So date night isn’t quite what it used to be, but whether with my spouse or my kids, the NAC is a great option.  You should check it out!

beauty and the beast with jasmine

It’s not where you’re going… it’s how you get there!

It’s not where you’re going… it’s how you get there!

We hear it all the time.  “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey!”

I recently had the opportunity to travel to The Big Apple for the ultimate blogging conference, BlogHer’12.  But enough about the conference!  Can you say….

ROAD TRIP!!!!

It all started when 3 busy moms decided to drive down to New York for what promised to be a spectacular weekend away.  The drive was a bit of an annoyance long but it was definitely the most cost effective plan for all of us.  But whose car to take?  Ann‘s newer small sedan?  We’d be cramped but the gas mileage was good.  My slightly older gas-guzzling SUV?  We’d go broke but at least we’d be comfortable.

Barb had a better idea that would suit not only our desire for a cost efficient trip but also the need for space and comfort.  I’ll spare you the details, but bottom line is we ended up with a sponsorship from Dodge and we got to drive down in a fully loaded Dodge Caravan.

The plan was to leave at 5am Thursday morning and make it to NYC by afternoon.   By Wednesday afternoon we were all so excited that we decided to leave at 9pm.  That night.

It should have been impossible for 3 moms to leave the city a full 8 hours ahead of schedule, but miraculolusly it all came together and by 9pm we were on the road and there was more than enough space for us AND our stuff!

Everything fits!                                                                      All packed and ready to go

The fun begins!

Loaded with a basket full of goodies (Thank you, @ottawadodge!) we laughed, shared, and bonded over sappy stories memories crazy stuff women share when confined in small quarters.

Surprise!

I took the last driving shift around 3am.  Out of habit I checked how much gas we had left and I was surprised to see we had MORE than enough gas to make it all the way into Manhattan!  My current junk-bucket car won’t get me to Toronto on a full tank of gas, never mind NYC!  Being 22 weeks pregnant and carrying what looks like a watermelon under my shirt I appreciated the adjustable pedals.  I’ve been wanting to try those out for about 6 years now, but never had the opportunity.  Let me just say they did NOT disappoint!

Bottom Line?

The conference, the swag (Oh My God the SWAG!), the parties were just what this tired momma needed – even the touristy stuff!  But the best part was the drive down.  In full disclosure I don’t remember much about the drive back since I slept through most of it; I did manage to snag a picture of all our luggage, swag (and even stowaway swag!) before closing my eyes.

Just enough room for the 3 of us!           There might be room for 1 more bag...

From one of us (I”m not saying who) getting hit on by border patrol, to midnight munchies, to getting lost in a rest station parking lot we made memories that will last us a lifetime.  The craziness of leaving early made us all feel like we were throwing caution to the wind;  we were no longer on the clock.  We had a blast, and it set the tone for the rest of the weekend.  I speak for myself when I say I left with a set schedule in mind and ignored it the minute we arrived in NYC.  I have absolutely no regrets.

And the best part?  It certainly wasn’t getting photographed with the New Year’s Eve ball.  It wasn’t being in NYC for the first time.  Surprisingly it wasn’t getting inspired with 5000 other bloggers.

Sometimes it really is about how you got there.