Travel Tips with Kids

Travelling with kids … you either love it or hate it. It’s a lot of work and it probably doesn’t help that I’m a planner and I feel the need to do right research to get the best bang for my buck. So I blame some of that on me.  I dislike the time spent on finding flights at a reasonable price, accommodations at a reasonable price, packing, car rentals, car seats, strollers and the list goes on. But at the end of the day, the vacation is sooooooo worth all the time invested.

So with that, I’m sharing with you my top five tips when it comes to travelling with kids.  Am I an expert?  Nahhhhh, but we’ve taken the boys on thirteen trips (air and road) and with each trip, it got easier because you learn and then incorporate what worked well to the next trip.

Direct Flights

With the boys, we’ve never flown with a connecting flight and we’ve never passed the five hour mark for a destination on purpose.  So, if there is a flight that offers direct only, we’re booking it.  Why?  From my experience pre kids, connecting flights have stressed me out, have had delays and I just don’t like getting up out of my seat and hauling my stuff to board on to another plane.  I can’t even imagine having to do it with kids.  One day I probably will, but right now, I’m booking direct.

Pic Below – Air Canada: direct flight to San Francisco (Brandon was just under 2 so he flew free)

Dre

Accommodations

Book accommodations where you want to hang.  We love the west coast (Cali) with kids in tow.  And as you know, getting the day started, packing up and loading the car just to get out takes time.  And on top of that, if you’re heading to the beach, you’re going to have to drive, park, unload and get settled.  Booking an airbnb, within a block or two from the beach, saves time, arguments and less items to carry.

BONUS: if you want to just hang out at the beach to watch the sunset after a day out and about, it’s amazing to just park the car walk to the beach and hang.

NOTE: booking anywhere near a beach is pricier.  But this is important to us and to avoid paying a lot of money, plan ahead, call ahead or try to negotiate. I always throw in the  “so do you offer a twin discount?”.  And sometimes, it works!  So, it’s worth the time to plan.

Pic Below – Air BnB booked two blocks from Ocean Beach in San Francisco

airbnb

Plan but Don’t Over Plan

Make plans but don’t get bummed out if they don’t work out entirely.  I’m a planner and I invest a lot of time researching.  So when you invest time, you want to make sure it pays off.  Now throwing kids in the mix, plans go out the window.  Okay not entirely, but make loose plans with A LOT of room for delays, naps and mood swings. One trip that comes to mind, we were enroute from San Diego to LA and my little one had to use the bathroom.  We were already running late and I wanted to get to LA.  Made a pit stop at a coffee shop in Encinitas and of course, while in the shop the rest of the gang said that they were hungry.  So we grabbed our food to go and hubby decided to drive around the neighbourhood to check it out.  We ended up finding a beach where locals hung out and pulled up, parked in a residential area and made our way down.  We spent 2.5 hours there and didn’t want to leave.  Why didn’t we want to leave?  It wasn’t busy, everyone was so cool and we had no expectations which made the experience a heck of a lot more memorable.

Pic Below – Encinitas, California (best planned but unplanned experience)

TWins

Packing

Toys, Books and Dolls– pack favourites and familiar items from home to make the trips and adjusting to accommodations a little bit easier.  I’ve found that my boys love having a piece of home with them.  They don’t bring the whole gang of dolls but they’re involved in the packing process.

Snacks – fav snacks too should be packed.  And if I could bring my whole pantry of snacks, I would and I may have once or twice.  Saves money, easy to take along  and can be packed in your luggage.  PS – we always pack oatmeal – add some hot water on a plane and voila!!!!

Containers and Thermoses – we bring all of that!  It’s familiar to them as they know how to open and close it and keeps us organized and avoids spills.  Thermoses are amazing because you can feed them a hearty meal!

Pic Below – Baby and Baby Baby had to come along

Bags

So that’s it.  Thanks for coming by and reading ’till the end.  This blog post just gave me the kick start that I needed for our upcoming trip in May.

If you have any other tips, please feel free to leave a comment below.

Happy travels!

XOXO

Sunshine Lily

 

 

Women’s International Day and sharing the celebration of Women with my boys

March 8th is Women’s International Day and while I’m not raising the next generation of empowered women, I play an important role in raising the next generation of men supporting empowered women.

My boys are 4.5 years old and so their attention span is minimal. I’ll be honest, I don’t go all out and put together a list of things to do with them.  But leading up to March and specifically leading up to March 8th, I bring out items such as books and puzzles that recognizes the accomplishments of women.

All week I’ve shared with the boys and my husband, the various work events and how great it was seeing men in attendance.   My husband took a picture of what they did at his work recognizing the female employees at all levels within the company.

So Happy International Women’s Day!  Whether you are celebrating big or small, I hope that you are surrounded by loved ones who embrace this special day, because I know I’ll be.

Link to puzzles and books that I’ve shared with the boys.

Book: Pink is for Boys

Puzzle: Little Feminist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Small Shop Love for the Holla Days!

And just like that, it’s December!  Naughty or nice list, To-Do list, checking it twice list or I got no list to work with, I want to make things a little bit easier for you by sharing some of my favourite small shops and the reasons why I have mad love for them.

Buying for my boys is not always easy.  There are a lot of factors that I take into consideration when I buy for them.  There are lots of options for boys fashion, accessories and toys but not a lot of options of representation.

So, below are a few small businesses that I admire and had stumbled upon.  Short and simple list of three, but with meaning behind it.

NOTE: the shops below are for everyone (not just people who look like myself or my boys).

BIRDS LOVE BEES

Handmade one of a kind dolls, quilts and taggie blankets

Brandon

When I was pregnant, I was constantly looking for boy dolls that would represent my them.  Many small shops made dolls mostly for girls and even when I told them I would pay for a boy doll, they just didn’t have an appetite for it.  I met Kathryn two years ago at the One of a Kind Show in Toronto and when I walked by her booth she had rows of beautiful handmade dolls in ALL shades of colours that literally made me stop in my tracks.  Without hesitation, I bought the boys their dolls and to this day, they love their “baby” and “baby baby”.

The dolls are a perfect gift for anyone, not just a child.  Since then, we’ve added Coco the Monkey, Skoy Yoy the Dog and most recently, two custom made Brown Santas, which the boys have named “Santa Baby” and “Santa Baby Baby”.

mimiTENS

Started off making mittens, has now expanded to children’s accessories.  She also launched another business called Some of the Parts.

Maxwell

When my boys were itty bitty, I was on the hunt for a good pair of mittens that would stay on and would keep the boys warm.  I did my online research which led me to mimitens.  I love their awesome designs and high quality mittens. The boys won’t wear anything else.  Somehow Anne Maria (owner) and I connected and every encounter with her, she just oozes energy, integrity and a passion for her designs.

SIDE NOTE: she also has a store in Toronto called Some of the Parts.  She carries her line of adult bags that she designed and it fits securely on wheelchairs (this she discovered after the fact). That made my heart swoon!

So really, Mimitens and Some of the Parts can be a gift for anyone on your list!  Cheers to that!

MODERN RASCALS

Clothes and Toys that kids will love. Bright Colours, Bright Patterns and Ethical Production

Boys

I can’t believe that I only met Jana in person a couple of weekends ago!  I’m blaming it on #momlife.  Jana reached out to me in early 2017 and felt that the brands her online store carried would be great for my boys.  I played it safe when it came to dressing them … in greys, black, blues and white and she got that.  Then as I started engaging with Modern Rascals and understanding her brand of bright colours and patterns, and seeing the beauty of bright colours in her feed, I switched cold turkey to all the colours in the rainbow.  I love the quality of the designers that she selects and no joke, the boys get stopped on the regular by strangers complimenting them on their style.

Jana’s feed and carried brands are a true representation of our society.  From Pride socks to sourcing a company that makes handmade wooden toys that resemble all children, she really gets her customers.

A gift for that special kid(s) in your life, you’ve got a rainbow selection of goods to choose from. She also carries adult sizes with some brands, so that you can matchy match with your little one(s).

Hoping you got your bit of learning from my write up and I encourage that the next time you shop, take into consideration that we’re not a once size fits all society and that we all can gain from representation.

I know that there are so many other shops that I have yet to discover, so if you know of any, share please by leaving a comment below.

Sunshine Lily aka @shinelily

Links to Shop:

birds love bees

mimiTENS

modern rascals

 

 

 

Volunteering with My Boys

Volunteering and giving back to our community or at an organization that is meaningful has always and continues to be important to my husband and I. Maxwell and Brandon started volunteering at the age of  18 months.  They helped locally at a Christmas Drive for Safetynet founded by Bill in Oakville.  We unpacked donated items and organized them for families in need.  We continued to volunteer monthly by doing light clean up at the office and continue to help out yearly during Christmas season.

As a family, we participated in our first 5km run for the Road2Hope Campaign in November 2017.  My husband Andre, ran 4.5km with the boys in a double stroller.  I remember running alongside him and everyone “oohing” and “ahhing” of how wonderful of a dad he is running with a stroller.  In my head, I’m like “I carried these boys for almost 9 months” and no one is “oohing” and “ahhing” over me.  So, on the downward slope of the trails, I ran after the stroller for a good 0.5km.  LOL, I digress but I had to document it.

I will continue … the boys also have helped bring awareness to Bank on Bellies founded by Georgia who encourages her local community to donate non-perishable food items or time to Kerr Street Mission.

In addition, we’ve worked with Walmart Canada in their Fight Hunger Spark Change campaign.  The boys went up and down the aisles, selected their donated food items and did the drop off in their bin.

Most recently, I had a really special experience with the boys.  To give you some context, a couple of months ago, I got an email from Diandra from Take Care Kits. She is the founder of a Toronto based non-profit organization that provides care kits to parents who have children in the NICU.  She asked if I had any contacts of companies/brands who she could reach out to for donations.  Over the last 10+ years, I’ve been working in the health services industry, so I provided her my contacts.  She went through an approval process and was successful in receiving donations of toothpaste, toothbrushes and caps from GlaxoSmithKline Inc.

I felt the need to help even further and asked Diandra  if we could assemble the kits and make the delivery.  She provided me with her contact at Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga, and we made the delivery.  Proud mom moment watching my toddlers hand over the goods.  And what made me even prouder is that they were born at this hospital and as a family, we spent the first three weeks of their lives in that NICU.  So yes, I knew firsthand how helpful the care kits are to a parent.

A short video of the boys assembling the kits and making the delivery can be viewed, by clicking here.

If you are interested in learning more about the charitable organizations that we’ve been involved with and inspired by, please click on links below.

Safetynet: https://www.safetynetservices.ca/

Bank on Bellies: http://bankonbellies.com/

Kerr Street Mission: https://kerrstreet.com/

Take Care Kits: https://takecarekits.wordpress.com/blog/ 

Walmart Canada Fight Hunger Spark Change: https://www.walmart.ca/en/fight-hunger-spark-change/N-27473

Hamilton Marathon Road2Hope: http://www.hamiltonmarathon.ca/

Dear Working Mom

Dear Working Mom,

I’m proud of you. Back at it and it’s like you never left.  Same commute, colleagues and clients.  While many things haven’t changed, you know very well that you’ve changed.  For you, being a mom remains priority and working mom comes second.  In that first week, the working mom gig definitely had its perks.  Wearing heels, drinking hot coffee, engaging in adult conversation and your all-time favourite, not having to share your lunch.

However, as time went on, working mom became priority, but really the business was priority and you adjusted. Things at home were changing too. You were always the “go-to person” and the “expert” as the stay at home mom. Suddenly, that vanished and your opinion became secondary at times.

Luckily, hubby has a flexible schedule working from home 90% of the time. So, dealing with drop offs and pickups at daycare and the library wasn’t impacting you.  But it did, because at times you’d lose track of time and you’d be coming home after dinner and you’d walk into the house feeling like an asshole.  So, the next night out of guilt, you’d try to make up for it by leaving on time to come home, make dinner and somehow someone told the kids that they could eat cereal instead.  You bit your tongue, smiled and instead asked your kids how their day went.  Because you know that you couldn’t be an asshole two days in a row.

You regretted the decision to go back full time because you really missed the boys. Rushing home after work to eat dinner, to play a bit and to get them ready for bed really sucked.

But as the weeks turned into months, your whole family adjusted and fell into a rhythm. A village was in place to help care for the boys.  You found the right balance of projects professionally and still juggled to get “me” time in.

Did you feel guilty at times? Yes! Did you feel fulfilled at times?  Yes!  But when you spoke to other working moms, they assured you that these feelings were normal and that it was okay to feel both guilty and fulfilled.

Remember, I’m proud of you. You’re approaching one year of being back as a “working mom”. You work with a great team in an industry that falls in line with your values.  And, you’re working harder now than you had ever worked in your life.  You work harder to ensure that your boys remain priority even if that means getting to work late because of extra cuddles, sleep deprivation because you’re up late keeping up with the job or not cancelling the mommy and me date because you’re hella tired.

Shine2

 

Dear Stay-At-Home-Mom

Dear Stay at Home Mom (SAHM),

I’m proud of you. I know the arrangement to care for Maxwell and Brandon wasn’t ideal, but you put your all into it. And yes, I know you didn’t want to put the boys in part-time daycare because of costs, but it did bring you relief right?  Come on, just admit it.  Okay, maybe a little bit of relief?  You managed to enjoy a hot latte, read a book or squeeze in a possible workout, if lucky.  BUT, really you used those two days in the work week to clean the house, do laundry, grocery shop and prep meals to last throughout the week.

Oh yes, and your summer 2016 was amazing. Parks, picnics, day trips and play dates were on the regular and you got yourself a nice tan.  Taking the boys out on your own to fancy coffee shops was fun and you became surprisingly confident as a mother.  Even when your boys became a hot mess, you didn’t let it get to you.  You’re a paying customer and no one was going to stop you from enjoying that last sip of your latte (even if it was cold).  But it wasn’t always a walk in the park, was it?  You were solo parenting quite a bit and being a 24/7 mom was beating you down. It did put a “strain” on your marriage, or as your husband would describe, “it was challenging” because strain was too strong of a word.

Oh yes, and then there was the turning point, when September came around. Shorter days and longer nights.  While all families on your street were getting back into the school routine, those parks, picnics, day trips and play dates quickly faded.  Just like your tan. Hanging out at the mall was not your thing, your boys were beginning to fight more frequently and you were not living up to your name “Sunshine”.

All the working moms were telling you how lucky you were to be in a position to stay at home. And you nodded your head agreeing, but didn’t always feel so lucky.

But remember, I am proud of you. While this letter to you and your readers may come across as whiney or negative, it was your reality as it is for many stay at home moms who don’t feel appreciated and then begin to feel resentment. I know you adore your boys and that they’ve enriched your life. You take pride in knowing that you are grooming them to be young gentlemen, compassionate, curious and loving. You have a huge amount of respect for your husband, who holds the same values as you and you fall deeper in love with him when you watch him care for your boys.  And I know you count your blessings every day and you’ve told me that it’s a privilege to be in a position to be able to stay at home and raise them.  Because you know, that not every mother gets that privilege and you are incredibly thankful for that.

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