Tips for Cruising With Kids

You booked your cruise and the family is ready to set sail.  Well, all aboard!!!!  We took our first family cruise last month and I wish I could say we researched and prepped but we didn’t.  I’ve cruised with the hubby (before kids) and with our previous family travels, we agreed to just go with the flow and have fun.   Sharing tips on the experience and what we learned being at sea:

Arrive at Least One Day before Sailing

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If you think the stress of having to travel to a destination is high, can you imagine having to fly or drive in the day the ship sails with kids in tow. Those cruise ships don’t wait for you and you’ll be paying a hefty penny to get to that next port. I’d recommend arriving at least a day early to give the family time to adjust and to move at a snails pace.  We were boarding at the San Pedro Cruise Port Terminal about 45 minutes from LA, so we flew in a few days early to hang with friends and explore with no agenda.

Bring Books, Homework, Toys and Games

You’d think that on a cruise, you could keep kids busy.  You definitely can, but we found that travelling as a family with young kids, we spent a lot of time in the room at the start and at the end of the day.  We didn’t want the boys to be watching TV the entire time.  For all our trips, the boys always packed books, toys and games.  For this trip, on the whim we took the boys to  Barnes and Nobles and as a treat they picked out activity books to keep them busy.  I was surprised and actually impressed that they worked on their activity book every night for about 30 minutes.

Boarding the Ship and Organizing Yourself on Day One

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When you board the ship, having access to your room may take a few of hours so bring a carry on with goodies just for your kids (LOL). We had  swimming gear, toys and books on hand just in case.  But really the first few hours spent on the ship, we ate, explored and relaxed a bit.

Once you have access to your room, organize yourself. Space is tight in the stateroom on a cruise ship and unlike an Air BnB or hotel where you can leave a suitcase out for easy access, you don’t have that same luxury. Ask your room steward for tips on organizing and any hidden drawers that you can use, then unpack everything and leave what you don’t need in the suitcase in the closet.

Cha-Ching! Have Cash On Hand

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Having cash on hand, it gave us negotiating power not only with the cab drivers, but with my boys.  We rely so heavily on easy payment with a card, and with our trip through Mexico it was handy to have cash for shopping at the market, transportation and eating local like my little guy above.

NOTE: withdraw cash from home to avoid the out of country bank fees.

On Board Kids Care aka Babysitting Options

I would highly recommend putting the kids into the cruise line’s Kids Care Service (On Norweigan, they had Splash Academy). Hubby and I were so excited for them to go play and we were excited for ourselves to have a date of some sort, but my boys refused to go in. By the end of the trip, we were itching for some time alone and on our last day at sea, I bribed my boys with cash and it was worth every penny.

Room with a Balcony?

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My first time cruising with hubby we opted out of a balcony. We figured that we’d hang out to watch the sunrise/sunset and enjoy the water from one of the deck chairs. Rarely happened, but we didn’t regret it. Booking a balcony this time around with kids, we opted for it because we thought it would be fun. You can save yourself the money, but for us unknowingly it was money well spent. When you have kids, and depending on their age and mood, you could be spending a great deal of time in your cabin. And on our first cruise with the boys, we did just that. They slept in and after each meal always asked to go back to the room to chill and watch TV.  Also, if you’re an early riser, being steps away from the balcony to watch the sunrise is bliss!

NOTE: it’s important to set the rules before boarding the ship with the kids and talking about balcony safety is a MUST.  We were always on their case.

Self Arranged Tours

We decided to not purchase excursions through the Cruise Ship. Not because we didn’t want to, we just didn’t have the time to research.  And in the end, it actually worked out in our favour.  We woke up every morning and took our time easing into our day and I would say by noon, we were ready to explore.  We made our way off the ship and took a car service to explore and typically ended up on a beach.

Quick and easy tips and with that, happy sailing!

XOXO

Sunshine

 

Holiday Gift Guide for Your Kids to Develop and Make an Impact

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! And as the big day gets closer, I thought I’d drop a blog post and share my holiday guide. Short and sweet, yet mindful for children. Take a read through my guide, provide feedback if you’d like and most importantly, if you know of other businesses, products or services, please share in the comments below.

PINNA PODCAST

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I don’t know what rock I’ve been living under, but I always thought podcasts were an adult thang! Podcasts are ah-mazing for children. I worked with Pinna on a collaboration a few months ago and the boys loved their podcasts so much that I had to include them in my holiday guide. Its audience is targeted from ages 4-12 and the podcast is categorized for easy selection (e.g. podcasts Under 10 Minutes, Bath Time or All About Sports). And a “woot woot” for their seasonal podcasts. This is my favourite time of the year and it’s really got the whole family in the Christmas spirit.

I recommend listening to podcasts during car rides and as part of a bedtime routine. It’s worked best with my boys.

Our favourites in no particular order: original podcast “Quentin and Alfie’s ABC Adventures”, audio book “Good Night for Rebel Girls” (I’m a boy mom, but it doesn’t mean they can’t learn from these books) and “Good Sport” where pro-athletes tell stories from before they were famous.

Pinna Podcast: Click here for link or try it out for 30 days free.

A KIDS BOOK ABOUT

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My sister in law tagged me when she came across these books on Instagram. I’m always on the hunt for books that cover topics that aren’t always easy to talk about and the ones I’ve come across are either too complex or not of age for them. I love books that start conversations and don’t just speak to you. The mission at A Kids Book About is to help kids and their grownups have honest conversations about things that matter. Books written by a great team of authors who tell their stories and publish them for the world to read. The topics/titles may appear to be too heavy, but the content is simple and relatable. So many topics covered in their collection.  The boys have just read the  Book about Belonging on our trip. And the Book About Money we will wait until after the holidays to read (LOL). Recommended age is for 5+ and their grownups.

A Kids Book About: Click the link which will take you straight to their selection and with the purchase of three or more books, you get 40% off your entire order. I’m already looking forward to seeing which books my boys will scoop up next.

LOVE POWERED CO

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Where do I begin? I just love these mom bosses who created these beautiful and positive I AM affirmation cards. And literally it just takes minutes to put you in a positive space. You can buy the entire collection of three (Littles, Femme and Teens) or buy them individually. I currently have the Littles set in the boys’ room and the Femme set in my office at work.

I’m not a Monday person but I have to tell you, having the Femme box at work has given me that extra boost in the morning along with the caffeine kick of course. As for the Littles box, the boys pick a card that they can relate to and a popular card for them is “Uniqueness is My Power”. They are twins and sometimes they get lumped into a category of just being twins and people not taking the time to get to know them. And this card serves as a reminder that while they have this special relationship, they should celebrate and share their unique qualities with others.

Love Powered Co: click here for their amazing collection

KICK START READING

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The perfect gift for those ages 3 to 6 to help littles build confidence with reading.   Simple to use, interactive two minutes videos and their motto is “screen time you can feel good about”. Lauren, who is the voice and teacher behind this learning tool developed Kick Start Reading with her brother with the idea of making reading fun for kids and keeping it simple for busy parents. After a long day at work and having to come home and read with the boys, I wasn’t always engaged and sometimes just went through the motion. For those long hard work days, Kick Start Reading helped break up the routine of just learning with books and sounding out words. I would sit with the boys and we would go through the videos together. And remember that kids need a change of pace when it comes to learning as well. When the boys aren’t keen on reading books, but I want to get the learning in, I’ll switch up the bedtime routine and we’ll go through a few videos. Link can be found below and with the purchase of a membership, you have access to all videos. There is also a customized section for your little reader.

Get started by clicking the link to sign up for Kick Start Reading.

VOLUNTEERING YOUR TIME and/or DONATING TO CHARITABLE ORGANIZATIONS 

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It’s easy to get caught up in the whole holiday spirit and there isn’t anything wrong with that. But as a reminder, during this season not everyone is able to because it is a tough time for some financially, emotionally or mentally. A great time for you to get involved is through programs at work, in your community or through your child’s school. At the age of 18 months, I took the boys to Safety Net – Children and Youth Charities, a local non-profit organization in Oakville and had them help me unpack donated goods and set them up on tables. It was a lot of work and they didn’t understand but being there and seeing the contributions you can make even for a few hours, it makes a world of difference for others. Over the years, I’ve mixed things up and have donated through other charities such as Kerr Street Mission, Bank on Bellies and Ronald McDonald Charities Canada. And finding time isn’t always easy. And a trick I’ve learned is find your local grocery store and see if they have a food donation bin (some have them year-round). Have the kids shop for the items in store and at checkout have them drop the items in the bin.  Below are links to charitable organizations that we’ve partnered or donated our time with this year.

Kerr Street Mission

Bank on Bellies

Ronald McDonald House Charities Canada

Happy Holidays and all the best as we close 2019!

XOXO Sunshine

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lessons Learned after Having a Caregiver

We’ve had Nana with us since the boys were six weeks old and she’s played such a huge part in raising M & B.  In the last five or so years, we’ve been blessed (cliché I know, but it’s true) to have her as part of our family.  What started off as part time, quickly became full time caregiving.  Nana’s a talented and loving woman who not only took care of the boys, but took care of hubby and I too.

Here is what I’ve learned over the years:

She’s Taken Care of Me – if someone’s going to see you at your most vulnerable (other than your partner/husband), it’s your nanny.  As mentioned previously, Nana started with us early into my maternity leave so we were together all the time.  I nursed and pumped and I used to be conservative and pumped privately or had a towel cover on.  But I remember I was on the brink of filling up a bottle pumping and didn’t have another on hand.  The boys were by my side and she came in with a bottle, took my milk and was gone.  I also remember days where the boys were napping in the car and we’d be driving around getting errands done and we’d be chatting about life, her family and motherhood.

I Am Their Mother – were there times where the boys preferred to be with Nana over me?  Yes.  Were there times where I was hurt by this?  Hell … Yes!  But, when they’re with Nana all day .. every day, it was inevitable.  It didn’t bother me too much because my boys are quite affectionate and vocal about their love for their mama.  But those days when I came home from a bad day at work and all I wanted to do was make it all go away by cuddling up with my boys and they didn’t reciprocate.  I may or may not have cried in the bathroom on one or two occasions. But on the serious tip, I will always be their mother  and that doesn’t change anything.

You Won’t Always See Eye to Eye – and that’s okay.  I came into motherhood with zero experience.  Nana’s had years of experience, years of patience and she brought that added touch to the family.  Also, I’ve come to realize that my mothering style is different, especially when it comes to discipline.  I would say that my hubby and Nana were similar in forms of disciplining, meanwhile I go from zero to one hundred and once you’ve crossed the line, there is no turning back.  A less intense approach is probably the way to go, but intense works with me.

Having someone care for your kids and live in your house is not for everyone.  When we found out we were having twins, we knew that we’d be getting a nanny but we just didn’t know what that would look like or what it meant.  Nana came into our world because the stars aligned and when they say it takes a village to raise children, she was the village.

Nana

 

 

Thanksgiving 2019 – Why I’m Thankful

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!  I’ve been reflecting the last few weeks because so much has happened in 2019 and I have so much to be thankful for this year … more so than in other years.  First and foremost, I am thankful for my family and friends.  My husband and my boys are everything and they just get me.  My family and friends (my village) help in raising my kids and help provide support.

Then there is my health that I’m thankful for and it was a bit of a scare for me earlier this year.  March 7th to be exact where I was on my way to work and I had an anxiety attack just before getting on the highway.  Luckily, I pulled over and found my way back home.

I had been working my job and covering vacation for a colleague and I was at the tail end of a three week coverage during peak season.  I even had someone support a program that I was running.

But I was upset with myself that day, because the year before I had worked the same three week coverage and did everything myself.  I worked ridiculous hours.  Later in the year I covered vacation again, on top of my job and was also involved in providing support to a rollout of a project.

So, why did I break this time?  I had everything in place at home with a great support system and even with blogging, I had outsourced pieces of work and even said no if I couldn’t commit.

I realized that the body and mind can only take so much and it was that morning on March 7th, that I shut down.  It took me just under 3 weeks to be able to get back on that highway … prior to that I had to take sideroads.  I was in a bad place mentally, socially and I felt let down.  And it took me a month to become myself again.

And when things got back to being me, I had to make changes.  I had to make myself a priority and not rely on false promises because I knew my worth and capabilities.  I started listening to podcasts that inspired, started writing out my thoughts, woke up every day feeling grateful and stopped sweating the small stuff.

So this Thanksgiving 2019, I am thankful for my family and friends and I am extremely thankful for my health.

Can’t end this without sharing some links to some fav podcasts. Just click and listen.

Beyond Burnout

Happier with Gretchin Rubin

Shine: Calm, Anxiety & Stress

XOXO

Sunshine

 

 

 

 

AIN’T NO PARTY .. LIKE A LEGO PARTY

This is a sponsored post and all opinions are 100% mine.

All kids (big and small) love LEGO. It’s been around for decades, it sparks creativity and kids can play with it independently or as part of a group. So, when LEGO reached out and asked if I was up for the challenge in pulling together a LEGO themed party (just for fun) I thought it would be great for the kids to enjoy and a great share for my community of readers. I could not say no to this request. We love LEGO like nobody’s business and we’re so obsessed it that we even made a trip out to LEGOLAND, San Diego this past May … you know for us .. I mean the kids.

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So, let me start off by sharing that I am not a big DIYer nor am I a huge themed party kind of mom. I love efficiency, simple set up and quick take downs. I can throw down a good party, but all my effort and time is spent on creating a great experience, serving fabulous food and bringing people together for a good time. And LEGO really makes it that easy.

GOODIE BAGS

My boys are huge Ninjago fans and these cute DIY goodie bags deliver big impact, are easy to assemble and are budget friendly. You just need to set aside the time to make them. Fill up the bags with stickers, bubbles, candy and of course LEGO surprise packs and you’re good to go. Click link for other LEGO party related inspo. You’re welcome!

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LEGO ACTIVITIES

All the action takes place at the kids table where they eat and socialize right? So, it’s natural to have LEGO bricks and sets to keep the littles entertained. I would also recommend setting up additional table stations for kids to play at. Have them move from one table to the next and ask them to build something different at each station.

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KEEPING LEGOS ORGANIZED

Have you ever stepped on a LEGO? Have you ever had to clean up LEGO? Have you ever had to look for that missing LEGO piece? If you said yes to any of these questions, then you need stackable storage boxes with compartments. I give my husband all the credit for organizing the LEGO bricks by colour, because it is no easy task. We have 12 boxes LEGO and we have one box with a three compartment box dedicated to figurines, wheels and accessories.

These handy boxes are great for activity tables making it easy for littles to select their LEGO bricks to make their masterpiece. FYI – click link for where to buy storage boxes. You’re welcome again!

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SHOW THEM OFF

All that work for no one to admire? Not at this LEGO party. After each activity table completion, have a separate area for their creations to be put on display. And if there is time and if your guests aren’t shy, do a Show and Tell. Everyone will be oohing and ahhing over each creation. And don’t forget to remind them that at the end of the party, they can take what they’ve built home.

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DANCE PARTY

It ain’t no party without a LEGO dancing party! Burn off some of that birthday cake with some dance moves and good tunes. And not just any tunes. Have them dancing to the LEGO Movie soundtrack or play some musical chairs! Click link for the latest soundtrack from LEGO Movie 2. You’re welcome yet again!

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AND THE WINNER GOES TO…

Everyone’s a winner right! And sometimes it’s nice to give a little somethin’ somethin’ in addition to the goodie bags. Select a winner from musical chairs, cast a vote for the best LEGO creation and/or best dancer. You may want to give your guests a heads up at the beginning of the party, that there will be prizes. It’ll build excitement and get them inspired!

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And there are so much more LEGO inspired ideas to add to a birthday party. And really at the end of the day, you’re going to put together what makes sense for you, your time, your budget and your child. And whatever that is, it’s going to be an amazing one.

If you’re huge LEGO fan, I want to hear all about it!

Until the next party…

Sunshine

Photography: Liz Salzman

 

FORD SUMMER ROAD TRIP

This is a sponsored post and all opinions are 100% mine.

Beep beep!  Who is up for a road trip?  Our family is of course and even with juggling school and work life, family time remains priority.  We made things work and managed to sneak in one last summer weekend getaway out to Muskoka a few weekends ago.  A two and a half hour ride to cottage country and we rode in style and comfort courtesy of Ford Canada in the Edge TI Elite.

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The five seater SUV came fully loaded with all the bells and whistles.  The key features that were important to me, rear view camera, touchscreen, apple play, wireless charger and generous trunk space.

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The best feature (according to the critics), which we didn’t realize until the morning of was a built in television entertainment system.  We made a pitstop to Walmart and grabbed a few DVD’s for the road.  Once the movie started, that was it for them.  No bickering, no whining and no questions like “are we there yet mom?”

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It also gave my husband and I the gift of time and silence.  We did the adult conversation thing, sang to our choice of music and just got caught up.  Sometimes we’re just moving from one activity to the next that we forget to pause and talk.  So, while it was great for the drive, I wouldn’t want an entertainment system in my car all the time. It’s too easy to give the boys screen time and while sometimes I’m spending most of the car ride breaking up fights or being interrupted, those situations make great memories.

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Overall, I was happy with the Edge TI Elite.  I’m no expert, but I do love comfort, style and safety.  My husband enjoyed the ride and it served it’s purpose.  It took us to beautiful Muskoka where we got to spend some quality family time outdoors.

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xoxo

Sunshine

PREMIUM LUNCHES FOR BACK TO SCHOOL

This is a sponsored post and all opinions are 100% mine.

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Literally, I blinked and here we are prepping for back to school. The boys are going into SK, so this year isn’t as stressful as last. It’ll be the same school, same teachers, same knapsacks, same lunch bags and the same lunch boxes.

We are also adding a few new things to the mix. This year I plan on making some hot lunch meals, so we bought the boys thermoses. I also intend on baking breakfast/snack recipes that I archived from Instagram, as well as adding some deli meat and sausage options – opting out of my typical ham sandwich creation.

Recently, we received a generous delivery of deli sliced chicken and summer sausage meats, along with turkey and chicken snack bites from Piller’s Fine Foods. They are a family business that is all about making food for families to enjoy and supporting their community. They also offer products that are free of all major food allergens (gluten, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, mustard, sesame, egg, fish, soy, sulphites). About an hour west of Toronto, they are a local Ontario company. Always feels good to support local!

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So, what makes Piller’s Fine Foods stand out from others? Quality and taste! True testament, my boys have already polished off a package of the summer sausage meats. I have one really picky eater and at such a young age, he’s gaining quite the reputation of having an appetite for only the finest foods. He got it from his mama!

In addition, when it comes to lunches, let’s take that even further, when it comes to any type of meal prep, I am all about convenience and efficiency. I’m not creative in the kitchen and I am pretty basic and I own it. So, where I lack in creativity, I’ll make up for it by ensuring that I’m buying premium quality products because I won’t sacrifice the good stuff for just convenience.

So, what am I going to do with the delivery of goods from Piller’s Fine Foods? We’ll be sharing some so others can enjoy! The turkey and chicken bites will come in handy during extracurricular activity days. Adding some deli meats to the boys’ lunch, sneaking in a couple of slices for myself and saving some slices to make omelets over the weekend. Like I said, I’m basic and proud of it. For those who can whip up lunches and meals like a boss, I’ve provided their recipe link (click here) for food inspiration. If you happen to make anything, let me know, save us a piece or just have us over.

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Best of luck in the new school year!

 

Sunshine