How a post-holiday winter getaway helped us start the new year right

In partnership with Great Wolf Lodge and in partnership and published through Today’s Parent

Processed with VSCO with s2 preset

Recently, our crew managed to get away for a little bit of luxury and a whole lot of play at Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara Falls, Ontario.  I expected it to be a getaway “just for the kids,” but I quickly realized that this place is incredible for kids of all ages! The resort featured an incredible indoor waterpark, on-site dining options, a great list of activities and attractions to choose from, and accommodations and hospitality were off the chart. They have everything you need, which is great because my focus was enjoying the much-needed downtime after such an action-packed holiday.

Processed with VSCO with s2 preset

Get comfy in a cozy cottage

I say “our cozy cottage” because the lodging really felt like home. In fact, my little guy said just that as he walked up to the door. He’s a great traveler, but when any destination requires an overnight stay, he’ll have sad moments throughout the trip where he tells us that he misses his bed and wants to go home. But this go around, there was nothing like that. He was amazed at how cool the cottage was, how his plaid jacket matched the décor—yes, I purposely dressed our family to match—and the kids room made him feel like a big boy. On the second floor, there are two bunk beds that both my boys still fought over, a bathroom that they reluctantly shared and an additional room which they called the games room with a magnetic tic-tac-toe wall board.

The main floor space is remarkable with its high ceilings, a fully equipped kitchen, a gas fireplace and a luxury master ensuite. Their cottages can accommodate up to 10 people and for those travelling with multiple families, their semi-detached cottages have optional adjoining doors. The cottages are secluded and separate from the main building, which I really liked.  To get back to the main building they offer a shuttle pick up/drop off, you can drive over, or you can walk, which is approximately five minutes. But as you know, with kids in tow, the five minutes could take between 15 to 20!

Processed with VSCO with s2 preset

Take advantage of what your destination has to offer

I don’t know where I got this idea, but I thought I’d be spending my trip following the kids around, being their bag lady while I watched them enjoy the waterpark and activities. Yes, Great Wolf Lodge is a kid-friendly resort known for its indoor water park; however, their range of activities is quite impressive. We spent more time at the attractions and activities than the waterpark itself, and we weren’t mad about it.

When visiting GWL, I would recommend purchasing a Paw Pass. It’s great for the entire family and you get the best bang for your buck. The Paw Pass is a bundled way to save on the Great Wolf Attractions. The kids head over to each attraction listed on the pass, complete it, have it crossed off and then move onto the next. It created a friendly competition for the boys. We had a great time at the Northern Lights Arcade and Ten Paw Alley, and they picked out a sweet fudge treat at the Bear Claw Café. But the attraction that won us over as a family was MagiQuest, where you choose a magic wand with special powers and go off on a quest throughout the building. It was so interactive and engaging.  We were so caught up in the magic that we completed seven of the nine quests.Processed with VSCO with s2 preset

Make sure there are good eats for your wolf pack

While we had a fully equipped kitchen available, we decided not to cook. The dining options were perfect for an overnight stay. A quick lunch at Bucket Incredible Craveables, which is accessible in the waterpark, was a perfect meal to tide us over until the family dinner buffet at Antler Shanty. They have a great mix of healthy options and comfort food to fill one’s plate. And of course, this mama wolf needs her caffeine, and Canoe Coffee did not disappoint.

Processed with VSCO with s2 preset

Our family getaway during the winter season was really good for the soul. Canadian winters can be tough and honestly it didn’t take a lot to get away: just an hour and a half from Toronto, we were able to pull the trip off with minimal packing and planning. I’ll definitely be back with my wolf pack.

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

Processed with VSCO with s2 preset

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

luggage

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

Processed with VSCO with s2 preset

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?

Processed with VSCO with s2 preset

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

 

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

 

 

Stay at Home Mom, Working Mom, Mom-to-Be … Just Support One Another

I didn’t have the courage to post this on my Instagram Page and I almost deleted it completely.  However, I feel safe putting it here, I don’t get a lot of visitors to my blog and maybe it will resonate with a reader.

So here it goes …

In 2015, I made the decision to stay home with my twin boys. questions like “are you sure that’s the right thing to do?” or comments like, “that’s not really putting your degree to use”

In 2017, I made the decision to re-enter the workforce full time … questions like “are you sure that’s what you want to go back into?” or comments like “oh wow, the kids are still young and the first 4 to 5 years are so important”

Last week, I resigned for an opportunity outside the industry where I spent 10+ years of my career in and questions like, “are you sure that’s the right move?” or comments like “your kids are so young to make a move” came up.

Just wow … there were so many well wishes in all three scenarios above, but all I remembered and harped on were the comments that were not so positive and what blows my mind … the comments were from women WITH kids.

Today (2019) stats show that there is still a wage gap between men and women (a bigger gap for women of colour) … stay at home moms are not given the recognition for managing a household and working moms are still going home and taking on the larger share of household duties.

We all have reasons for the paths we choose with or without kids, and everyone questions themselves, they write a pros and cons list and they lean on others for advice.  No decision is made overnight, but whatever path a woman chooses, we should be supportive of it.

So the next time you come across a post or hear news of a woman’s doubt, success or struggle … lift them up … don’t pull them down.

cafe

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 – crack open the pack in a thermos, add some hot water 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 ’til 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