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

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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

 

 

 

 

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