Leaving, in a Tahoe! – Baltimore Trip Pt 1

When Ben and I first got together I knew less than nothing about football (American, that is…not to be confused with footie (Australian football), or soccer, or any other iteration). I knew it included a football, but that was it. I distinctly remember “playing” football in Grade 8. Our teacher put us on the field and then expected the magic to happen. For every other kid there, it did. For me, I stood in the middle of the field, completely lost and confused.

Imagine my delight and surprise when I discovered my boyfriend, a.k.a. my now husband, LOVED football, LOVED the NFL, and LOVED tackling people. Yay! (Insert sarcasm here…and there…and above…everywhere, really.)

Over the 11 years of being together and the 8-almost-9 years of marriage, I have learned A LOT about football. I still can’t tell what kind of play the offense is going to run, or the defense is going to set up in answer, but the fact that I know who the offense is, who the defense is, which direction the ball is going, what down it is, and how many yards they have left until they get a fresh set of downs, is incredible…and is the result of hours and and hours and hours of watching football with my man. Also, bugging him incessantly with questions (like, why is it called the first down when it’s the 80th down they’ve had…or they ‘get a first down’ when they were just on a second down…and what the hell is going on?!). I can proudly say that I can hold my own in conversations about the game, that I have a favourite player (Hi, Peyton!!) and that I can cheer alongside Ben confidently, although I still pick the team he’s not cheering for just to be a pain (old habits, dying hard, you know).

So when Toni and Jacqueline hatched the plan to take the boys to a Baltimore Ravens game for a Christmas gift, it was an easy HELLS YEAH! The Ravens are Ben’s team and, in a funny coincidence, also Cody’s favourite team. Mike loves the NFL period, so it was a win-win-win (Andreah and Joe couldn’t come because of monies…and because none of us are rich, we couldn’t swing the coverage for them…it SUCKED that they couldn’t be there, but life is life, regardless of the NFL and the Ravens, and ROAD TRIP!).

A road trip means FOOD. And to kick it off, I baked a few treats…some scones, some delicious cranberry oat muffins, some healthy banana oat cookies, and, of course, some terrible for you but SO YUMMY milk chocolate chip cookies. Snacks were COVERED.

OH YEAH

YUM

For us to go, of course, it meant finding a babysitter that would be willing to hang out with our crazies for THREE DAYS. We have three kids under 6…that is not a small thing to ask. Luckily, we’ve got points with the mothers, and between our mom and Ben’s mom, along with some uber support from Grandpa Mike, we were able to leave our babies and embark on the 9-hour trip to Baltimore, Maryland.

The willing victims...I mean ROCK STARS.

The willing victims…I mean ROCK STARS.

We left at crazy-o’clock in the morning…can you see the clock in the above picture? That says 4:50 a.m., people. We mean business. Toni and Mike picked us up and drove the white Tahoe that they rented for the trip – it was the only vehicle big enough for everyone (all 6 of us) and our STUFF (Mike couldn’t see out the back, but that’s not THAT important…) – to get Jacqueline and Cody. Mike had actually won the rental at his work Christmas party the weekend before, which was a stroke of luck that saved us OODLES of money, considering we were taking the rental over the border and putting 837487436750 km on it. Even the Christmas party gods wanted us to go! SIGNS, BABY!

Jacqueline had never driven as far as we were driving, or traveled for as long as we were travelling, so she didn’t know what to expect. She DID however win the ‘best seat partner’ award from me, because she brought 14 pillows and 56 cozy, thick, soft, fuzzy blankets.

Hello, beautiful.

Hello, beautiful.

Our backseat was tight, because we have the shortest legs, but it was the most comfortable seat ever. Take your shoes off, put your head down, close your eyes, and voila! Road trippin’ naps.

The cool kids sit in the back

The cool kids sit in the back (our view)

Mike was driving, which he preferred AND it was what the insurance on the rental covered, Ben was his front-seat passenger, because this way he could hear conversations (otherwise, it’d be an isolated trip for him), Cody and Toni were in the middle, and Jacqueline and I were in the waaaaaaay back. Cramped, cozy, ROAD TRIP.

The middle trying to sneak into the back...everyone wants to be the cool kids.

The middle trying to sneak into the back…everyone wants to be the cool kids.

The first stop was for coffee. Exactly 15 minutes away from Jacqueline and Cody’s house. People peed, caffeine and breakfast were obtained, and then we were on our way.

The border was by far the most nervous part of our trip and happened within the first 90 minutes of driving. The border guy, who we weren’t dumb enough to take a picture of, was full of tight-lippedness. He couldn’t see Jacqueline and I in the back seat, so we had to pop up and say, “Here!” just like during attendance at school. He asked why we were going to see an NFL game…to which we had trouble answering because the answer was obvious. Mike said, “Entertainment.” Everyone held their breath. Then the super serious border guy relented and said, “Yeah, but why Baltimore?” Ahhh! Breathing can commence – he’s being FUNNY. (So scary). Big hump hurdled, onto the next!

Our first gas stop was called the Fractured Prune. Can't make this stuff up.

Our first gas stop was called the Fractured Prune. Can’t make this stuff up.

The next hurdle was crossing through New York state into Pennsylvania. While we were in the great state of Pennsylvania, we witnessed a car accident – the guy turning left decided to go regardless of the fact he had a red light…and the guy going straight through slammed into him, surprisingly. Moments after we left that intersection, we were almost hit by someone else running a red light, again trying to turn left. We decided to get out of that city and stop for some lunch. At this point I’d already had TWO naps (a Canadian side one, and a New York one…all in all, a GOOD DAY).

We decided to go to Hardee’s, a burger place that Mike had heard of and wanted to try. The hamburgers were just all right and the fries were CRAZY salty. In the end, it wasn’t anything special, and we all got the gift of fun pooping later that evening (TMI? TOO BAD).

Never heard of it. Made everyone POOP.

Hardee’s: Never heard of it. Made everyone POOP.

The best part about the road trip so far (you know, besides the lack of children and the napping)? The fact that it was SO warm. We left Ontario with winter coming at us, negative temperatures and lots of bundling required. We got to the States and discovered temperatures that required no coat and no boots. It was like springtime. SO AWESOME.

I had another nap (OH YEAH) and we made it through Pennsylvania, land of the no-stop-red-lights, and into Maryland, land of everyone-honks-while-driving. Our hotel was right downtown Baltimore and a mile away from the stadium, meaning once we got there, we could park and not have to drive again until we headed home.

You must say the name of the hotel in a British accent, EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

You must say the name of the hotel in a British accent, EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

The hotel was beautiful – it had just been redone, so everything was clean and new and the staff were lovely. They originally booked us on two different floors, but then totally switched us all to the 12th floor so we could be near each other. Even though it must have been a pain, they were so kind about it.

Branded sheets? Fancy!

Branded sheets? Fancy!

Our room was lovely. Spacious. Had lots of room to sit on the floor, a huge king-size bed (we are queens here at home), comfortable chairs, a closet and bathroom. The only trouble? No fan in the bathroom. So all of those Hardee’s poops? Fodder for everyone. BLEH.

After we had settled in, we decided to go exploring and find some dinner. The first order of business was figuring out where the game would be the next day.

The Baltimore Ravens play at M&T Bank Stadium, which is right beside where the Baltimore Orioles play at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. They share a parking lot, they’re so close to each other.

(From top left, clockwise): Home run landings marked by bronze baseballs in the concrete; the stadium lit by the Baltimore sunset; entrance to the stadium; A.L. East Division Champions banner

(From top left, clockwise): Home run landings marked by bronze baseballs in the concrete; the stadium lit by the Baltimore sunset; entrance to the stadium; A.L. East Division Champions banner

To get to the Baltimore Ravens’ home, we had to walk through the Orioles’ stomping ground. Did you know that Babe Ruth was born in Baltimore? We didn’t either!

The boys posing with Baltimorean, Babe Ruth.

The boys posing with Baltimorean, Babe Ruth.

A beautiful war memorial right after Oriole land and right before Raven land. It reads, "Time will not dim the glory of their deeds."

A beautiful war memorial right after Oriole land and right before Raven land. It reads, “Time will not dim the glory of their deeds.”

And then, once we were steeped in Oriole and baseball lore, we made it to Ravens Walk, M&T Stadium, and all things FOOTBALL. Ben (and the boys) were in HEAVEN.

We MADE it.

We MADE it.

Statues of Ray Lewis and Johnny Unitas

Statues of Ray Lewis and Johnny Unitas in front of the stadium

Ben v.s. Ravens' football helmet garbage cans - who will win?

Ben v.s. Ravens’ football helmet garbage cans – who will win?

M&T Stadium, empty and gearing up for the big game

M&T Stadium, empty and gearing up for the big game

After getting our fill of Ravens’ pregame show, we headed off in search of dinner. We were all starving and tired (regardless of the 4587634 naps we had on the way down).

Who can name the sitcom this references? Anyone? Bueller?

Who can name the sitcom this references? Anyone? Bueller?

We settled on 17 Light, which was a restaurant in another hotel on Light Street. We had tried another restaurant, but the host didn’t seem too keen on doing his job (he answered the phone right after saying “Hi” to us), and then told us it was a 45 minute wait to be seated, even though it looked empty.

This restaurant, the one that served us delicious food, had a bartender/host who greeted us warmly. When he found out we were from Canada, he instantly said he had started watching a Canadian show and LOVED it. All of us were bracing for it – Corner Gas? Red Green? Nope. Trailer Park Boys. We told him that it wasn’t entirely indicative of what life in Canada looks like, but it was the perfect ice-breaker.

Our dinner spot...where we left our mark.

Our dinner spot…where we left our mark.

After dinner, we got some beer, some wine, and hung out in Ben’s and my hotel room, decompressing after the loooooong day. We watched the tail end of Fast Five, where Paul Walker was alive and Vin Diesel still had no neck (it was a no-neck off between him and The Rock…ripped, big, and neckless).

It was heaven to be away from home, to hang out with (some of) the sisters, and have no babies to care for. It was the perfect start to a vacation much-needed and football-filled.

Tune in tomorrow when Toni will regale you with tales of GAME DAY!

~ Julia

A new year, a new hope

New Year’s resolutions have never been my thing. Of course, I have goals, but they have nothing to do with a January 1st deadline.

I have dreams, but those are literally farfetched things that won’t happen (e.g. Grow wings and fly to Brazil).

I do have hopes. So here is my list of hopes for the New Year.

I hope I won’t fall down too often, and if and when I do, I hope I won’t beat myself up too much when I pick myself up and keep going forward.

I hope I will be able to let go of the little things and enjoy the moment without worrying so much.
1I hope I can see the bright side of everything and everyone this year.
2I hope I can just be happy, and stop hurting myself, or letting others in to hurt me.

I hope I will have a full day of just smiles, and laughter.

I hope I can grow closer to my sisters.
34I hope I have new adventures this year! Amazing adventures.

I hope I don’t lose sight of myself and my weirdness, because it’s what makes me me.
5I hope that I don’t wonder once this year, ‘What if?’
6I hope for this year to be better, in work, in life, in love, and I hope that I brought the tools from last year forward, so I can do these things.

I hope Joe and I keep getting better with every bump and bruise. I hope we keep becoming more awesome.

I have hope that everyone’s years will be better, and that we all will have an amazing year ahead for families, all our friends and us.

~ Andreah

Je suis Charlie

We are a small blog with a small readership, but that doesn’t mean that every single post, every single page view, every single word we write isn’t an exercise in freedom of speech, thought, and creation.

The acts in Paris yesterday will do nothing to dampen the voices that call for equality, human rights, or the eradication of terrorism in all of its forms.

So, today, we stand with Paris and the world:

Je-suis-Charlie

~ WV Sisterhood

The great 2015

Well, we are back full force everyone, and more than just that it’s a new year! A fresh start – or more like a continuation of the changes I have made over my many years on this earth – a whopping 25, if you didn’t know.

There is so much that 2015 has to hold. Not only are Cody and I getting hitched come June, but our group of friends is GROWING!!! That’s right – we have two amazing couples in our circle of friends that are expecting beautiful bundles of joy! This, if anything, is the most amazing thing to look forward to. Yes, I am excited to marry the man of my dreams, my best friend, but if anything says “You are growing up” it’s when baby showers are in your future.

Normally resolutions are made and then broken. I honestly believe this. Resolutions at the start of the year are pointless when you don’t know what the year holds for you! How can you say that you are going to set a goal if you can’t foresee the future and know that those goals are obtainable? So, this year I have decided not to make any, but rather enjoy everything this year is going to bring. There are so many events that are going to unfold that making a list of what not to do and what needs to be done by the end of the year is just adding to an ever-growing to-do list that I already loathe. I want 2015 to be a year of happiness, love, friendship and family.

It is a widely known fact that the number 1 resolution every year, over and over and over again, is to become healthier and to exercise more. Just drive past any gym on January 2nd and see the numerous cars that were once not present but now are abundant. These cars will slowly diminish. People’s lives are simply too busy,

I sound pretty cynical and negative; however, every year this has been my goal and the only reason that I have stuck to it is because I slowly over the last two years have exercised more and it has become easier for me to the point where it has become a lifestyle choice, rather than a resolution to be healthier at the end of the year. I want to be healthier at the end of every day!

I was pretty interested in what other bloggers thought and what resolutions they were making. I found a lot, and some of their points of view made me think twice. Let’s Talk New Year’s Resolutions is keeping things positive, and instead of seeing resolutions that were not kept as failures, she simply adds onto it and tries for next year. Just like this, most blogs are following the same suit – positive resolutions for the new year. Starting off on the right foot!

Whether you are making resolutions or not, I wish you all the best in 2015 – health, happiness, family and friendship.

~ Jacqui

Welcome, 2015

Ah, 2015.

Welcome. I’ve been waiting for you.

First and foremost, waiting for you to watch my baby sister plan her wedding and become a wife.

Waiting on you to help determine my next steps in my career path and even make some surprising changes.

Waiting for you to give me opportunity to reflect on the mixed bag that was 2014, with some very intense highs and very dark, lingering lows.

But mostly, waiting for you to see what adventures you have prepared for us, unbeknownst to our planning and projecting human natures.

In the name of honesty, the end of 2014 wasn’t exactly my favourite. In fact, if I am being completely open with our readers, the last quarter of 2014 can SUCK IT.

Man. That felt good.

For 2015, I personally have begun to mull over some goals – resolutions, if you must.

Not so much things that I will resolve to change about myself such as kicking a bad habit, but a little more of an ideal of what I would like to focus on to get the most out of this beautiful New Year we have been gifted:

1. Setting clearer, more specific intentions. At the beginning of every yoga practice, we are asked to set an intention for that session. As opposed to setting long-term goals, these are supposed to be your short-term focus of what you most want from that session, the benefit you are personally seeking when you step onto your mat. They can be as simple as wanting to be quiet for an hour, more physically specific such focusing on mastering my breathing, or even seeking a deeper spiritual need to be met like letting go of something heavy on your heart. Sometimes I am very successful in setting and meeting my intentions at the mat. But sometimes, and lately more often than I would like to admit, I’ve been struggling with setting clear intentions while settling into savasana.

As my practice is still in its infancy, I’ve granted myself a lot of patience with my growth; however, I’ve come to the conclusion that adopting the same practice of setting my intentions at the beginning of class to the beginning of my day might be the key to me being more successful when I do reach the mat. And in turn, I’m sure it won’t harm me to have a clear intent for the day for which to boomerang myself back to when the world gets to be too much.

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2. Practice self-forgiveness…sooner. I have a hard time letting go of my own mistakes. I’m quick to accept an apology and hope for the best the next time around from those that I love when a wrongdoing is experienced, and even those that I don’t necessarily love receive it sooner than I tend to allow myself. I’m a bit of a martyr in this way and will torture myself relentlessly when I screw up with someone I care for. But it’s come to my attention that I have to cut myself a break too and realize that I am just as, if not more, human than anyone and the furthest from perfect you can imagine. Self-forgiveness is required for survival, but more importantly it’s required for growth and true fulfillment in life.

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3. Focus in faith. My relationship with God has, for the most part, been a good one. Even when man-made religious parameters and beliefs failed me, I have yet to lose complete faith in the love God has for me. As with any good human-tainted relationship, there of course have been times of doubt, times I’ve struggled with understanding and times I’ve wondered if he’s still with me at all. Human thoughts from my very human mind. This year, I hope to explore and experience more in my faith and my relationship with the Father. I hope to build in my trust and commitment to Him and grow more in the image He desires of me.

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4. Become and stay flexible. While both a lofty physical goal as well as an internal one, I desire to work on and improve upon my flexibility. Flexibility with my need to control what I can. Flexibility in my hand-stands, back bends and splits. Flexibility when things don’t go as planned. Flexibility all around. For my sanity, my self-improvement and for my body, heart and soul as they age. Flexibility in my ways, my opinions, and my beliefs. Flexibility in my needs, wants and desires. Flexibility in the way I stay active and fit. Flexibility.

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I hope whatever goals, dreams, desires or resolutions you have for this calendar year of 2015, you above all are kept safe, find joy, feel love and grow more than ever.

~ Toni

Ringing in a new you

‘Twas the season of cookies and eggnog, rum and champagne, sleeping late and long, staying up until tomorrow, and eating whatever whenever however with whomever. It was the season of mirth and good cheer and fun and family and friends and appetizers and chocolate and shortbread and brunch. It was the season of merry and plenty. And now it’s the season of SHUT IT DOWN.

There are commercials about it, about stopping the over-indulgences and getting ‘back on track’. They remind you that you’re still awesome, but hey, stop being so crazy and start getting back in line.

There are deals (OH THE DEALS) of 20, 30, 40, 50% off gym memberships, gym equipment, bootcamp classes and find-your-abs-under-your-keg plans.

There are the great sell-offs and purchases of people’s abandoned treadmills and stationary bicycles and weighted-yoga balls and workout clothes. Wanna make a buck? Sell your dusty workout stuff. Wanna get in shape for cheap? Buy other people’s dusty workout stuff.

And everywhere you turn are people helping you make the resolutions that will set your year on FIRE and give you a bikini body in three easy moves in just five minutes every day.

It’s exhausting. And it’s unrealistic.

Can you get a skinnier, toner, more fit you? ABSOLUTELY. You can. You will if you set your mind and body to it. You will if you make a plan that’s reasonable and realistic and if you really want to.

But can you do it the way you’re being sold it? Probably not. Because they’re not selling you change. They’re selling you a NEW YOU. They’re selling you a promise that they have no intention of helping you achieve. It’s mean. And it’s a vicious cycle that happens every year.

For me, 2014 was the year I solidified my love of running and of exercising. It was the year I really started writing again. It was the year I fought alongside my man for my marriage. It was the year we really got into the groove of being a family of five. It was the year we took control of our spiritual health and made a huge change to where and how we worship. And it was the year of rediscovering bits of me that I had lost in the fog of pregnancy, newborn schedules, breastfeeding and depression. It was a year. And now that I’m facing another year, I wonder what I’d like for 2015. What will it look like? What will we accomplish? What will I accomplish?

Instead of resolving to do a bunch of things (2014 was not the year of being able to magically create more time), I thought I would make a list of things I’d like to stop. Things I’d like to knock-off, cut-out, and generally quit. It seems strange, since statistically this is generally what happens on January 10, the day of quitting all your New Year’s resolutions, but for me, I’d like to get a jump-start on jumping ship.

1. Quit talking trash about myself. I eat a cookie, I eat five cookies, I eat the rest of the cookies and not only does my stomach hate me, my brain is a royal jerk about it. It berates me and tells me in no uncertain terms that I suck, that I’m a failure, and that I’ll never be thin and pretty and lovely because ALL THE COOKIES. In truth? I shouldn’t eat so many cookies, but I shouldn’t be a jackass about it either. It happened. It’s over. It’s time to remember the good things I did do and move on.

Voice in your head

2. Quit wishing away the day. I’m not saying I should stop and smell every damn rose, but I should stop wishing for nap time and Ben time and bedtime and then alone time. I should start enjoying the time I’m in. I have the energy and space and now the emotional and mental capacity to do it, and I’d like to stop living in my depression-era head space. I’d rather live here because I can. I fought long and hard to enjoy this moment. Now I need to stop wasting it.

Living for the weekend

3. Quit glorifying the busy. Oh, I’m a real winner at this one. I can tell you, in great detail, exactly how busy I am. But in reality, I’m as busy as I MAKE ME. No one else. Me. I am busy chasing children, sure, but am I chasing them effectively, efficiently, in the best way for them and me? Probably not. So, I’m gonna stop being a martyr of the schedule and start being the freaking empress.

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4. Quit coming up with new excuses. I feel like I’m stocked up for excuses on why I can’t/don’t want to/aren’t able to write my book. There is no reason why I need new and inventive ones for the roster. The old ones don’t hold water and work just fine for being weak and ridiculous.

Just Do It

5. Quit avoiding running. I stopped running when I started having weaning depression because from where I sat on my comfortable couch inside my warm house in my bare feet and pyjamas it was SO HARD. And then dear friends Heather and Bethany asked me what they could do to help me get back to being happy-brain me and I said, I need to run. Bethany instantly said, Tomorrow? And we did. I went. I ran. And when I got back I was blissed out on the high of it. I love running. It is in me now. And I need to stop abandoning it just because my brain forgets how awesome it is. I will be running until I am physically unable. Period. Enough trying to run away from running. Toni, Bethany, and another good friend Andrea and I will be doing a half-marathon in May just to solidify my commitment to quitting running avoidance. It should do the trick.

oprah-winfrey running

What are you going to quit this year? And what will you ultimately give yourself in the process?

~ Julia