Freshly baked yum

I have a weakness. It’s something that makes going to grocery stores first thing in the morning tricky. It makes running through neighbourhoods with bakeries or stores tough. It has made me tell Ben that he never has to get me another bouquet of flowers, as long as he brings home this.

It's baaaaath time! :)

Ground flax seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, hemp hearts, sesame seeds, oats…just hanging out in the bath…chillin’…like seed villains

Hullo, sneaky lover. I love your yeastiness. (TMI? Probably.)

Hullo, sneaky lover. I love your yeastiness. (TMI? Probably.)

It’s freshly baked bread.

Good morning!

Good morning!

Well, aren't we pretty in the morning?

Well, aren’t we pretty in the morning?

Oh my gosh. The smell of the yeast and flour warming in the oven. The delicious aroma of the crust being formed. The incredible feel of warm-out-of-the-oven bread. Watching butter (salted…because, you KNOW) melt into the bubbles of newly baked dough and then eating said melted-butter-covered bread? Oh. My. Gosh.

It's getting serious - we're dumping in the flour!

It’s getting serious – we’re dumping in the whole wheat flour!

Yeast. Salt. Flour. The beginnings of something awesome.

Yeast. Salt. Flour. The beginnings of something awesome.

Seriously.

Magic trick step 1 - measure out oil

Magic trick step 1 – measure out oil

Magic trick step 2 - measure honey in same spoon and watch it run right out of the spoon

Magic trick step 2 – measure honey in same spoon and watch it run right out of the spoon

At the Mills house we’re pro-real food. Pro food that we have made from whole foods ourselves. Pro knowing what the heck is in what we are eating. Making our own bread just makes sense. Because if you have ever read the ingredients in your favourite loaf of bread, you may not know what half the stuff in it is. Or what it’s for. But this bread? This bread you’ll know. And that has to be the best part…beside the whole warm bread melted butter thing.

Dear dough hook, We love you. Love, Julia's hands

Dear dough hook, We love you. Love, Julia’s hands

Adding the flavour, baby. Oh, yeah.

Adding the flavourful Biga, baby. Oh, yeah.

When we were searching for a recipe, we wanted it to be whole grain and have lots of grains – the seedier the better. In fact, I’m now on the hunt for a loaf made up entirely of seeds…like a soft cracker. When I track down one, I will totally share it here. Promise.

All mixed up and ready for some rest.

All mixed up and ready for some rest.

You got big!

You got big!

For now, we’ll take a peek at this loaf of bread that starts with oodles of seeds and ends in melted butter. Hallelujah.

Let's do some folding on some flour. Totally normal day.

Let’s do some folding on some flour. Totally normal day.

The biggest issue with freshly baked bread at home is it takes planning. And time. You can’t rush it. You can’t zip past steps. You can’t force it to rise or fall or bake faster than it’s wont to do. You just can’t. It’s one of those things where time is required. And if you don’t make time or plan time, you’re going to be disappointed.

Smooth, elastic, perfect.

Smooth, elastic, perfect.

Now, there are breads out there that require very little babysitting. Like the No-Knead Bread, which we have made a bunch of times. It’s delicious. And perfect if you’re short on time but you want bread the next day. Even the ‘fast’ bread takes time.

Whoa.

Whoa.

This bread starts the night before and is worth every hour. Sometimes I ‘rush’ it, and set it up in the morning to bake it off later in the afternoon or evening. But that’s still not a ‘rush,’ is it?

Two pieces...or a bum. You pick.

Two pieces…or a bum. You pick.

In this world, you soak the seeds and oats, so that they are the most flavourful. I would guess dry-roasting them would also do something similar, but then you wouldn’t have little pockets of moisture, which every bread needs – who wants to eat dry bread?

A square-ish! ;)

A square-ish! 😉

Like a letter, ready to mailed!

Like a letter, ready to mailed!

Tuck up those ends - we don't want everything coming apart, do we?

Tuck up those ends – we don’t want everything coming apart, do we?

You also recreate what professional bakeries do to ensure the most flavour possible – they take a bit of the dough from today’s batches to put in tomorrow’s batches, so that deep, yeasty flavour exists without having to let the dough sit and rise and get happy with itself for days, instead of hours. Since I (and probably you) don’t make bread every day (we’re crazy, but not that crazy, amirite?), you put together a bit of ‘fake’ dough to sit around for hours so that you’re incorporating that flavour in without the time and dough volume required. Sneaky, sneaky.

Well, don't you look familiar! And bread-like!

Well, don’t you look familiar! And bread-like!

A little bit of rest does wonders!

A little bit of rest does wonders!

On top of having way more flavour than a loaf of mass-produced store bread, this bread contains no refined sugar. There are two tablespoons of honey in this recipe. That’s it. That’s the sweet. The rest of the flavour comes from the other ingredients, as it should be. No flavour-boosters or preservatives or additives to make it taste like bread. It tastes like bread because it is bread.

A little bit of heat is a miracle worker!

A little bit of heat is a miracle worker!

This recipe is also perfect for me because I have crappy carpal tunnel (thanks, pregnancies and babies! Your gifts just keep on giving.), so kneading a bunch of bread is not really ideal for me. My fingers go numb typing. Or driving. Or sitting the wrong way (I’m SUCH a gong show!!!). Kneading thick, tricky bread dough?? So not up my alley. This recipe lets me haul out my sexy KitchenAid Mixer and let the dough hook do all the work. Genius, non? I thought so.

Because this is what we came for...this is what we were waiting for.

Because this is what we came for…this is what we were waiting for.

And finally, this makes two good-size loaves. Which means we have bread for around a week…which is perfect. We find we eat less of this bread than we do of store-bough loaves. I think it has a lot to do with the density of the loaf – it’s LOADED with seeds and goodness, and fills you up so much faster and for longer. Unlike store-bread which is light and fluffy and you can eat a few pieces of it and not even feel sated. This bread eliminates that. Which saves money. And time. And the world. You’re welcome.

Because wasting an opportunity for warm bread with melted butter is just nonsense.

Because wasting an opportunity for warm bread with melted butter is just nonsense.

If you’re scared about attempting bread, just know this: every rise of the bread makes it more awesome…and all mistakes can be overcome in these steps. It’s a three-rise bread, so you have opportunity to let the yeast and the water and the honey and the salt and the seeds and the flour do their thing and get you back on track.

Seriously. Try this bread. It’s worth every hour of waiting. I promise.

~ Julia

Multi-Grain Sandwich Bread

  • Servings: 2 loaves
  • Difficulty: easy with a dash of patience
  • Print

Ingredients

Soaker (You can come up with your own combination of seeds. The more seeds, the more water you’ll need).

1/4 cup ground flax seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds, raw, hulled
1/4 cup sesame seeds, raw
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, raw, hulled
1/4 cup whole chia seeds
1/4 cup hemp hearts
1/2 cup large flake oats
1 1/2 cups water

Biga 

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup warm water (NOT hot)
1 tsp salt
pinch of active dry yeast

Dough

Soaker (see above)
3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup warm water (NOT hot)
1 tbsp salt
1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
2 tbsp honey
Biga (see above)
olive oil (around 3 tbsp)

Directions

The night beforein a medium bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the Soaker. Cover bowl and let rest at room temperature for 12 to 16 hours. In another medium bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the Biga. Cover bowl and let rest at room temperature for 12 to 16 hours.

The next day, add the Soaker, flours, warm water, salt, yeast into the bowl of a mixer with a dough hook attachment (if you don’t have one, you can totally do this by hand). Set aside.

Measure a tablespoon of olive oil in your tablespoon measure and pour into a large bowl. Grease the bowl with the oil. Set aside.

Take the oily tablespoon and measure your honey into the mixing bowl – it will just slide out (magic!). Using the dough hook attachment, mix until combined and the dough is pulling away from the sides. Add the Biga and mix again with the dough hook until the seedy dough and the Biga are combined. Dump the dough from the mixer bowl into your greased bowl, turning the dough until it is coated in oil. Cover and let sit at room temperature for at least an hour (or until it has doubled in size).

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and fold it in half several times, until the dough is smooth and elasticky (not sticky). Place the dough back into the oiled bowl, cover, and let sit at room temperature for at least an hour (or until it has doubled in size).

Lightly oil 2- 9×5-inch loaf pans with olive oil. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Separate the dough into 2 equal pieces. Taking the first piece, shape the dough into a 9×9-inch square. Fold the dough like a letter (into thirds), and tuck the ends under the dough. Place the dough, seam-side down, in the prepared loaf pan. Repeat with the second piece. Cover and let sit for at least an hour (or until the loaves have doubled in size), while preheating your oven to 425˚F. Uncover loaves and put in oven, side-by-side, baking for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the loaves sound hollow when you tap them on top. Let sit for 5 minutes in the loaf pans after pulling them out of the oven, then tip them onto baking racks to finish cooling. Feel free to ignore this last piece of advice and cut a loaf while still warm. Serve with butter or jam or eat a hunk naked. Bread will last for up to a week (cover to prevent drying out). ENJOY.

Adapted from Multi-Grain Sandwich Bread recipe on Spiced Blog

My sleeping pill

I have a bedtime ritual. It is as regulated as our children’s bedtime routine, where we get into pyjamas, pick three stories (1 per kid) and then read them all until each kid is calm and sleepy and full of tales. It is absolutely necessary that I follow this routine, otherwise I will not be able to sleep for hours.

The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison - A thriller that made me want to stay up all night...yet let me sleep.

A thriller that made me want to stay up all night…yet let me sleep.

I’ve tried skipping it. I’ve tried mixing it up, doing something different. All with disastrous results that end with me restless, sleepless, tossing and turning, and my brain talking up a storm.

Because therein lies the rub – my brain? My sadistic, nonsensical, ridiculous, overachieving brain won’t SHUT UP when I go to bed. It finds that the bed, with its cozy mattress and its warm blankets and its huge pillow is the perfect place to review all worry, concern, to-do lists, problems, and, of course, singing any of the ditties or jingles or super fun children’s songs I’ve heard that day. My brain SUCKS at sleeping. And I hate it. Because I LOVE sleeping, DESIRE sleeping, walk around all day long wishing sleep were mine right now.

Dear Amy, Let's be friends in real life, because you seem to really get it. And it would be awesome to be in the same room as all of your talent and sass. Love, Me

Dear Amy, Let’s be friends in real life, because you seem to really get it. And it would be awesome to be in the same room as all of your talent and sass. Love, Me

I figured out the key to my sleep a couple of years ago. It was when I was in therapy for PPD with Lillian. Nancy, my lifesaving therapist, asked me how I was sleeping. Of course, terrible! I had a newborn AND depression wrapped in an anxiety disorder. I would lie down and either Lillian would wake up or Sophie would wake up or my brain would wake up. And then it would be morning and I’d have to do it all over again.

She suggested I ‘download’ all of my lists and worries and problems onto a piece of paper that I kept by the bed. Essentially, when my brain popped up with something to think about the moment my head hit the pillow, I could write it down. The idea was with practice I could write down everything BEFORE I lay down and then my brain would be quiet and I would sleep and everyone would live happily ever after.

Sometimes I do running math in my head...converting miles into kilometers, thinking about training and running and not running...but this book put me to sleep AND made me never want to stop running.

Sometimes I do running math in my head when I’m trying to fall asleep…converting miles into kilometers, thinking about training and running and not running…but this book put me to sleep AND made me never want to stop running.

It didn’t really work that way. The act of writing down everything turned more into a brainstorming of session of things that I could think about during the night, versus me getting rid of things to think about during the night. In short, it backfired.

But then I tried reading. I love reading. But with babies and my scattered brain, sitting down and reading during the day was (and still is) next to impossible. But at night? When everyone is tucked in and I have the bed to myself (because Ben is inevitably playing video games downstairs), I can read under covers, curled up with characters and lands and stories that are not my own. And that is the key.

My current sleeping pill. I love this book so far. This one makes me want to keep turning pages, be a better writer, get published...and go to sleep.

My current sleeping pill. I love this book so far. This one makes me want to keep turning pages, be a better writer, get published…and go to sleep.

When I read at night, my brain shuts off. It tunes out of my reality and tunes into other people’s trouble, worry, concern, fantasy, dreams, and to-do lists. Reading launches me into someone else’s world, so I don’t have to think about my own.

And that is the key, the piece, the only thing I can do to really get to sleep. It doesn’t matter if I go to bed at my regular bedtime, 10 p.m., or if I go to bed at 1 a.m. It doesn’t matter if it’s before a weekend afternoon nap or the big sleep in a hotel room in Baltimore. It doesn’t matter one iota. All that matters is that I’m quiet and reading a novel, a memoir, fiction, non-fiction, short stories, works of art, or fluff pieces. I need to read to escape to find the peace and quiet that I need to get to sleep.

How about you? What do you do to get to sleep? Sex? Warm milk? TV? Candy Crush? Or are you like Ben and all you need is a blanket, a pillow and your hearing aid out? Because that guy? He can fall asleep in an instant and I’m left hanging out with a snoring bear, while trying to shut off my brain…unless, I’ve got me a book, then I can tune out the lumberjack and tune into another world that acts as a portal to the most treasured gift ever – sleep.

~ Julia

Much needed

There’s something to be said for taking a break.

All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go (don't worry, I brought clothes too...)

All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go (don’t worry, I brought clothes too…)

A breather.

Oh, hi, beautiful double bed and room all to myself.

Oh, hi, beautiful double bed and room all to myself.

A few steps back.

Hotel pillow mints have NOTHING on Laura and her welcome handmade card and wee box of chocolate

Hotel pillow mints have NOTHING on Laura and her welcome handmade card and wee box of chocolate

A rest.

The view out my window

The view out my window

And this past weekend I got to do just that. I got to go away, kid-free, husband-free, responsibility-free, and go up north a ways to a beautiful bay and take 48 hours to myself.

The cottage was beautiful – four bedrooms, a living room, dining room, kitchen, and my absolute favourite feature, a wrap-around porch (my dream house has a wrap-around porch).

Adirondack chairs on a wrap-around porch in cottage country. Heaven.

Adirondack chairs on a wrap-around porch in cottage country. Heaven.

The itinerary was ideal and perfect – hang out with five other Christian ladies, eat, drink wine, enjoy each other’s company, play games, get silly, run, sleep, read, write and do a bible study (we focused on Loving Well by Beth Moore – I really enjoyed it).

Gift journal from Laura, because she loves us.

Gift journal from Laura, because she loves us.

The weather was perfect – hot sun and cool breeze on a black sand beach. Glorious.

Does this look like the end of September? It didn't feel like it.

Does this look like the end of September? It didn’t feel like it.

And it was just what I needed.

How I spent my (weekend) vacation - laying and sunbathing and reading and writing on the beach

How I spent my (weekend) vacation – laying and sunbathing and reading and writing on the beach

I needed some grown-up time. I needed time to cry with friends. I needed time to hug crying friends. I needed time to pray in a circle of women that get it. I needed to connect with other mothers of littles and biggers, ones who have been where I’ve been, who are where I am, who are living the life I aspire to.

Sunset with incredible women

Sunset with incredible women

I met a marathon goddess who has defied great personal loss and is filled with more strength than I ever knew existed. My heart breaks for her and is in awe of her.

I met a stay-at-home mom who is living a little life, a life much smaller than she dreams of, yet does it with such grace. I hope my little life looks half as graceful as hers.

I met a mother of FOUR, including twins, who has her SECOND book being published. She gives me hope that the drips and scribbles of my writing could eventually, one day, make it past my computer and my notebooks and live in published form without sacrificing the family I love so much.

I got to know a woman of God, of faith, of hard work in the church, of solid marriage and soul. She is working so hard to have balance at home and in love and in life and she’s successful most of the time and I hope that one day I can work in faith again and have that balance.

And I got to fall in love even more with my dear friend Laura, the mastermind of the weekend, the woman who brought the six of us together, who was brave enough to lead a bible study and loving enough to be the hostess with the mostess this weekend. THANK YOU.

I even snuck in a 8km run...in cottage country...at the beginning of fall...serious heaven.

I even snuck in a 8 km run…in cottage country…at the beginning of fall…serious heaven.

I got home last night, sleepy, content, missing my family, and restored for another round of this thing we call life (chaos, mayhem, bedlam).

There really is something to be said for a break. Hallelujah.

~ Julia

PS. GIANT shout-out of love to Ben who held the fort down for the 48 hours I gallivanted about. THANK YOU. I LOVE YOU. You rock. ❤

What I learned on my summer vacation (from HELL)

My little family and I haven’t been on a vacation in YEARS. This is because of a variety of factors, mostly saving vacations to have babies and not having any vacation to speak of because of job changes. So, when the opportunity came up to go away for NINE days, I was MORE than excited (I even asked Mom, Did you hear that we’re going away? And she responded, Yes. Every time we’ve had a conversation.).

The plan was perfect (HA!) – Ben had the chance to play in a big game for his Ontario Australian Football League (crazy long story…essentially, Ben plays footie…which is like rugby, but not, and like football, but not) in Ottawa where Ben has family. We called up the relatives a month in advance, went over the plan, and voila! A vacation, six hours away (THREE WHOLE CAR MOVIES THERE AND BACK, as Sophie understood it), and relatively inexpensive, was planned. HOW AWESOME. And then, two days before we were supposed to leave, it all fell apart. The footie game was moved to Toronto (a boring ONE WHOLE CAR MOVIE away), and plans on the other end were cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances. Cue giant, adult, unattractive, PMS-fueled temper tantrum.

And thus began the vacation-turned-staycation from Hell. Here’s the list of things I learned from my summer vacation, which, ironically enough, only lasted the first full week of summer holidays.

Do be flexible. Once I stopped being grumpy about our cancelled vacation, I got excited about our staycation possibilities. We started researching local attractions and destinations. Museums, zoos, parks, movie theatres, pottery painting, the beach – so many options, once you take out the accommodation problem. As we planned our week, with an activity for every day, we actually got really excited! Staycations RULE!

Do include local fun. We live close to a fantastic park. It has a playground, it’s in a quiet neighbourhood, and it’s shaded by beautiful, tall, old trees. It was the kick-off to our staycation – wake up, get sunscreened and dressed, and walk to the park. Lovely. Perfect. The only day that went anywhere near according to plan.

Isaac's FIRST swing! Loved it. Nailed it.

Isaac’s FIRST swing! Loved it. Nailed it.

Do include favourites. We love going to the farmer’s market about 40 minutes away. So, given that Ben’s mom, Nana, was going to buy local Ontario strawberries for jam-making, we thought we’d jump on that train and join her. It was perfect! The market was thriving after a horrible fire destroyed it last year, the produce was bountiful, and Sophie loved running around telling us what to buy. Who can argue with the kid who’s demanding fruit! vegetables! all of it! now!? No one. Also, there are some adorable bunnies and ponies that the girls love to check out every time we’re there. All in all, good fun.

The girls hanging out at the pony pen.

The girls hanging out at the pony pen.

Do spend time with those you love. After the market, we headed back to Nana’s, which is as close to a second home as we can get. Yummy lunch, which included market goodies, followed by an afternoon hanging out by Nana’s (kiddie) pool was just the ticket. And it was all fun and games, until Sophie got sick.

Leaf spa treatment in Nana's backyard, courtesy of Mlle Sophie.

Leaf spa treatment in Nana’s backyard, courtesy of Mlle Sophie.

Do be flexible. Remember that first rule? All Sophie wanted to do was puke or lie down (we’re going with too much sun). So, we alternated between sleeping on Nana’s bathroom floor and sleeping in Nana’s spare room…until she finally settled into a deep sleep in Nana’s spare room. We talked about how we should proceed…leave just Ben there and I take the other two crazies home, or we all have a sleepover. Giant sleepover, it is. Sophie LOVED that she was the reason we all had to sleep over. And we got to have fresh market blueberry pancakes and bacon for breakfast. Win-win.

Do try something new. We have a great children’s museum in a neighbouring town that I’ve wanted to check out. What better time, than on your staycation?! We had a rough start in the morning, which resulted in Lillian having a wonder of a temper tantrum that led to her having trouble breathing. I thought she just had knocked the wind out of herself (she’s the queen of throwing herself around), and after some deep breaths all seemed okay. We got to the museum and discovered that it was incredible and perfect for kids (Yay! We have those!).

The girls and Daddy building with giant foam blocks.

The girls and Daddy building with giant foam blocks.

Isaac checking out the padded toddler area.

Isaac checking out the padded toddler area.

Do be flexible. Until Lillian had trouble breathing again. Only this time, no amount of deep breathing was fixing it. After about five minutes of scary time in the bathroom with our whole family (spending time with the ones you love!), we decided we needed an ambulance. Ben went out to get the museum staff to call, thinking they would be helpful. They were not. Thinking the ambulance would be speedy. It was not (they were told there was a three-year old having a temper tantrum in the bathroom). Thinking the ambulance attendants would be helpful. They weren’t at first, until they realized it was a breathing problem. It didn’t help that Lillian had passed out from exhaustion by the time they showed up. Eventually, we convinced them it was an emergency and not a parenting crisis, and off to the hospital by ambulance we go. (Wee!)

Do make the best out of the worst situations. We got seen pretty quickly at the  hospital, but still had to overcome the temper tantrum on the intake form. The doctor was a bit of a jerk until he understood we’re not that brand of crazy. Just the kind that needs help in a strange place when your baby is having trouble breathing. Then he was cool and helpful. He took x-rays of Lillian’s chest to confirm no broken ribs (my thinking…assuming the breathing problem had come from the throwing of the body Olympics temper tantrum from earlier) and to make sure she hadn’t choked on anything (his thinking). We were both wrong, but there was some shading on her lungs, which could mean pneumonia. He didn’t feel it was conclusive enough to prescribe anything and she was doing okay at this point, so we left it and had a picnic lunch in the hospital’s Tim Hortons, followed by a trip to Chapters for some retail therapy.

All hanging out in the hospital post-crisis.

All hanging out in the hospital post-crisis.

Do something new. We’ve never taken the girls to see a movie in a theatre before. Couple of reasons. One: Sophie was never old enough. Two: When Sophie got old enough, Lillian showed up. Three: Lillian’s hearing – how will her hearing aid/cochlear implant deal with such a loud environment. But it’s our STAYCATION! And we want to have FUN! So, we decided to go see How to Train Your Dragon 2, since both girls LOVED the first one. We secured a sitter (my mom, Grammie) for Isaac and we got ready to have some fun watching a movie on a screen BIGGER THAN OUR HOUSE. Then, Sophie got sick. She complained of a headache, threw up, and generally was miserable. No movie for us.

Right before bedtime, she asks, Can we go to the movie now? Yeah, no.

Right before bedtime, she asks, Can we go to the movie now? Yeah, no.

Do get out of the house. I work at home. I’m a stay-at-home mom. My entire life is at home. I NEEDED to get out of the house, just for one night. Just for a day. Just for something. Just so that it was different. We tossed around the idea of going to a beach for a day, staying the night in a nearby hotel, then going back to the beach for a second day, but after watching both of our kids come down with heat stroke, we decided it just might kill us (especially with our luck so far on this vacation). We did some looking and decided on an indoor water park (Fallsview Indoor Water Park, to be exact) – all the fun of a beach without the annoying sand and the evil sun! And just for fun, it would be in Niagara Falls! We booked it. We packed. We were going.

Did I mention the Hershey store? The one FULL OF CHOCOLATE??

Did I mention the Hershey store? The one FULL OF CHOCOLATE??

Do enjoy the journey. While we were waiting for our check-in time, we explored Niagara a little bit, including finding a giant Hershey store full of chocolate. We had lunch at a cafe, and made it back to the hotel in time to drop off our chocolate so it wouldn’t melt, and get everything organized to go spend a couple of hours at the water park. We had no illusions about getting a full bang-for-our-buck experience with three young children, but we were out of the house, DAMMIT.

The giant bucket of water that scared the pants off of Sophie.

The giant bucket of water that scared the pants off of Sophie.

Do be flexible. Within five minutes of getting inside the ‘special beach’ as we were calling it, Sophie got freaked out by the giant bucket of water that kept dumping. And Lillian was too short to go on any of the water slides. And Isaac got something in his eye and spent the entire time sleeping or crying on our shoulders because he just couldn’t get it out. So, we spent a ton of money to play at the tiny, toddler splash pad indoors. Fantastic.

Do trust your gut. We wrapped up the ‘special beach’ experience and went off in search of dinner. We found a buffet that was crazy expensive, but with our deal that we got with the hotel and the fact we came during the kids-eat-free hour, it was actually reasonable. Except, none of our kids wanted to eat. Everyone was tired. And Lillian was shutting down again. So maybe this rule should be, Do get room service. We limped through dinner and made it back to the hotel where Lillian was having trouble breathing again. Or she was sleeping. We couldn’t put her down on the bed in the girls’ own room (which they LOVED…so maybe it should also be, Do just go to a hotel – it’s like giving a kid a present and they only want to play with the box. Sophie couldn’t get over the fact that we were sleeping in a building FULL of bedrooms. And Lillian LOVED the fact that she could reach the lamp switches. Seriously. We should have just got the room). Lillian slept on Ben, Isaac slept in a crib in the girls’ room, and Sophie, Ben and I played farmyard bingo until it was reasonable to put Sophie to bed. She’s a rock star sleeper, so it took nothing for her to be out. But Lillian was doing awful. Awful awful. So we had to make the decision – ambulance or drive to the hospital. We figured we could make it to the hospital, so at 10 p.m. Ben and Lillian left to go find the hospital in Niagara. And I got to wait in our hotel room and worry. Best time ever.

Do give in. Ben and Lillian returned at 1:30 a.m. Lillian’s breathing was still crap, but better. She was talking and alert, not passed out or in distress. This ER doctor took one look at her and took care of her. After oxygen and Ventolin and more x-rays, pneumonia was more than conclusively decided on. They gave her the first dose of antibiotics so we wouldn’t have to track down a pharmacy in a strange city, and they gave us our little girl back. Lillian promptly asked to go to bed. And she did. On her own. Ben and I also went to bed. Isaac partied for most of the night with me, so I got zero sleep, but we gave in. This part of the vacation was over. We just had to finish the night out, get the free breakfast, and go home. We made it.

Chilling Sophie

Chilling Sophie the day after we got home.

Chilling Lillian the day after we got home. (Isaac was napping upstairs in his own bed).

Chilling Lillian the day after we got home. (Isaac was napping upstairs in his own bed).

Do rest and recover. The day after we got home from the Niagara debacle, we took our sweet time doing nothing. We were all in pyjamas until lunchtime. Naps were had. Rest was gotten. Chilling out happened. We took the day. We needed the day.

Do have low-key fun. We weren’t cooking, because seriously no one had ANY energy. At. All. We decided we’d either have a picnic in our park, or go hang out with some grandmas. My mom was studying and Ben’s mom was game. We picked up some KFC and had a picnic at Nana’s house. It was restful. It was glorious. It was low-key. Until the babies got tired and cranky and nuts. Then it was crap and we went home.

The calm before the storm.

The calm before the storm.

Do explore your neighbourhood. We decided we’d walk down to the library on our final day of ‘vacation’. And then go for lunch in our little downtown. We never have the chance to do it, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to really enjoy our neighbourhood and have some fun without anything too nutty. The library was a hit, as usual. The girls played on computers and Isaac ate blocks and bedtime books were selected and fun was had. Then we had to go find lunch. We settled on a small cafe with a big patio we could park our wagon and stroller.

Such a pretty little lunch space!

Such a pretty little lunch space!

Lillian settled on hitting her wall of ENOUGH. She was tired and cranky and unwell. The pneumonia is sneaky – sometimes she’s normal, and other times she’s a mess. This was the mess. She fell asleep on Ben’s shoulder and refused to eat anything more than a few French fries. The food was good, but the service was slow, and Lillian was worrisome. We finished fast and booted it up the hill back home, where we put people down for naps and called it. Our vacation, our crappy, horrible, awful, no-good vacation was OVER. We were all done trying. Because in the end, that was the biggest lesson:

Do know when to fold. 

~ Julia