5 road trip essentials

While most people are busy bustling babies back to school, returning from vacations and stepping back into routine, Michael and I are off on another adventure together.

We’ve taken a week, which almost never happens due to work demands and responsibilities galore. In fact, this week off is to blame for my MIA status last week on the blog. Ramping up to take a week off for me means pre-working an additional week into the weeks leading up to any time off. It’s the nature of my industry and a downside that often has me debating if time off is even worth it in large chunks.

That is, it often has me debating until I am actually off and free to spend my hard earned time in any way I so desire.

And I usually desire some sort of road trip.

There is something so exciting about travelling to a destination and having almost total control over where you wander on the journey – whether carefully planned with every detail laid out or spontaneously throwing a few bags in the truck and see where we end up, there are only a few essential ingredients to a successful road trip:

1. Tim Hortons: It doesn’t matter if we’re heading to Toronto for the day or the cottage 8 hours away for a week, our trip must begin with a hot, steamy, caffeinated beverage known fondly as a cup of Tim Hortons coffee. This essential must have is always the very last stop for us before we leave town.

Life-juice

Life-juice

2. A good playlist: While we don’t see eye to eye about the actual road trip itself, Jacqui and I do agree that a must-pack item is good music, allowing for hours of car-dancing, singalongs and general entertainment. A good playlist is mandatory for any length of car ride, road trips especially and can take the time spent in the vehicle from a 5 to a consistent 8-10 in all around enjoyment.

3. Good company: Whether your loyal fur-bestie…

Bear <3

Bear ❤

or your handsome husband-to-be…

<3

…a good road trip companion can make or break your trip.  If you’re stuck with someone who lacks spontaneity, a sense of adventure and is a creature of comfort and routine, your road trip’s fun factor will take a severe nose dive with little chance of recovery. Finding someone whose road trip style matches yours will definitely increase your chances of a successful road trip.

4. Pee stop understanding: Michael and I have such an understanding – I respect the amount of liquid, yes even the life-juice named coffee, that I consume on a lengthy road trip, and in turn he respects when I finally cave and ask for a break for my tiny, tiny bladder. While I pride myself in my ability to manage the amount of breaks I need, compared to Michael’s camel style bladder, I’m usually the one waving the white-flag long before our journey is over.

5. Snacks: Another way to make sure you enjoy your trip is by packing the right variety and type of snacks and beverages. For lengthier drives, paninis, fruit and veggies are wise. The food available to you on the road is often fried, greasy and fatty which can cause you to become lethargic and zaps your energy levels – not to mention the number it can do on your stomach.  Stick with good, wholesome foods that travel well and pack the appropriate treats for when cravings hit so you can enjoy your time along the journey.

Our home for the week

Our home for the week

I hope this week treats you all well. For Michael and I, it will be spent camping in Charelston Lake Provincial Park, relaxing, fishing and spending a little quality time together – making sure to enjoy the destination, but more importantly, the journey.

~ Toni

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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

 

O, Canada

Oh, Canada <3

O, Canada ❤

Happy 147th birthday, Canada!

The sisters of The Weather Vane Sisterhood are so very proud to be Canadian girls.

This big, beautiful country provides so much for us to love. From the freedoms we are lucky to have been afforded, to the kindness that we are known for, to the natural gorgeousness that lies coast to coast – Canada, you have my heart.

Personally, many of the cliches and stereotypes apply to me as a Canadian.

From my adoration of the great game of hockey –

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My personal weakness when it comes to fries, curds and gravy.

Yuuuuuuuuumers!

Yuuuuuuuuummers!

To my favourite bird and their haunting morning call, the loon.

Takes me back to Gull Lake every time

Takes me back to Gull Lake and my childhood every time.

To the shameful addiction I have to liquid Canadian crack.

Tim Horton's coffee - a staple and necessity.

Tim Hortons coffee – a staple and necessity.

Not to mention how stunning I find the vast differences in landscape that this country offers.

image

I even love our ridiculous habit of apologizing.

Has to be a real stat, it's on the Internet.

Has to be a real stat, it’s on the internet.

As always, I will celebrate you today, Canada. Your birthday reminds me how lucky we are to live in such a fantastic Country and be able to call ourselves Canadians.

Happy birthday Canada!

Happy birthday, Canada!

Happy Canada Day to all of our readers! We hope you have a safe and memory- and laughter-filled Canada Day with all of your family and friends!

~ Toni

Home <3

Home ❤

Morning hikes at ridiculous o’clock

Lately I have a bit of an obsession with the morning sky.

First light brings so much promise and beauty – not to mention the peace and calm that comes before the world is awake. We see so many sunsets in our lives, sometimes we forget how beautiful the sunrise can be.  I have become a sunrise junkie.

As with all things that I love, I wanted to share the joy I find in these hours and decided to try to convince a few of the TLT ladies to join me in an insane adventure at stupid o’clock in the morning – 4:30 a.m. in fact.

I didn’t tell them where we were headed. I sent out a cryptic message to meet at my house, ready to depart on an adventure at this silly time and that I promised it would be worth the loss of a few hours of (in most cases) sleep.

I received the expected responses:

“Are you crazy??”

“Have you lost your mind?? 4:30??”

And then slowly, but surely, curiosity got the best of them and three of my brave TLT ladies agreed to come.

Part of me thinks that they really didn’t expect me to come through on these plans because I am far from a morning person – in fact most mornings I get ready without uttering a word until my first coffee has been consumed and I have had time to adjust to the idea that sleep is already over and the dream world hours away again.

That being said the early morning plays to my enjoyment of silence, calm and peace. It’s a compromise I am more and more willing to make the older I get and the more I realize how much enjoyment the wee hours of the morning bring.

As three very sleepy, brave and curious ladies arrived at my house, we piled into our car and headed to the first and most necessary stop on our adventure – Tim Horton’s.

After gathering our order and smiling at the curious glances of the drive-thru worker heavy with “what on earth are these nutty chicks doing up at this ungodly hour” thoughts, Kim, Jacqui, Julia and I continued on our adventure to one of my favourite places to gain perspective and take in the natural beauty we are surrounded by – Websters Falls.

Tews side of Websters Falls, Dundas ON

Tews side of Websters Falls, Dundas ON

As light broke, so did the silence I was anticipating.

Making our way up the dewy trail laden with freshly spun webs, dew worms and of course pesky mosquitoes, I don’t know why I expected anything but our usual fits of laughter, dirty inside jokes and audible shrieks of enjoyment.

We were totally not supposed to be there yet...

We were totally not supposed to be there yet…

Reaching the top, silence returned as each of us took in the view of sleepy little Dundas, Ontario, Spencer’s Gorge and the beautiful sunrise we were able to catch.

Day light breaking over Dundas, Ontario

Daylight breaking over Dundas, Ontario

Our conversations ranged from the moment we were in, to challenges we were each facing in our daily lives, creating new memories together and of course recalling past hilarious events that have ensued during these early morning workouts.

And of course the funniest things get captured on twitter

And of course the funniest things get captured on Twitter

We hung out at the top for an hour or so, basking in the cool morning air, trying to hold onto these moments of joy before each of us became consumed by our usually busy and packed weekends that lay ahead of us.

My sisters <3

My sisters ❤

 

Classy as always, ladies!

Classy as always, ladies!

We had a ridiculously good time together (as usual) and vowed to take advantage of as many available crazy o’clock Saturday mornings as possible.

Our brave foursome at 6:00 a.m.

Our brave foursome at 6:00 a.m.

With sore abs from laughing, an unusual amount of early morning energy, legs stretched and ready for the day, we sauntered down trail for our drive back into town, pausing at every opportunity to take in the gorgeous views offered by the falls.

Nice bum, where you from?

Nice bum, where you from?

 

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Sisters at heart ❤

Nothing wakes you up quite like a morning session of laughter, cardio and a lot of coffee.

Sunrise selfies!

Sunrise selfies!

A huge part of my self-satisfaction has come from breaking out of my comfort zone, doing things a little differently and a lot less ordinary. The pay offs so far have been huge and I recommend a shake-up in routine to you all.

~Toni