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Camping Connection

It’s easy to drift away from those closest to us. Even as we see them every day. We sometimes forget to take a moment to sit and chat about our thoughts, our hopes, our fears. Sometimes we get so caught up in parenting that we forget our children are people too. People with big ideas, brilliant minds, and easily bruised hearts.

I find it’s always a good idea to reconnect in small ways frequently, but sometimes we need more than just a few minutes here and there. We need to spend time focused on our family, with few distractions. It’s in these moments we see the patterns we’ve fallen into, the ones that have us saying ‘no’ more often than we should or lecturing about something that really just needed a hug. Camping, tenting specifically, allows our family the opportunity to connect in ways we can’t at home.

We don’t have appointments and obligations pulling us all over the place. We don’t have cell phones or internet to distract us. We don’t have bedtimes or alarms. What’s left is family.

Catching water falls
Exploring Upper Kananaskis Lake

On our most recent camping trip we found so many times to connect with our children, build them up, and also provide them with extra independence, and a whole lot of pride.

We like to tent at Elkwood in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. The site we choose is large, surrounded by trees, and has a small field on one side. It provides the kiddos with tons of space to roam and explore where we can hear them, if not see them, at all times, but also where they can create their own little games, complete with forts. Adults are on hand when needed, but mostly they do their own thing while the adults set up camp, do the dishes, or other camping chores. For children who rarely have access to a forest, or wild nature, it’s a grand adventure!

We can tell by the number of times they come dashing over, faces glowing with pride, calling us to listen to the daring things they’ve done, or to show us what they’ve built, that they’re growing in ways they couldn’t at home. It’s one of the most beautiful things to witness!

On this camping trip we saw each of our children tackle new skills with wild abandon and we saw them settle into the peaceful love of our family. Before we went camping certain things were sure to start fights, other things would certainly cause crying, but during our trip those patterns melted away as our entire family took the time to connect and fill each other’s love cups.

To us, it seems so small. Jumping from stone to stone across a stream, but to a child, it’s a big adventure, filled with the knowledge they might slip. They wonder what might happen if they fall. They might worry about wet feet, a bruised knee, or maybe something else. But it’s a much bigger deal to them than it is to us. It’s so important to allow children the opportunity to make that leap. Even if it means they get wet feet and dirty socks!

 On our camping trip we ran into a couple moments we didn’t expect. On our first full day there, we hiked from the Interlakes day use area, around upper kananaskis lake to a water fall. It was about 7KM one way to Lower Kananaskis falls. On the way there, the kiddos learned how to safely go down steep hills, with loose rocks. The first hill meant Ryan and I each went up and down a couple times as we took turns holding hands, correcting foot placement, and helping them gain confidence. We needed the first aid kit a couple times, but over all everyone did okay. By the end of the hike they all declared themselves pros! hahaha When we arrived at the falls, we were surprised to discover Cordelia was really frightened, she didn’t want to pose for the picture because she felt too close to the rushing water. I snapped the picture as Ryan tried to reposition her, but she clung to the tree. As much as I wanted the picture, we didn’t force her. Instead, we knelt down, found out what she was afraid of (falling in), then I brought her over to where I was standing to take the picture. From there, she could see where everyone else stood was far enough away from the edge that even stumbling would be well away from the water. We talked about how important she was to me, and how I would never ask her to do something I thought would put her in danger. Then I sat and listened to her talk about her concerns for a few moments, then I asked her to look around and tell me whether she thought her fears might come true, we also talked about what she could do if they did.

dancing at the falls

By exploring her fear, she was able to overcome it, and when we hiked to different falls a couple days later, she was prepared! She felt confident enough to climb onto the stones, and to dance at the edge of the falls. As adults, we see danger where children don’t, but sometimes we also see safety where children see danger. It can be really hard to take a breath and listen, but it’s always worth it when we do!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Off the Path

Children love to go on adventures! There’s nothing greater than spending the day exploring the world, discovering new places, and especially facing fear and danger.

The wonderful thing is that something that is scary to a child, is often seen by the adult as pretty tame. It helps ease parents into watching a life full of adventure.

On our walk with the dogs the other day, we found a little place to cross a stream near our home. It meant we needed to leave the path. It meant we might get dirty. In life we’re often told to stay on the path. Keep to the well marked trails. Sometimes it’s for good reason, but sometimes we need to let go of those reasons.

We left the path behind us. We stepped into the dirt, we pushed through the bushes (okay, there were only two bushes, but we pretended we were in a forest), we came to the river (okay, barely a trickle, but our imaginations told us it was a rushing river).

The first time we crossed, Brom was pretty nervous, he needed to hold my hand. At one point he slipped and his foot got stuck between two rocks. He wasn’t hurt. We crossed that stream maybe a dozen times after that moment. By the time we left, he was crossing on his own, and very proud of himself.

I wasn’t worried, I knew if he slipped the worst that would happen is I’d have laundry and he’d need a shower. The rocks were small, I knew I could easily lift any of them if they shifted. I also knew none of them were very heavy so wouldn’t seriously hurt anyone. In other words, the risk was very small. But to Brom it was the greatest adventure!

Sometimes we lose sight of what it means to go on an adventure. To us, we sometimes think children need grand outings, we think they need to go far or do big things, but often they just need us to let them explore off the path.

 

 

 

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Wolf Tag

I created this game as part of our “Sword in the Stone” movie activities. I thought it deserved it’s own post because it was so much fun!

Game play is really simple, and it balances out so even the little players have a chance of being ‘It’ and of tagging others. This is key in our family where our oldest kiddo is now almost faster than I am!

The only equipment you need is a ‘Tail’ of sorts – we used a length of wire edged ribbon I had laying around.

  • The Wolf gets the Tail and tucks it into the back (or side) of their shorts.
  • Game play starts with the Wolf on one side of the centre line and the Prey on the other side – this is important!
  • The Wolf starts the game by running after the Prey.
  • If the Wolf tags someone, that person freezes.
  • Other Prey can unfreeze someone by tagging them again.
  • If the Wolf freezes everyone, then that Wolf wins that round, and the last person tagged is the new Wolf.
  • Game starts over with the Wolf on one side and the Prey on the other.
  • While the Wolf is trying to tag the Prey, the Prey is trying to get the wolf’s Tail.
  • If a Prey gets the Wolf’s tail then that person becomes the new Wolf and game play resets on opposite sides.

This game allows everyone to be ‘it’ at the same time, everyone is chasing someone else and helping each other. We had so much fun and even had other people want to join in!

 

 

 

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Movie Night: Up

I’ve been so excited to write about this movie, it holds a very special place in my heart. <3 I could talk about the details and nuances for hours, but tonight I’m going to talk about how much fun our family had watching this movie and the activities related to it.

We pulled out our trusty “wilderness Explorers Handbook” from Animal Kingdom and used that as a guide for some of the activities. 76CEEF3F-59F8-48CB-A799-5844B8719AF6

We started by looking at old pictures of the adventures our family’s been on together. We told stories of what we wanted to do, and we talked about the big dreams we have for our futures. My dream is to live at Golden Oak. drive a Tesla X, and have enough money for both Ryan and I to be home daily with our children while living the Golden Oak lifestyle. Our children’s dreams were pretty awesome too, but they’re not for me to share right now. IMG_4673

We had fun teaching our dogs new tricks. ‘Speak’ was not one of them (they know that already, but they don’t know quiet lol). Instead we worked on ‘crawl’ and ‘hug’. Moana was better than Chester at both new tricks. But Chester did learn ‘lay down’ followed by ‘sit’. He’s always just laid down and refused to sit, so this was a HUGE improvement!

But the most fun we had was creating string can phones and playing with sound waves! Bright and early one morning, before anyone was even dressed, Ryan and Cordelia sat down with the supplies and made some phones, then we all tested them to see how well they worked.  You’ll notice Go-Go (our black kitty) thought they worked beautifully!

 

Since we were playing with sound, we also made musical water glasses and had fun seeing if we could play any songs on it.  Turns out our glasses aren’t in tune 😉 but we did manage a couple off key versions of twinkle twinkle. 😀

Our last sound project was a HUGE hit! We created a colloid with cornstarch and water. Everyone had a blast playing with it. Then we covered our speaks with plastic wrap and saw what happened when you put music under the colloid. If you check out our Instagram, you’ll see a short video of one of our experiments.  You may have guessed, but the subwoofer created a better effect than the smaller front speakers. 😉 But I couldn’t get a good video of that one. I was too busy dancing with the kiddos to the fun songs! lol

I’ll probably have more activities to add to a different post later. The girls are so excited by these activities and want to keep doing more. Until next time, “Adventure is out there!” But don’t forget, adventure is right at home too!

 

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Frozen Week Finale

We’ve sung ‘Let it Go’ and ‘Do you Wanna Build a Snowman’ so many times this week! It’s been so much fun!

Of course we couldn’t have a frozen week without actually going outside. 😉 We took to the fields, rivers, and hills this week to spend some time under the beautiful, blue Alberta sky.

We don’t have a reindeer on hand, so I hooked Chester up to our sled and had him give our kiddos rides around the field.

You’ll have to excuse the photos, it’s difficult to take pictures and run at the same time. lol Chester loves to pull, even with 80+lbs worth of child behind him, he runs faster than I do!

We also took some time to take the toboggans to the hill near our place. I didn’t get any pictures of that, but I did get pictures of the aftermath!

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The wind hardened the snow on the hill just enough to speed us up, without being dangerous. It was glorious!

For two runs.

Then we hit a drift of powder covered in a very thin layer of hard snow. We ploughed through it. Brom was not happy. We went home right after. Poor guy.

The next day Ryan was home so we took our skates to the outdoor river and rink by our place. It’s located next to the ball diamonds. They wound a manmade ‘river’ of ice through the field and then created a nice sized rink on the other side of the diamonds. It was really fun! I even managed to stop a couple times! I can be taught! hahahah

 

Brom didn’t skate, but he did have fun on the ice, and found a ‘snow sculpture’ to bring home with him. Isn’t it pretty? 😉 (yep the sculpture is the big snow ball lol)

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This is Halloween

Halloween’s one of those holidays that I love so much! It’s so much fun to make the costumes and see a little deeper into our children’s personalities as they decide who they’re going to be each year.

But as much as I love Halloween, I find it always sneaks up on me. We end up with a lonely scarecrow and a couple pumpkins – which may not be carved – for decorations.

This year Ella looked at me with her big brown eyes all sad. And pleaded with me to decorate properly this year. I was a little panicked, but we came up with a couple ideas, and she loved it!


By the time we carved the pumpkins they were getting a little soft, but the kiddos still had fun!


Of course, the highlight of the holiday is trick or treating. And they had so much fun! Ryan had to work, so their Aunty and cousins came over to take them out while I stayed home to hand out candy. I really feel horrible leaving a dish on the step and not being there to hand the goodies out in person. But this year we had so few children, I kind of wish I’d gone trick or treating too!

Oh well. I did get lots of time to work with Chester and Moana on proper door etiquette. They were getting really good after the 20th monster came to the door! Lol

 

What’s your favourite part of Halloween?

 

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Autumn

There is nothing so wonderful and joyous as autumn in Alberta. The brisk air, warmed by brilliant blue skies and sunshine, wrapped in an earthy musk that lightens the step and quickens your pulse.

Before the snow hit, our family took the time to get out and enjoy one of the gorgeous forests in our area.

When you go into a living forest with someone you love, it doesn’t matter how much noise they make as they race screaming and singing up and down the hills, you all come out more in love, more in tune than when you entered.

 

 

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A Blast from the Past

We finally made it out to the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, it was a month later than planned but we made it!

It takes about 3 hours to drive there from where we live and at the 2 hour mark Brom decided he needed to go home. He was tired from waking up early and we’ve dropped down to one vehicle and the one we kept is not the one that has a DVD player. After much cringing and crossing fingers that he’d just sleep, we arrived. Hungry we headed straight to the cafeteria for lunch. Brom was still not sure that he wanted to be here, that is until he sees something on the wall. Turns out he’s found his first fossil of the day, an Icthyosaur, and once he understood we’re here to see dinosaurs there was no holding him back!

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I think I’m being followed!

We grabbed a map and headed in to the museum proper, each child had a camera and they were all snapping away. I think we ended up with almost 5000 pictures of the first half of the museum, that’s when the batteries died.

Ella was soaking in every single exibit, looking in all the drawers and reading the placards.img_0669

The others were running ahead to find the next big thing! Brom decided that certain dinosaurs were his friends and was scouring the map to see where they went.

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“Black Beauty”

The biggest laugh of the day came early, I saw Brom sitting infront of a Tyrannasaurus exhibit, the echange went as follows:

img_0674“Hi Brom, what did you find?”
“My Dad” points at the bones.
“Oh? Tell me about your dad, what kind of dinosaur is he?”
“Orange”
“That’s cool, he is orange. Tell something else about him.”
“He dead.” *straight face*
“…”

I almost died laughing, it was so cute.

The rest of the museum carries on, picures, bones, singing “Time Tunnel, Time Tunnel approaching” every time we cross through the display seperating the eras.

We stopped for a good while in the Cretaceous Garden, a large room filled with plants. It’s one of my favourite rooms and Sarah’s as well. The girls ran around trying to find Salamanders and fire bellied toads among the plants, Brom just ran.

The second last exhibit is large hall filled with skeletons, just bones everywhere! So many different dinosaurs to see, unfortunately the camera batteries had run out and so had the kids batteries too. We managed to grab some shots and talk about a few of the dinosaurs. Brom seemed concerned that everything here was dead.

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We rushed through the ice age section as I lamented the lack of giant sloths, stopping only to all jump on a scale that comapres your weight to that of mammals. Out whole family only managed to make it up to the weight of a bear!

With batteries drained, we traded the cameras for snacks and sat at the playground for while.

Sarah loves to hike so the day ended with one lap around the interperative trail, where there were many more signs to read, cacti to avoid and even a hoodoo or two to discover!
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And with tired legs and full minds we all climbed back into our van for the long drive home.

It was a truly #Unforgettable day!

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Stepping Out of Comfort Zones

It takes a lot of soul searching, and twice as much work, to elevate myself to become a person I admire. It’s incredibly difficult to admit that I didn’t like who I was. It’s so hard to peal back the layers, find the parts I don’t like, amplify what I do, and rewrite new layers. I’ve spent many days crying as I search back to discover why I think or behave certain ways. Growing isn’t easy. It isn’t comfortable. But it’s so worth it!

I’ve been stepping out of my comfort zone more and more often. Last week Ella had a bad experience at her first tumbling class. A coach shamed her in front of others for not knowing how to do something, on the first day of her first class. Ella felt humiliated. When we got home she sent an email to the gym, explained what happened, explained that it wasn’t acceptable, she wanted to know the gym didn’t find it acceptable, and wanted a response back so she could decide whether to remain in the class, or not. After three days she’d received no response, she decided to withdraw from the course. I needed to call the gym, withdraw her, give a reason, and request a refund. The gym has a no refund policy without a doctor’s note.

Normally a phone call like this would result in me yelling or crying, depending on which childhood programming surfaced at the time. That type of phone call is also one I’d usually avoid making if at all possible. I did consider sending an email instead of a phone call.

I made the phone call. To someone I didn’t know, to make a complaint, to withdraw my daughter, and to request a refund. Pain, pain, pain!

It went really well! I neither yelled, nor cried and they agreed to provide a pro-rated refund and processed the withdrawal.

Besides making difficult phone calls, I’ve also stepped so far out of my comfort zone and volunteered to model at the True Beauty Gala. I also agreed to dance, a choreographed dance, at the Gala. In front of people!

Participating in the Gala means I need to drive to Calgary several times until the end of October. It means overcoming so many fears. Fear of something happening to someone. Fear of falling on (or off) the runway, fear of being ridiculed for not being pretty enough, fear of not being coordinated enough, of messing up the dance.

I’ve allowed my fears to control and limit me for so long. The first weekend I drove to Calgary, 3 hours away, I barely slept the night before. Partly because Brom doesn’t sleep anymore, but also because I kept picturing all the things that could happen.

When I see the scary images start, I say, “No!” I pray. I then purposefully picture the day being amazing. Instead of picturing a car accident, I picture a fun drive singing, and enjoying quiet time.

It’s still uncomfortable, but not crippling. I’m showing up. I’m trying. I’m putting real effort into the event. My past patterns protected me from pain by not bothering to even try. If I failed, it wasn’t a huge deal because it’s not like I put effort in to anything. It wasn’t me. I wasn’t able to admit to fear. I wasn’t able to admit to not knowing or not understanding. I wasn’t able to learn and grow.

It isn’t easy being uncomfortable, but it is better.

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… The kids will play!

Saturday came again and with it another trip south for Sarah and another day for Daddy to run the house solo. With ballet rescheduled that meant no plans and we were free to choose our own destiny.

My day started at 3 am when Brom needed to go potty but wanted Sarah to help him, not me. She needed to sleep for the drive and Brom had a bit of a melt down. I managed to calm him down by builing Duplo giants in the dark. Just after 4 Brom and I headed back to bed. Thankfully, Sarah slept and was even kind enough to run the dogs in the morning, usually my job, so they could let Brom and I sleep in a bit. We stumbled up out of bed tired but happy with jut enough time to kiss Sarah goodbye.

We gobble down some breakfast while listending to the Guardian’s of the Galaxy soundtrack and made ready to go out as it just so happened that the new sports field minutes from our house was having a big grand opening celebration with all sorts of activities and we wanted to check it out!
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Right off the bat we hit the jackpot by finding a stash of gluten free cookies (and free coffee) at the coffee station. We indulged in facepaint and seaching for dinosaur eggs (mini soccer balls) hidden throughout the venue. The only problem with that type of scavenger hunt is that when we put our stuff down to play some parachute games our one of our soccer balls went missing.

14374792_10157401479510612_1574957623_oWe headed down to a booth run by the family wellness group, the kids played ring toss, bean bag toss, potato sack races and played with a parachute! So much fun. At this point the sun came out and they all got hot. Ella decided she was going home to change and I sent home all out goodies with her so nothing else could go missing.
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When Ella came back we headed up to the bouncy castle where we ran into my brother and my two nieces, so of course they all jumped in the bouncy castle while I grabbed another coffee. Did I mention I was tired? After they bounced through the line three or four times we wanted to see what else was down on the field.

We found the Sportsball group and bubble soccer, Ella ran off to grab a bubble and join in while Brom made fast friends with “Coach Chris” and proceeded to run non stop for the next hour playing a ton of fun, little kid oriented games.


We closed down the grand opening, over three hours of running and playing made for some tired kiddos. He headed home singing and laughing. I warmed up left overs and we turned on Guardians of the Galaxy for some nice down time. When the movie was over we grabbed out shoes and ran over to the playground for swings, climbing and ball tag. Another hour of good times.

We finished the day off with hamburgers and hugging Mommy when she got home, all in all a very #unfogettable day!